As Christmas season became holiday season, the pressure to give gifts intensified. Rich and poor alike found every excuse to spend, what they have in abundance or what they have been saving for a long time, just to give something to loved ones and to friends. Sure, in this financially challenging time, most people have downscaled their gift-giving by buying simpler and cheaper things. But still gifts are endlessly purchased, exchanged.. and shelved!

In some countries there are studies that show that most Christmas gifts are opened but not used, or left unopened and merely kept together with house items that are merely hoarded and untouched. In our country, with all the towels, mugs, undershirts, planners, cell phone case, “kikay” items and kits that change hands at Christmas time, how many are in fact truly utilized by the recipient? Check your home for last year’s gifts that lie idle in a cabinet or remember those which you or your kids enjoyed only briefly and discarded soon after.

Take a look at the gifts the wise men brought to the Infant Jesus. It may seem really incongruous to offer such things. Can a baby play with gold? Will he appreciate the scent of incense? Will he drink bitter myrrh as beverage?

The Magi’s material offerings were tokens of a deeper sentiment, a more profound attitude, a greater meaning. The real gifts were in the heart of the bearer – homage to the King, reverence for the Priest, communion with the Savior of the world. The gifts of the Magi, if we look at them superficially, did not match the status of the newborn, but at a closer look, these were gifts mean to last, gifts that had far-reaching significance in their relationship with God and with their neighbors.

What gifts have you given away this Christmas? Did you plan the most economical spending scheme this year? Or did you splurge on lavish and expensive gifts? Did you give what was truly dear to your heart or what was easiest to get on the “sale” section near the cashier?

This feast reminds us that the Child in Bethlehem does not need material gifts. We too, need more than trinkets and gadgets. God and our neighbor deserve gifts that last. Before we say goodbye to another Christmas of our lives, let us ask ourselves if we have given true honor and praise to God in our prayer and worship. Let us reflect on how we extended to others the gift of forgiveness and reconciliation, of acceptance and understanding, of patience and kindness. Did we give ourselves the gift of gentleness and peace by forgiving ourselves too, and moving on from our mistakes?

Lord, give us the grace to remember that gifts are only symbols of what happens in the heart. May our hearts share the lasting gift of love to all we meet in this season and beyond, in this new year that slowly unfolds before us. Amen.