Christmas Gifts of the Heart    
December 2008

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      "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" (Micah 6:8).

     "... whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?" (I John 3:17).

     "Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matthew 25:40).

     A few days ago, a small but beautiful drama played itself out in the movie rental section of a supermarket. Two men, strangers to each other, were looking for the same DVD, which was said to have a great message of some type and was becoming popular. The first man had just taken the last copy off the shelf and was walking away to pay for it, when he noticed a second man searching, rather frantically, in the same area.

     The man with the DVD clutched in his hands went over to the searcher and asked what movie he was trying to find. The searcher told him the name of the movie and said (and I paraphrase) "I've been looking for this one DVD everywhere, but it's always out. My son is going through a very troubling time, and I thought if I could just find this movie, it might really help him. But I'm always too late, and no copies are left."

     Without hesitation, the man with the movie in his hand replied, "Here…I just took the last copy, but you should have it. I can always see it later—yours is the greater need right now." With some reservation, the searching man finally agreed to accept, with joy, this small gift of the heart.

     This 'gift of the heart' was really a good example of a 'random act of kindness' that became a cultural movement some decades ago. It's something we do to help, or heal, a bruised or broken spirit. It's a gift that sees a spiritual need and supplies it, even to a stranger. It is a gift of kindness and universal love, from one heart to another.

     Hearing of this incident, I suddenly realized that whether one is a Christian, Jew, Muslim, followers of another religion, or those without a religion, the one thing we have in common is that the spirit of love and giving begins, once again, to shine brighter in our hearts during the holiday season. We start to catch this spirit of giving from each other (and, of course, from the commercial enterprises that benefit from it). Still, as feelings of good will toward others become active, we rush around, shopping for what we hope are the perfect gifts. We experience an urge to be selfless, put our own troubles aside, and give to others for awhile. We want our gifts to be special, in some way, to all who receive them.

     Thus, even in these times when our world economy isn't doing too well, we still try to purchase, out there in our shopping malls, the gifts which may be needed, but often are not. As I've become older, I've begun to see that these material gifts are symbolic of the real gifts we'd like to give to others: they are symbolic of the gifts of love, gratitude and whatever will brighten the hearts of whoever receives them. Deep in our own hearts we really want to BLESS others. We want our giving to reach the emotional centers of those we love, or simply want to help, instead of just reaching their minds. So, the material items, and the money we sometimes give, are really symbolic of the universal love that we want to bring to others. This universal love for all humanity sleeps within our truer, higher selves. It is inherent in all of God's children.

     Gifts of the heart are higher because they are expressions of the highest form of love: healing love. These higher gifts, which seek to lift up others, reside within our higher consciousness—the universal Christ Consciousness, which is our divine link to God. As the image and likeness of God, we have an innate goodness, even holiness, which seeks an outlet for its holy nature, despite the human environment that seeks to demoralize it.

     During the holiday season, we often have a list, buy a gift, and check it off. Yet, when we think about it, we know that, many times, what we do for someone is better than what new, material thing we may purchase for them. It's just that purchasing things, gift cards, or giving money are all easier than trying to recognize another's more spiritual need and filling it.

     And doing the easier thing has its merits! We are all in this human arena together, each individual experiencing both the good and evil forces that seem to be in control. No one on this planet escapes the negative influences, situations, and occasions that try to smash and smother our spirits. Each new day can bring joy and sorrow at the same time. So, we go through our daily lives, trying to protect ourselves, (and those we love) from the sorrows—often feeling too burdened ourselves with our own 'bad' to give much thought to the burdens of others. Even shopping for material gifts can be an added strain, for some of us, on our time and energy. Yet, gifts of the heart renew joy in one's spirit—giving strength and energy to both the giver and receiver. They can change, for the better, the whole mood of the often-hectic holidays.

     The list is really endless on what spiritual needs exist in this world. Practically speaking, we cannot fix every thing, or right every wrong for another. Each individual has a unique sphere, or bundle of issues, they may be dealing with. But when we put our desire toward feeding someone's spirit with affection, we can shine the light of love into their situation making it brighter than it was, only moments before; and we experience the inner effects of the good we are letting out from within.

     Here are just a few ways to give a gift of healing love:

     To those who feel friendless, we can become their new friend.

     For any who are sick, we can call or visit them, to let them know it is important to us that they recover.

     If someone is unemployed, we can try to help him or her find a job.

     For those lonesome ones, we can call them on the phone, just to chat, or take them to lunch.

     One place I know that gifts of the heart are needed is among the elderly population. At assisted-living and nursing homes, one need only ask an elderly resident what kind of Christmas or holiday present would be appreciated most. In so many cases, the gift they most treasure is to have at least one of their (usually adult) children join them for lunch at their communal residence on the major holidays, such as Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Having someone from their family on these particular days (even a distant member) reminds them of the human family they belong within, and these holidays seem to be particularly symbolic of their sense of belonging still.

     Oh, and here's another gift that I'm reminded of: Every year, I remember the words from a Christmas song that was popular some years ago: "That little gift you send on Christmas Day, will not bring back the friend you've turned away."(From "The Secret of Christmas" Lyrics by John McDermott). This statement is speaking to the gift of reconciliation. If we are holding any grudges, or stubbornly refusing to forgive someone for some offense (real or imagined) we should correct that situation with one of the greatest gifts of the heart—the gift of total forgiveness of that individual.

     As a matter of fact, on the subject of gift-giving, notice the biblical advice in Matthew 5:23, 24: "Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift." Here, we are told to reconcile with our brother, before offering any gifts to God.

     Hmmm…Maybe we should put this at the very top of our gift-list this year.

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