Every gift that is offered at Christmastime — especially a gift that comes from the heart — is an opportunity to build or strengthen a bond of love, said President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency.
“When we are good and grateful receivers, we open a door to deepen our relationship with the giver of the gift,” he said. “But when we fail to appreciate or even reject a gift, we not only hurt those who extend themselves to us, but in some way, we harm ourselves as well.”
Speaking during the First Presidency Christmas Devotional on Dec. 2, President Uchtdorf remembered warm and vivid memories of Christmas from his childhood.
“Although I grew up in modest circumstances, my parents wanted Christmas to be a time of joy and wonder for their children,” he recalled.
The Uchtdorf children made gifts for each other. One year, he drew a picture for his sister; though it was not a work of great art, she treated it like a treasure. Another year his brother, who was 12 years older, carved for him a knife from a stick found at a nearby park. Although it was simple, young Dieter treasured the gift because it had come from his brother.
“Isn’t one of the great joys of Christmas seeing the excited faces of little children as they take in their hands a wrapped gift that is just for them?” asked Preisdent Uchtdorf. “As we get older, however, our ability to receive gifts with the same enthusiasm and grace seems to diminish. Sometimes people even get to the point where they can’t receive a gift or, for that matter, even a compliment without embarrassment or feelings of indebtedness. They mistakenly think that the only acceptable way to respond to receiving a gift is by giving back something of even greater value. Others simply fail to see the significance of a gift — focusing only on its outward appearance or its value and ignoring the deep meaning it has to the sincere giver.”
President Uchtdorf spoke of an event that took place during the last night of the Savior’s mortal life. “He gathered His beloved disciples around Him, broke bread with them, and gave them precious final instructions. Do you remember that as the meal progressed, Jesus rose from the table, poured water into a basin, and began to wash His disciples’ feet?”
When the Savior came to Simon Peter, the fisherman refused. “I’m sure Peter thought he had noble reasons for refusing this gift and felt he was doing the right thing. But at that moment, he clearly did not understand the spiritual significance of what Jesus was offering him.”
President Uchtdorf said at Christmastime people talk a lot about giving, “but I wonder if sometimes we disregard or even disparage the importance of being a good receiver.”
He recounted the story of a little girl who, on a Christmas day many years ago, received a beautiful beading kit. With the kit, she fashioned a bracelet for an elderly aunt, who refused the gift.
“Decades have passed, and the little girl, now an aunt herself, still remembers, with a bit of sadness, that day when her childlike gift was refused,” President Uchtdorf recalled.
He then asked the worldwide congregation “to rediscover and reclaim a precious and glorious attribute of children — the ability to receive graciously and with gratitude.”
He said the Savior is the perfect example not only of generous giving but also of gracious receiving. “My brothers and sisters, what kind of receivers are we? Do we, like the Savior, recognize gifts as expressions of love? … I hope that this Christmas and every day of the year we will consider, in particular, the many gifts we have been given by our loving Heavenly Father. I hope we will receive these gifts with the wonder, thankfulness and excitement of a child.”
President Uchtdorf asked the congregation to not forget the gifts Heavenly Father has given them — the gift of the Holy Ghost, the miracle of forgiveness, personal revelation and guidance, the Savior’s peace, the certainty and comfort that death is conquered and many more gifts. He counseled the congregation to remember, above all, that God has given the gift of His Only Begotten Son.
“This Christmas season and always, I pray that we will see the marvelous gift of the birth of the Son of God through the blessed eyes of a child. I pray that in addition to giving good gifts, we will strive to become good and grateful receivers. As we do so, the spirit of this season will enlarge our hearts and expand our joy beyond measure.”