A wise lover regards not so much the gift of the lover, as the love of the giver.
The Imitation of Christ, Book 3, Chapter 6, Thomas a Kempis
The drawing is crude by artistic standards. Uneven circular blobs with gaping holes for eyes, and the four sticks that impale the head to serve as arms and legs, look nothing like the people they are supposed to represent. In fact, a microscopic amoeba is better formed than what has been portrayed on this piece of paper. But this ill-formed piece of art will be treasured forever because it was given by a three-year old to a mother who was loved dearly.
Or take the story by O. Henry about a young, struggling couple deeply in love. He sold his gold pocket watch to purchase a set of beautiful combs for his long-haired wife. She sold her long hair for a platinum pocket watch chain. The gifts are now both meaningless and eternally meaningful.
These are two examples of what Thomas a Kempis was getting at. How many times do we receive a gift and wish it were bigger, smaller, a different color, more useful, more pretty? Might this be the reason that giving gift cards at Christmas has come into fashion – because the receiver won't have to suffer the indignity of the exchange line while the giver won't have to worry if the receiver likes it or not.
But gift cards and second thoughts miss the point. We give gifts to people mainly because we love them. There are, of course, exceptions – a housewarming gift to our new neighbors, for instance; but even that could be classified as, “Love your neighbor.” But on the whole, we give because we love. And if we evaluate the gift more than we value the love behind it, we are missing the point.
The point is this: we are loved enough by another to warrant a desire by the other to give us a gift that represents their love for us.
If we take the time to look around us, we will see a variety of gifts that we have been given; and no gift is greater than that of the love of God bestowed upon us and exemplified in the person of Jesus Christ. Through the creative powers of God, and through the life of Jesus, we can see that we have been gifted with hospitality, acceptance, forgiveness, and a desire to be brought within God's loving embrace.
On this day when it seems as if the forces of division, hate, exclusion, and fear have won, let us remember that we have never lived in a perfect world. Let us remember the words of former Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning, who said, "There will be no outcasts in this church." Let us remember that God so loved the world. Let us remember to follow the example of God and continually offer a place of hospitality, acceptance, inclusion, welcome, and love. Let us continually offer our poorly drawn stick figures that aren't so much about the perfectness of the gift but represent the quality of love.