Kids and Unappreciated gifts
It happens through the year … but especially at Christmas when gifts are more abundant. Much to the embarrassment of parents, we sometimes hear… or simply sense, “Aw. Clothes! Boring!” Or as they opened up an expensive toy, make it clear “this isn’t what I wanted”.
They simply have not yet learned that gifts are more about the “why” than the “what”. Perhaps you remember going through a similar phase.
It is not a matter of “training” them to say thank you but to understand the meaning of a gift, the why of the gift. The heart of every gift is in the relationship. The lesson to be learned is that gifts, even unappreciated ones, are signs of love rather than the magical fulfillment of wishes. Sometimes the two overlap but sometimes they don’t.
Adults and misunderstood gifts
OF course, kids don’t have a monopoly on that. Some people never seem to get it.
True, adults have learned ways to cover not recognizing the why is more important than focusing on the what of gifts. Adults also misunderstand gifts.
Sometimes it can be that we are asking for an expensive gift without realizing that the gift we really long for is the gift of self in the person of another human being who understands us and is with us.
And then there is the recognition of the gift of love in the midst of suffering and anxiety.
I recently heard from the mother of a special needs child whose early months of life on both sides of the womb even to this day were unimaginably precarious. Yet now she writes, “I can not believe how much love and joy we and his siblings have learned through him.”
God’s greatest gift to us
It seems we sometimes focus on the what rather than the why of Jesus’ gift of becoming one of us.
We unconsciously operate out of a subtle form of “prosperity gospel.” Our life is supposed to be without thorns. When we face suffering, it must be because we did something wrong or we need to remind God to take away the thorns. So, we double our prayer and fasting.
We sometimes understand “Emmanuel, God with us” to mean because God is with us, we should live in a perfect world.
Rowan Williams Being Christian: Baptism, Bible, Eucharist, Prayer has reflected on Jesus’ final night before the cross:
“When Jesus gives thanks at that moment before the breaking and spilling, before the wounds and the blood, it is as if He is connecting the darkest places of human experience with God the Giver; as if He is saying that even in these dark places God continues to give, and therefore we must continue to give thanks.”
God in the person of Jesus has lived through the worst that life could throw at him and rose to new life. God transforms the hideousness of the Cross into the sign of victory we make with our hands each time we bless ourselves. God is with us! God in the person of Jesus has been through it all. He will bring us through it with him.
As we look at the baby in the manger let us not forget the gift he gave us in his presence will fulfill our deepest longing. We shall overcome!
As we look at the crib, what does it mean that then, as now, Emmanuel means, “God is with us?”
Click below to listen to an audio version of this Vincentian Mindwalk