In the waning days of 2017 we have circled ‘round again into the season of celebration. Our neighborhood landscapes are renovated with twinkling lights, parades, and inflatable Santas. Our inner landscapes of the spirit often feel transformed as well, somehow more festive and open-hearted. We truly do hope for peace on earth and goodwill to all. In our myriad preparations, gift-giving is atop the agenda. We are making our lists and checking them twice.

Generosity is a word synonymous with giving, but its origin is Latin and actually means “of noble birth.” It carries the sense of being magnanimous, large-hearted, and big in spirit. A truly generous person is someone who is internally rich, their bank account notwithstanding. The Santa we celebrate today is a fanciful homage to the actual 4th century St. Nicholas who was known for his lifetime of often-secret generosity. His heart and mind were consistently elevated beyond just his personal well-being.

There is a beautiful extravagance mirrored in the natural world around us.

Perhaps we would have been satisfied with just a few stars in the night sky, but Life refused to play small in the creative process. There are an estimated 100 billion stars at minimum in the Milky Way galaxy alone. Some stars are more brilliant than others, but all are giving fully of their nature. The poet Hafiz, says of our own dear star:

Even after all this time, the sun never says to the Earth, “You owe me.” Look what happens with a love like that, it lights the whole sky.

Your heart is by nature generous, beating over 100,000 times a day with no conscious management from you whatsoever.

Young children offer their love, enthusiasm, and energy freely and with abandon, never asking if their affection is deserved or calculating their emotional investment as adults sometimes do.

A single tree absorbs 48 lbs. of carbon dioxide a year, simply by being a tree and functioning as a tree does in all its green, leafy loveliness.

The fact that you exist at all proves the great generosity of life. The probability of your existence is something like 1 in 400 trillion. That number is calculated by estimating the chances of your mother and father meeting in the first place, their choosing each other, and then the right sperm meeting the right egg to result in you. Coming into being is like winning the ultimate jack-pot!

And so giving to each other is no small or insignificant thing. Generosity is our participation in this eternal ecstatic dance of goodness taking place around us every moment of our lives.

This holiday season as we consider what to give to whom, as we open our wallets and respond to requests for contributions, as we wrap gifts, and prepare food for the feasting, we are invited to pause for a few moments and infuse those offerings with our own heart-filled presence, with our nobility, our generosity of spirit, with our very best wishes for those we love in the year to come. Whether the gifts are big or small, expensive or modest, allow your heart to be filled with extravagance and affection. May all our giving this season be truly generous–grounded in deep gratitude for all that is given to us and the many ways we are supported by life and by each other. May we give until we touch our own nobility, until our hearts are expansive, until we can feel ourselves becoming bigger and better on the inside. The true gift is not solely what you give, it’s how soulfully you give it.