By Jaclyn King … “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed beyond measure. Entering the house, they saw the child with Mary His mother, and falling to their knees, they worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.“ – Matthew 2:10-11

The tradition of giving and receiving Christmas presents brings excitement to families, friends, and loved ones all over the world. Children in millions of households cheerfully anticipate the moment they patiently waited for all year — when they can finally unwrap the festive, colorfully packaged boxes and bags that hold the promise of happy treasures. Spouses carefully select the perfect gift for the other, and friends show their gratitude to one another by choosing something that represents the other person and their bond. We present each other with Christmas gifts in hopes of making connections and spreading joy.

While we’re busy picking out the perfect Christmas presents for those we hold dear, it’s easy for our minds to become entangled with the wrapping paper, boxes, bags, and bows — overlooking the real treasure therein and what it means. The tradition of giving Christmas presents began on that very first Christmas when Jesus was born. Three wise men were “overjoyed beyond measure” upon beholding God’s presence, and they gave to Him what they could — “gold, frankincense and myrrh” — as an act of worship and great love. Those earliest Christmas presents represented an exchange of a spiritual kind. God gave us the greatest gift, His Son in human form, and feeling the love of His Christmas presence, the wise men gave back to Him as a natural outpouring of their overwhelming joy. The value of their gifts had more to do with how and why they were given rather than their material worth. Giving what they had and what they could to Him, they did what God desires from each of us.

It’s often said that “God is love” and “Christmas is love.” Love is the force that causes the natural outpouring and desire to give — to honor people, connections, and relationships — bringing our relationship to God Himself full circle. Whenever we give from a place of love, whatever it may be, the gift comes from and is given back to God through caring for another person whom He loves. 1 Chronicles 29:14 reflects this truth with, “For all things come from You, and from Your own hand we have given to You,” while James 1:17 tells us, “Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father who created all the lights in the heavens.” By remembering these verses, we become more aware of and reverent to His presence as every good and perfect gift that we give or receive is deemed holy.

Could it be that giving of ourselves is less about material presents and more about heavenly presence? A gift truly given with the intent to love, to heal, and to nurture is not only a way to make ourselves present for another, but to usher in God’s presence to that sacred space. Whether your Christmas present is a sweater to keep a loved one warm, a homecooked dinner to nourish a family in need, a toy for a child on your street, or an evening spent with someone who needs a friend, know that your presence — your act of being there, caring and giving what you can — is the real gift made possible by God’s love. When someone gives to you in this way, feel God loving you through that special person.

This Christmas season, as you check off your shopping list, try to think of your gift-giving not as an obligation but as an act of love and devotion. Turn your presents into prayers as you choose them, as you make them, as you wrap them and as you give them. Remember the first Christmas presents given by the three wise men as they stood in awe of the Son of God’s presence while Mary lovingly held Him. They traveled a long way to be there — to be present. It was their being there with Jesus that completed the gift that was already given — Him. Emmanuel, God is with us. That is Christmas presence.

–Jaclyn King contributes as an editor and writer for AdventHealth Mission Strategy, as well as AdventHealth Press. She also teaches writing and literature courses as an adjunct professor at AdventHealth University. She holds a Master’s degree in English, is mother to Julian and is passionate about living and encouraging a CREATION Life! Photo supplied.

This article was originally published on AdventHealth Creation Life website.