“Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9″7)
I attended a number of parties where a gift exchange game is played. Recently. I attended one where we all brought a wrapped book. One person chooses a gift to open. The next person can choose another gift or steal one already opened. No matter who I play this game with-children, grandmothers, Presbyterians, pacifists-it always gets competitive. People strategize, form alliances and steal the gifts they desire. Some bring gag gifts to throw in the mix. The poor soul who opened How to Win Friends and Influence People couldn’t get rid of that book no matter how hard she tried. No matter what gift you end the game with, though, joy resounds in the giving and receiving-and even the thieving.
The gesture of gift giving is meant to elicit joy. We watch the person unwrap what we have wrapped, waiting-hoping-for a smile. A little, “Oh!” of joyful surprise and exclamation is especially good. For occasions such as Christmas and birthdays and parties, where gifts might be expected, the surprise is harder to pull off. I love watching talk shows when an unsuspecting-but-deserving audience member is surprised with a gift-a new car! A college scholarship! Joy. Pure Joy.
We all have gifts to give. Take some time today to remember how good it feels, how joyous, to share these gifts with others.
Examine: Recall a treasured gift you received. Breathe. Notice thoughts and feelings that arise.
Imagine: Imagine yourself giving a treasured gift to a friend, family member, maybe even a stranger on the street. How does it feel to have a gift to share? How does the gesture of giving make you feel? Embrace the joy inherent in giving.
Pray: Free me for joy, O God, so I can live with gratitude.