Santa Claus could be considered, particularly by children, as one of the ultimate gift givers. I mean, who else do you know who delivers so many presents year after year? But I wonder whether the man in red ever receives gifts. When was the last time you saw a gift tag labeled ‘To Santa’? Sure, there’s the saying that it is ‘better to give than to receive’ but isn’t it more true that, in reality, if we receive we feel obligated to give, and if we give we have an expectation to receive? So where does this leave Santa? Does he truly only experience giving without ever receiving?
When I was growing up my innocent, child-like understanding was that we gave gifts at Christmas in response to the gift of Jesus that we had received, and that we gave these gifts to other people because it wasn’t really possible to give a box of chocolates to God. (I never really questioned the why of receiving presents, probably because I liked the idea enough that I didn’t need to know the reason!) So does Santa not receive gifts because it is too hard to send that board game to the North Pole? Or is it more the case that the gifts Santa receives don’t come wrapped in a box with a bow but take another form?
I can think of three gift tag-less things that Santa receives from children: letters, a visit and a chat, and milk and cookies.
Letters = filling Santa in on how things are going, whether they think they’ve been naughty and nice, and revealing the desires of their heart.
A visit and a chat = giving the gift of time and presence.
Milk and cookies = hospitality and welcome.
These are all these that children do not as a response to receiving from Santa, but knowing what he has done before and in hope that he will do it again.
And aren’t these all also gifts that we can give to God?
One of the best gifts that I have received from someone this year was being taken out for cake for an hour one Friday afternoon. We talked and shared and ate and enjoyed each other’s presence. There was no gift tag or wrapping paper associated with it, but it made me feel so special and valued.
I don’t want to suggest that we should give up on the tangible giving and receiving of gifts, but maybe we have made it into more than we need to. I wonder what gift tag-less gifts we might be able to give to others this season, and whether we notice the gift tag-less things that we might receive.