My own family has put less and less emphasis on gifts for each other in the last few years, but there has always been a connection between Christmas and giving. Gifts are included in the original Gospel Christmas story, as we read of strangers from “the East” coming to pay homage to the child Jesus and bringing gifts. There was even an historical incident in which the memory of those visitors saved the Church of the Nativity from destruction. The church had been built in the 300’s under the Emperor Constantine and his mother
St Helena, on a spot that had been identified as Jesus’ birthplace for several centuries. There was a Persian invasion of the area in 614 with much devastation. The Persian commander saw in the church a mosaic of the events of the Nativity which included visitors in traditional Persian dress, and spared the church.
We don’t know much about these visitors, except that they are referred to as Magi, which would indicate Persian scholars and astrologers with special wisdom. (The word is related to our word Magic, which implies special knowledge and power.) I have read of traditions that give their origins in places as widespread as Afganistan and
Ethiopia, and include Arabia,and Nabatea (whose capitol is Petra, in the desert south of the Dead Sea) as well as . To be totally consistent with this tradition, our Christmas gifts should be given to God and His work. Persia
The New Testament teaches that grace and salvation are a gift of God, given through Jesus. So the coming of Jesus is seen as a gift to mankind. Our gratitude then spills over into expressing love to our family and friends through giving.