Yesterday, my mail carrier drove up my long driveway, knocked on my door, smiled, and handed me a large package. Inside that “Priority Mail” marked package, I found a gold-colored Christmas box that contained a very special gift—lemons!
What makes this gift of lemons so special to me? Several things: They are tree-ripened, picked by hand, and pesticide free. They are Meyer lemons—the sweetest, juiciest, most fragrant, and lemons I’ve ever tasted. In fact, I enjoy eating a slice of these lemons like I would a slice of orange.
This gift is most valuable, though, because of who gave it to me and where it came from—a sturdy, fifty-year old tree that stands in my friend Anne’s backyard. In this busy season of the year, she made it a priority to pick her delicious lemons, package them in a beautiful box, and take them to the post office. She knows how much I enjoy her lemons and she is very generous with them. (She also makes delicious toffee and included some to that in my box.)
A few days before the box arrived, I bought a small bag of organic lemons at my local grocery store. As I was placing them in my grocery cart, I hesitated a few moments thinking “maybe I should just wait; Anne might be sending me lemons; she usually does; well, I shouldn’t expect it.” When Anne’s box of lemons arrived, I was a bit annoyed at myself for purchasing lemons that were good but definitely inferior to hers.
Is Anne obligated to send me lemons? Not in the least. I don’t ask for them, yet I do expect them. Not in the sense that I require Anne to send them but in the sense that I know she will do it. It’s become a tradition and I’m confident that Anne enjoys giving them to me as much as I like receiving them. In a way, the gift of lemons symbolizes what I call healthy and meaningful Christmas giving.
Healthy giving is not an obligation. It’s a freely chosen action on the part of the giver. It’s also a graciously accepted action on the part of the receiver. I don’t feel obligated to pay for the lemons that Anne sends me. To insist on paying for a gift would insult the giver. Jesus gave the ultimate gift—his life, so that we could have life. Any efforts we make to pay for this gift is a total insult to him.
Meaningful giving implies that the giver knows and cares about the good desires of the recipient. Suppose that Anne liked cherries better than lemons and assumed that I would like them better, too. So, she stopped sending me lemons and started sending me cherries. That assumption on her part would leave me disappointed; I’m confident that Anne would not make such an assumption. If she did, however, would that affect our friendship? Hardly! The loving and accepting friendship from which good gifts flow is large enough and trusting enough to overlook silly things like a gift that was not what I wanted.
There’s no healthier and more meaningful friendship than that of Jesus Christ. He knows exactly what will bring us joy and gives to us out of total love and wisdom. I hope you will join me in following him and in choosing healthy and meaningful ways to give and receive this Christmas—whether it’s by sending (or receiving) a box of lemons, a simple card of appreciation, or anything else.