It's a strange human trait that sometimes when we receive a gift we wonder at the other person's motivations for giving it to us. After all, a gift is not exactly complicated! But we wonder about what the person is hinting when he gave us that book, or does she expect me to give a gift of equal value back? We may give a present to a friend and the implied expectation is indeed that they give in return, because it's the done thing. What are some motivations that you give gifts, including after Christmas? Have you ever given a gift to person who's never going to return the gesture and you don't get along well with? And if you're thinking 'why would you?' then that's understandable.
But then, we kinda know intuitively in the western world that Christmas isn't a transaction of presents, but a time of generosity and kindness. Right? This understanding is a sentiment which charity organisations often try to tap into, asking people to especially give in the season of giving. It's worth asking the question of ourselves then 'are we giving because of the season or because we really want to give, no matter if it's Christmas or not?' I'm going to argue that it does matter our motivation in giving because, ultimately, our attitude determines whether the gift is truly a gift (with no strings attached). I'm also going to be a lit student and do a 'compare and contrast' of Jesus and Santa. That should be jolly. Sorry, I really should stop. Hehe.
Santa and Jesus. Both are men and both are celebrated on December 25 in many countries in the world. But it doesn't take a genius to point out that there are some big differences between the two. Take Santa's white beard, fat belly as well as the red and white clothes. I'd like to see Jesus do a Santa imitation --particuarly the white beard! Beards and fat bellies aside, why do we actually celebrate Jesus' birth as well as the coming of Santa at the same time--like, what's the link? And why celebrate Jesus' birth, after all I don't know of many other historical figures who get that much attention? Ok, maybe the death of John Lennon--using a contemporary example-- is nearing or maybe on par to the level of recognition of Jesus but he wasn't famous for his birth! Lennon is celebrated for his adult life in what he stood for and achieved as part of the Beatles. Only new princes (or princesses) are really given a fanfare birthday reception. As an after-thought, maybe that is an aspect of Jesus that we haven't considered much: was Jesus the type of king whom people had been anticipating?
But in keeping with the theme we all know and love: giving. Both Santa and Jesus give gifts to people; apparently, Santa to all the good girls and boys. Have you been a good boy this year? Contrast Santa with Jesus. Jesus offers a gift to all people of all ages, whether 'good or bad'. Jesus said of himself ' the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many '.On the one hand, Santa gives an enormous number of gifts each year (he must have an epic December budget!). On the other, Jesus' gift is also extremely expensive but in a very different sense, because ultimately the gift Jesus offers is more than merely a material gift: he gives himself! Despite Santa's legendary nature (sorry for any 10 and unders who are reading this…or 30 year-olds who were never told! hehe) he is a very recognisable figure who represents the principle of gift-giving and in particular the magic of anticipation. Whereas Jesus is a historically verifiable figure and who was not merely a symbol of and advocate for kindness and love, but become the very focal point for the ideology of Christianity. It goes without saying that it's much easier to 'get' Santa Claus than Jesus. In particular when we start considering his significance when we move past his birth, he becomes a much more complex and confronting character.
To wrap up, how do Santa and Jesus influence our giving today? Do parents really want their kids to embrace the ideology that a person needs to 'perform well' to receive a gift, that is, a reward? I'm not convinced all christmas-celebrating parents tell their kids that they have to be 'good' or they won't get any presents, but regardless it seems this idea is strong in pop culture. As for Jesus, well there are a lot of opinions out there. One common suggestion that I've heard my Australian friends make is that he is a role model of selflessness and giving. Which is right, but he himself said that he's seeking actively to 'save' people from apathy toward God or a disconnect between the sovereign giver of life and ourselves. When we relinquish our pride and 'receive Jesus' as the gift he offers, we get reconnected with God and then can properly develop a habit of truly giving, without strings attached.
*I was trying to find a word that began with 'G'. Grinch was christmas-y and started with 'G' so it made it. Sorry if you looked at this shabby post just because of the Grinch… :D Actually, now that I come to think of it, there's some heartwarming themes (if a little cliche) in the story such as christmas is truly special because of our relationships with others, not the gifts.
Speaking of Grinch the film, I reckon that it was one of the better films I've seen about Christmas--any comments?