At Christmas we think about gifts. Gifting buying, gift giving, and gift receiving are not as simple as it may sound. Getting the right gift for the right person without breaking the bank, and also receiving a gift with an appropriate response – well, not everyone does it well.
You think you have issues in gift giving and receiving, consider the President of the United States. It is customary that when heads of states and other leaders meet to exchange gifts.
On the giving side, someone has to look into the appropriateness of the gift very carefully, or else you end up with a snafu like when President Reagan gave the Pope a walking stick with the Ten Commandments engraved on it. Only, it was the protestant version not the Catholic version. Oops!
Or when President Obama gave the British Prime Minister a DVD collection of Hollywood’s greatest movies. The Prime Minister went to pop one in, and they were not compatible with British DVD players. Oops again!
On the receiving end is another whole set of issues. In order to avoid any hint of trying to unduly influence a government official, any gift given a government official valued over $180 is the property of the people of the United States, not the recipient. Somewhere in the Washington DC area there are warehouses full of gifts given the President, the Vice President, the Secretary of State or any other official by foreign governments.
To not accept the gift would be rude. So to keep everything on the up and up gifts are accepted on behalf of the people. There is an entire department in the Office of Protocol dedicated to gift giving and receiving.
A President may decide he wants to keep one of the gifts he received. Well, if it is over the threshold he can purchase it at fair market value. Any gifts below the acceptance threshold a president or his wife may keep, but they have to declare its value on their income taxes.
It makes our gift giving issues pale in comparison.
There are efforts to completely remove the Gospel story from the celebration of Christmas, making it a totally secular holiday. These efforts will ultimately fail as long as we remember that gift giving at Christmas is really about God’s ultimate gift to us – His son, born to be our savior and Lord. This gift is yours. You don’t need an office of protocol to accept it.