When I pose this first question don’t answer too quickly. Allow both possible answers to linger in your mind for a few moments before responding. Okay, here goes: “On Christmas morning are you more excited about receiving presents or releasing presents?” Really, which do you enjoy more, giving or getting?
I get the biggest kick out of watching young children on Christmas morning. Especially those who happen to be my grandkids. Rarely do you find a child who prefers giving over getting. It’s just not in their nature. Not yet anyway. However, over time, many come to discover the joy associated with releasing. I have found giving is very much a learned trait.
It’s a tough assignment, isn’t it? Releasing. Even the word itself conveys the idea of loss. After a stellar career on the field an older football veteran is released from the team. Due to corporate downsizing a faithful employee is released from the company. A sportsman reluctantly lets a beautiful trout slip back into a cold stream since he is fishing in a catch-and-release area. Letting go is not an easy assignment.
Yet on Christmas morning I’m reminded afresh how good it feels to give. I love watching the kids’ faces light up when they rip open a neatly wrapped package. At that age they love getting. And I’m learning equally to enjoy watching the parents’ faces glow as the feeling of giving overcomes them. Giving, or releasing, is a powerful act.
Parents have a difficult time releasing their children. However, Christmas morning is all about the story of a Father who released a Son . . . willingly. Christmas represents the ultimate release. Jesus Christ left heaven to come to earth. What a statement. What a descent. If it’s true that humility is shown by the distance a person of status will travel in meeting with one of little or no status, think of the humility shown by our Lord in leaving the glories of heaven. The Son willingly released His powerful position. He gave up His rightful place of esteem. He laid aside His glory.
By the way, Christmas isn’t the only time of year when we’re reminded of how God gives. If you look carefully you can see it all around you. He gives every day in thousands of subtle ways. He gives breath and sunshine and rain and friends, health, and hope. He’s the Giver who keeps on giving. One of my mentors passed on some advice which I’ve never quite gotten over. He told me to “live surprised.” And so I pass along to you this year that little piece of advice. Live surprised. Receive each day, actually each moment, as a gift from God. Just because we’re growing older does not mean we have to grow cynical or sarcastic. Live like a smiling three-year-old holding a brightly wrapped present on Christmas morning. Walk through your day with eager anticipation.
As you approach your trimmed tree this year and pass out and open gifts, I urge you to allow the spirit of giving to overtake you. Let it seep in. Ask if you can be the one to pass out the packages. Watch the face of the giver instead of the receiver. Let giving and releasing reign. Not just at Christmastime but all year ’round… it’s a wonderful way to live.
About the Contributors
Charles R. Swindoll has devoted his life to the accurate, practical teaching and application of God’s Word and His grace. A pastor at heart, Chuck has served as the founder and senior pastor-teacher of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas. His leadership as president and now Chancellor Emeritus of Dallas Theological Seminary has helped prepare and equip a new generation for ministry. Chuck and his wife Cynthia, have four grown children, ten grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.