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Will Whatley: On gifts and giving this Christmas

By WILL WHATLEY, Alabama Daily News

I have a problem with giving gifts. I truly enjoy being able to do something unique and special to those who mean everything to me, but as soon as I’ve purchased the gift, I feel compelled to give it to its intended recipient as soon as possible. I must admit I do this for selfish reasons; I’m incredibly impatient and I like to experience the immediate gratification of making others happy. This is especially true during Christmas.

Christmas is unique because it has two traditions wrapped up in the holiday that embody the unique dichotomy of the season. On one hand you have Santa Claus, the jolly, bearded, red-clad man who flies around the world in one night to give all the nice kids toys. On the other, there’s Jesus, the son of God, who was humbly born in a manger and would go on to sacrifice himself for the good of mankind. These two traditions symbolize both the Christmas spirit of giving to others and also enjoying the gifts you’ve received.

Obviously, the tradition of Santa Claus is geared more towards receiving and enjoying your gifts. It’s hard to relate to the giving spirit of a man you’ll never see and who lives somewhere you can never visit, so the focus falls on the gift itself rather than the giver. Hopefully, as you grow older, you’re able to enjoy the other gifts in your life. We can often take for granted things like good health, a stable life or even a roof over your head. This is just my opinion, but I believe it’s wholly appropriate to enjoy the gifts life gives you. Heck, even life itself is a gift worth appreciating.

To me, a gift is something you can enjoy, but it’s not something that lasts forever. It’s hard to truly appreciate something if there’s no chance it can be lost or taken away. This is where the story of Jesus’s birth comes into play. As the Bible says, Jesus was made man for the explicit purpose of offering redemption to those who followed his teachings. There’s also the story of the wise men, who traveled from afar to bestow gifts upon our Savior. The wise men gave wonderful gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to a child they’d never met and who was born in a barn full of animals because his parents had nowhere else to go. It’s this spirit of giving to others, even those you don’t know, that adds to the Christmas spirit.

Of course, Santa Claus and Jesus are on opposite sides of the Christmas coin. But, perhaps they have more in common than we realize. Children might be able to sing “Away in a Manger” and participate in the Christmas pageant, but truly understanding the gift of Christ – the suffering and sacrifice – is a little heavy for kids. Jolly ol’ Saint Nick with his generous gift giving is more easily understood when we are young, and eventually we grow to appreciate the full spectrum of the Christmas story.

But, at whatever age or belief, both offer a common lesson for us about sharing our gifts selflessly without asking for anything in return. In practice and in purpose, we should all strive to emulate both for more than one day a year. Each of us has something unique that we can routinely share with anyone else who is willing to receive them.

So, in the spirit of the season, I truly hope you can enjoy all of life’s gifts and bring joy to as many people as possible. It’s a time for celebration, because just being able to breathe is worth celebrating. So Merry Christmas to all of you and if you need me, I’ll be hanging out by the “good” egg nog.

Will Whatley is a reporter and contributing writer for Alabama Daily News. Reach him by email at [email protected].

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