Have you ever been in the dilemma where what you want to give and what the receiver needs are at odds? I often go shopping with a friend of mine who loves to buy clothes for her family members. The problem is that her taste and the taste of the giftees don't always match. There may be satisfaction as my friend buys something that she imagines will look wonderful on the recipient, but in reality, the gift will only be exchanged or put in a drawer until it finds its way to the Salvation Army drop off bin.

So what to do? For instance, as this Christmas rolls around, I find myself reluctant to be giving the gift of independence to my adult daughters. Are they really sure that they wouldn't prefer me to give them advice, for instance, or a lovely evening at home? The gift of independence may be delightful for them, but it leaves me feeling rather hollow. Yet if I love them, I know that I need to give them this gift; it allows them to become the healthy adults that I desire them to be. And I'm wise enough to know that if I don't choose to give the gift, independence will be wrested away from me anyway, resulting in broken edges and scars that bring their own pain.

In the midst of Advent, I find myself pushing the story forward to the Atonement, the real reason that Jesus came to earth. In some mysterious way, the death of a perfect human, who was also God with us (Emmanuel) was the gift we needed if we were to be able to experience a full and joyful life. But even Jesus, who willingly chose to come to earth for this exact purpose, realized that there was a personal cost to giving this gift. I think that's what we see happening in the Garden of Gethsemane as Jesus struggles through the physical and emotional pain he was going to incur on the cross.

I cannot in any way plumb even the first few feet of what this sacrificial giving cost the the Savior. But when I am open to giving gifts that seem to have no benefit to me, or are painful, or strip me of the comforts that I want, I think I am putting my toes in the ocean of God's willingness to love me at any cost.
 
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It's Black Friday, the official beginning of the gifting season. Every year, it seems, the malls open earlier and earlier. This year, online shopping sales actually began on Thanksgiving day. Maybe this was a good thing. While husbands settled down after dinner to watch football, their wives headed to the computer to get their shopping done. Everyone gets to sleep in on Friday and do the dishes and eat leftovers! All this shopping is powered by the belief that there is joy in giving.

I've been pondering the phrase, "it is more blessed to give than to receive." After the previous post here, It seemed like there might be stil be more to say on this. Plus, for the past several weeks, I've been pursuing the hypothesis that the greatest form of love is actually not the giving-love but rather the receiving love or joy (enjoying) of love. If it really is more blessed to give than to receive, I might have to dump my hypothesis.

Thankfully, I have my mom to go to. Recently she'd been out to visit and part of the time we spent together was shopping for Christmas presents for our family. Giving is one of my mom's greatest joys. In fact, her main concern in retirement was whether or not she would be able to continue to give presents to her (23) grandchidren. The good news was, thanks to my dad's careful and creative money management over the years, the answer to that question is "yes". There should be enough money to keep giving.

But why does my mom (and why do others) love to give? The answer is pretty obvious to my mom. It gives her great joy. In other words, she receives joy from participating in the joy that the giver experiences through her gift. When I receive a gift, I experience love in receiving. Whereas, the giver experiences the double joy of being the active agent of the joy of someone else. This might be sounding a bit complicated, let me see if I can try again. Giving = 2xjoy because I delight in someone else's delight. And I know that I am the source of that delight.

The reason one gives is so that one receives. Not another "gift" (who doesn't know the panic when an unexpected gift shows up. But I don't have anything for you, we sputter.) but rather the delight of the receiver. This is where we often go wrong when we think of self-sacrificing love. If we're not careful, we can stop at the act of giving of ourselves and not go through to the joy. Such "love" is not true self-sacrificing love, because true love springs from the hope of joy of the one who is being sacrificed for. The writer of Hebrews says, "Jesus, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross." (Heb 12:2) Jesus gave of Himself precisely because He knew (and the Godhead knew) that He/They would receive from this sacrifice. Through the death and resurrection of Christ, creation would be brought into health and wholeness. Redemption would be accomplished and we would receive fullness of life. 

Paul talks in Philippians 2:2 about "making his joy complete". John has the same phrase in I John 1. They are both echoing what Jesus says in John 15. Jesus wants to have joy in His disciples. They are to remain in him and bear much fruit, that brings him joy. They are to ask the father in His name, that in receiving from him their joy may be full. It's hard to get around it. The life that Jesus died to give, is a life of constant giving and receiving, characterized by joy. Righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost - that makes God happy! and fills us with joy.