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Is it Better to Give or to Receive?

Giving and receiving at Christmas

by Helen Bryant (adapted)

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To consider that Christmas is about giving as well as receiving.

Preparation and materials

  • Optional: you may wish to show some images of people opening presents on Christmas Day, in which case you will also need the means to do so.


  1. I wonder how many of you have already made your Christmas lists. Would anyone like to share with us what they’ve asked for?

    Listen to a range of responses. You may wish to share some of the things on your own list!

  2. Express that all of the ideas sound wonderful and that you hope that on Christmas Day, none of the students are disappointed.

    Ask the students to think back to a Christmas when maybe they didn’t get what they were hoping for, or when they already knew what they were getting, so there was no surprise.

    If possible, share one of your own experiences and ask a few of the students to share theirs.

  3. How did it feel? Were you disappointed? Did you consider why you might not have received what you asked for?

    Perhaps your parents couldn’t get hold of the exact thing that you wanted; maybe they had tried hard, but it just wasn’t available. Perhaps they didn’t have enough money to buy what you’d asked for, or maybe they simply hadn’t realized that you desperately wanted that specific thing!

  4. I wonder if you’ve ever given someone a present and received a disappointing reaction. How did that feel? Maybe you’d taken a long time to choose the present, or you’d saved up to afford it and spent a lot of money. Perhaps you’d thought carefully about what to buy and you were certain that you’d made a good choice, yet instead of being greeted with joy, you were faced with disappointment.

    If possible, give an example from your own experience.

    Such a situation can be uncomfortable and can hurt the person who has given the gift. Let’s remember that behind every gift is a thought and a person who has taken the time to give something to us.

  5. Of course, there is also the other side of gift-giving. When we give a present and see a face light up in surprise or excitement, there is no better feeling. To know that we have given someone we care about such joy and happiness is a wonderful feeling.

  6. The gift doesn’t have to be a large one either. Sometimes, the smallest of presents - or even something that we have made ourselves - can be just as well received, if not more so.

    Have you ever made a card or present for someone? Have you ever given a small gift that has meaning and sentiment behind it, and seen how much it meant to the recipient?

    Sometimes, it really is better to give than to receive.

  7. To give something and not to count the cost is an important idea. Your gift might even be something as simple as your time. Sitting with an elderly relative and talking to them may not feel like gift-giving, but it could be that, if they haven’t spoken to anyone all day, it is the only gift that they really want. This is especially true this year because so many older people have been stuck inside for months during lockdown.

    Likewise, sitting down and taking the time to tell your mum or dad about your day isn’t a gift that has any monetary value, but I imagine that they would appreciate the effort and time that you have taken. In the same way, spending time playing a game with a younger sibling may mean more to them than buying them a packet of sweets, although that probably wouldn’t be a bad thing either!

    Giving something of ourselves to someone can speak volumes; a hug, a touch of the hand, a smile or a ‘thank you’ are all things that we can give freely and they don’t cost us a penny.

  8. So, this Christmas, let’s think about the gifts that we can give to others rather than how much we can get for ourselves. Let’s look to experience the joy of giving.

Time for reflection

What could we give to others that costs no money, but would mean a great deal to those who receive it?

Pause to allow time for thought.

Dear God,
At Christmas, we remember the gift that you gave to the world: the gift of Jesus.
Please help us to learn that it is better to give than to receive.
Please help us to enjoy giving this Christmas, whether we give presents, time, kindness or love.


Any Christmas song.

Publication date: December 2020   (Vol.22 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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