Tag Archives: gifts

Christmas Thoughts: On Gifts

5 Dec

I’d like to do a short series in the month of December featuring various thoughts I have about Christmas. Here’s the first installation. 

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If I had a penny for every time I heard a Christian lament the gift-giving frenzy that is Christmas in America, I’d be able to buy every Christmas gift I’ve ever wanted.

Don’t get me wrong – I agree that Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Cyber Week, and Christmas shopping in general are out of control. Even though I’ve gone shopping on Black Friday the past 3-4 years (at a respectable hour like 6 am), I refuse to go shopping on Thanksgiving Day. I just can’t imagine ever wanting to buy something so bad that I have to miss out on family time to get it. But I digress…

I think that as Christians, it is tempting to swing the opposite direction of our culture and think that gift-giving at Christmas is bad. I myself, for one, have had the thought during more than one Christmas, “If Christmas isn’t really about the gifts, why are we [meaning my family] still doing that whole thing? Why don’t we just do away with gifts entirely?”

But I think that mindset is missing the point. The problem with Christmas gifts is not that the act of giving gifts is wrong – it’s that the gifts have become ends in themselves. They are often no longer a way to show another person that we care enough about them to spend the time, energy and money to buy something that we hope makes them happy. They are an expectation of the receiver and a duty of the giver.

Deep down, though, I believe that we as humans enjoy giving gifts – even more than we enjoy receiving them. At the very least, we were created to enjoy giving gifts. Why? Because we were created in God’s image and He is the Ultimate Giver. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17).

So at Christmastime, I think that we can embrace giving gifts as a reflection of our heavenly Father’s character and the greatest gift of all, Jesus. Use this time of year as an opportunity to teach our kids the reasons why we give, and allow them to experience giving themselves, not just receiving. Emma’s still a little young to understand the whole concept, but we plan to make giving to the less fortunate one of our family traditions (throughout the year, but especially at Christmas).

And finally for those of us like me, who still struggle a little with the idea that Christmas gifts feel expected and not spontaneous, it can be helpful to remember that giving gifts to those we love is not just a way of being forced to fight the holiday crowds. Instead, giving can be an expression of Christ’s love to them… and a blessing to ourselves in return.

Don’t Be a Scrooge

29 Nov


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It is officially the Christmas season. And with Black Friday under our belts, it is also gift buying time. This year, I’m trying something new – not being a Scrooge.

For some reason, even though I usually like buying gifts, feeling expected to do so makes me not want to. I love giving spontaneous gifts when the other person doesn’t expect it, or I find something that I just know someone will love. But having a list of what someone wants or knowing that I can’t show up without a present just takes all the fun out of gift giving for me.

I was lamenting this to Travis the other day. “I hate having to rack my brain and go to 3 different stores to fit a present to buy for someone.”

Travis suggested that we just don’t do Christmas presents this year. We’d just tell our families that we decided not to buy presents this year.

But that just seemed so… selfish and Scrooge-like. Sorry, I didn’t buy you a present because you expected me to and it was too much work? Hmmmm…

Then it occurred to me that I was looking at the whole gift giving thing all wrong. Since I truly do enjoy blessing others with gifts that I know they will enjoy, what if I viewed Christmas as a time to do that for all of my loved ones? Instead of feeling forced to buy them a gift, I could look at this season as an opportunity to bless them with our abundance and to show them love by taking the time to think about and look for that gift that they truly will delight in.

In short, I need to make gift giving about their happiness, not mine. 

I’m not huge on Christmas gifts myself. I mean, sure, I enjoy getting presents. But I wouldn’t be devastated if I didn’t get any. I’d be content if we decided to instead buy a cow or a pig for a needy family in Africa. (And I have suggested that, so we’ll see what my family says.) But I’m not sure everyone would go for that and instead of being bitter like Scrooge and either refusing to give them gifts or giving them purely out of obligation, I can choose to show my love for my family and friends in the way that they feel loved.*

So this Christmas season, I’m going to go shopping while remembering that good gifts are fun to receive and bring happiness to my loved ones.

Do you enjoy buying presents for others?

 

(*Not saying that all my family and friends need gifts to feel loved, but it is the most common form of affection shown during Christmas.)

Feeling somewhat like The Grinch…

18 Dec

I am a member of The Nest and on days like today when there’s not much happening at work, I hang out on the boards when I am *ahem* on my 15 minute break. Today, I posted a poll about Christmas presents, asking the ladies on the board 4 questions:

1. Who do you buy presents for?

2. Who buys you presents?

3. Do you buy presents because you want to or because you feel it’s expected of you?

4. If you could only have one Christmas present, what would it be?

Most of the ladies who responded had long lists of people they buy presents for…but they said that they like buying all those presents and that they would buy more if they could.

Am I the only one who doesn’t like buying Christmas presents, who finds it more of a chore and annoyance than an actual joy? It’s not that I don’t like getting people presents. I just don’t like that presents at Christmas are expected. I don’t like getting lists from people of the things they want for Christmas. I don’t like wandering the mall for hours searching for something to get [insert name here] when nothing seems to fit their personality or needs.

I LOVE giving gifts when I am walking around and randomly see something that makes me think of that person, something I know they’ll love and use. I LOVE giving gifts when they aren’t expected, when they have more thought in them than just “I thought you might like this…(and it was the only thing I could think of to get you).”

Travis and I don’t even really buy Christmas presents for each other. Last year, we had planned on our “Christmas present to each other” being a romantic weekend at a B&B in the mountains. Due to financial constraint, it didn’t happen…and it was never rescheduled. This year, Travis wanted to buy new $180 hunting boots, but he didn’t want to spend all of his Blow (personal spending $) on them. So the deal was I got $180 to spend on myself. So we kind of did Christmas presents but not really, because we both picked out and bought what we wanted without the other person (although I was with Travis when he bought his boots).

I would rather donate all the money we would spend on Christmas presents for other people to a non-profit organization that could really use it–and use it for people who really NEED it. But I don’t want to disappoint anyone and I also stop myself because I wonder if my desire for doing so is more a selfish desire to not have to go shopping for Christmas presents, rather than a desire to be generous. I think about all the things I put on my (obligatory) Christmas list and would really be ok with not getting any presents if it meant I didn’t have to give any.

Look at me, being such a Scrooge. But I’m being honest! The best part about Christmas for me is being with family, eating great food, going to church, listening to Christmas songs, drinking hot chocolate and eating Christmas cookies. Presents are really the lowest thing on the list for me. I really don’t think I would miss them at all.

But maybe I’m just being selfish. Maybe I’m forgetting the joy of thinking for other people and supplying them with things they (I hope) enjoy and (I pray) they use.

Or maybe, buying presents for the affluent is like buying cookies for an obese man. He may eat them and he may enjoy them…but does he NEED them?

Next year, I’m going to make my Christmas presents. At least then they’ll have the thought and effort behind them…even if they don’t have beauty or practicality. 🙂