In my misguided and greedy childhood the days of December were carefully counted down to the magical December 25th on a hand-drawn grid, each square marked off with a decided X. I spent hours with the Sear's "Wish Book" and other catalogues imagining how wonderful my world would be if I was the lucky recipient of every item on my list for Santa. By the time Christmas Eve rolled around - about a thousand years after December began - I had worked myself into such a frenzy that I could not sleep. (I learned to stock up on reading material at the library so that the long night would be bearable - reading several books each year.) I thought the excitement of Christmas was that final moment, the big reveal. All that getting! I had so much to learn.
Getting is pretty fun. I have to admit that. I love presents. I love to get them, I love to give them. I think one of the big drivers of my joy in receiving is the joy I find in giving. The planning and preparing I pour into each gift results (I hope) in a tangible evidence of the love that I have for the recipient. So as I receive I anticipate the same. It is not the actual gift, as perfect as it may be, that fills me with delight but the awareness that I am known and loved.
We try hard to teach the concept that it is more blessed to give than to receive and I think that often that precept is interpreted not as intended but as the concept that if giving is 'better' then getting must be less worthy, maybe even a bit shameful. And we become ungracious receivers. How sad..... it seems to me when we are inhibited in receiving gifts we rob the giver of so much joy - and ourselves as well. Gifts are intended to enrich but that doesn't happen when we don't receive them with open hearts and delight.
I watched a dear friends at a party a few weeks ago and thought she has mastered the art of getting. Her delight was abundant and contagious. She delighted as much in the gifts of others as her own. It was childlike and open. Delightful to others because it was absolutely generous. Unselfish and un-self conscious.
Watching her I knew getting is as much an art as giving. Art takes time and effort to develop. Watching her I realized it is not less good to receive because if it were, if none of us were able to receive with joy, giving would be a chore; perhaps still an act of love but sucked of much of the joy. I resolved to give joy by receiving with delight; to find the love, thought, and effort behind the gift and so realize that although it may not be a perfectly hoped for item it is without a doubt the perfect gift. It is not (after all) what is wrapped up in the box that fills our hearts on Christmas morning but the love.
It has been many years since I counted the days to opening my own gifts having long since learned to find real joy and honest excitement in giving. I know too that receiving with sincere delight is gracious, honest, and kind. Loving. It enhances relationships and opens our eyes helping us see in one another's heart. May we each give and get with delight. The best gifts just don't wrap.