I’m sure that at some point in all of our lives we’ve thought about why we give gifts at Christmas time. I know I do~ often.
Then again, maybe some people don’t give it a second thought and just expect that they will GET some and that they will HAVE to buy for others. I think that’s the wrong attitude.
So, where did this all begin? There’s a lot of stories out there and some probably have a lot of truth to them and others are just old wives’ tales. In my family, growing up, I always had an element of understanding about why I was receiving any gifts at all and why I should give.
On the receiving end, I understood that my parents love me so much that they wanted to show me that love in a way that I would understand. As a 5 year old little girl, there was nothing quite as exciting as getting my very first baby doll in a beautiful pink dress, with a blanket that my mother crocheted. The icing on the cake was a baby cradle to lay her in~ one of the best Christmases ever. We were poor and one gift was what we got, not wrapped usually but rather given to us by our parents. With eyes closed we would wait till we were told to open our eyes and behold the gift.
Christmas Eve was usually the time when we would get our gift, usually preceded by my dad reading the Christmas story out of the book of Luke in the Bible. We would listen as he read about the angels singing the news of the birth of Jesus and how the wisemen came bringing very special gifts to the King of Kings. Often, my dad would pick up his guitar and sing Away in A Manger which always brought my sister to tears. She was adamant that the baby Jesus could have her bed. You see, we had a manger in our barn where the cows would eat out of. We were well aware that it was no place for a baby, let alone the baby Jesus.
And so, receiving gifts has always been special because of WHO gives them to me. I think this is a little bit lost in our world today. We have gift exchange games and anonymous gifts and all of that is fun. But the point of receiving the gift is knowing who it is from and why they are giving it. God gave his ONLY son to us. Think about that sacrifice. He GAVE the only son he had to redeem an entire world from sin. Receiving THAT gift by far outweighs any other gift you will receive. Receiving it means eternal life.
And then there’s the Giving part. When you set out to buy a gift for someone, what is the first thing you think of? The price? A lot of times that’s exactly how we make out a list~ how much we’re going to spend. A lot of families pick names, which may be prudent financially, in order to accommodate budgets and so on. Very often a $ limit is set on the gift and you go out to buy for the person whose name you chose. But in large families it can be very easy to quickly lose sight of the reason you’re giving. Are we giving just to give? Just so that each person has a gift to open? What happens if the name you get is someone that you really aren’t familiar with. Maybe it’s a niece or aunt who lives 2 provinces away and although you love them, you don’t really KNOW what they like or what their passions are. Or maybe your heart is set on getting your sister something that you would just really LOVE to get her but you didn’t choose her name. Or what if the $60 limit your family chose is completely out of budget for you? What do you do then, abstain? You see, although there’s a practical side to the way families facilitate gift opening, we often miss the point.
When the wisemen journeyed to see their King, some scholars estimate that it may have taken them up to 3 years of travel time. Isn’t that a sacrifice? Just to see a baby/small child? And the gifts they brought~ frankensense, gold and myrrh were thought out and chosen for their value and qualities.
When God GAVE us His son, did He not sacrifice so much? And did Jesus himself not give up his own life and the glory of Heaven for a life on earth? Gifts with sacrifice mean something. Gifts that value the receiver are precious and priceless.
And so, back to the original question~ Why are we giving gifts this Christmas? Is it public or social pressure? Are you giving family gifts this year because you are traveling to be with your extended family and so the thought of coming empty-handed is not an option? Wouldn’t being there for Christmas, spending time with your loved ones be gift enough? And what about those gift exchange games? Although they are fun, is the money spent on insignificant items even appropriate? I wonder how many people in that very room took the time to give to the Salvation Army or another worthy charity while they were busily shopping for those gifts. Well, that’s between them and God but it begs the question if all this gift giving is making us all just a little too selfish and self-absorbed.
This is one reason why I love homemade gifts so much. I love baking and creating and giving something that can’t be bought in a store shows sacrifice of time and thought. When we stretch ourselves and become creative that’s when the blessing starts pouring out from giver to receiver.
I know of families who are very intentional about how and to whom gifts are given. The giver must spend a significant amount of time researching their prospective giftee . Everything from the wrapping and gift tag down to the actual gift must be reflective of who the person is that is receiving the gift. Some families only buy books for each other, some only music, some purposefully must MAKE their gift, whatever it is.
I love what one of my friends on FB has said about the way her family gives:
“We buy gifts on a theme trying to be as creative as possible. Then at Christmas you pick a gift and viola that’s what you get – last year our theme was light, this year it’s dark – dark chocolate, dark roast, dark clothes, stuff you need in the dark and so on.”
– and what about a dollar limit? I asked…..
“No because nobody really needs anything and we’re all old enough to be happy with what we get. I figure everyone buys what they can afford and the correct answer from those receiving it is “thank you”. Life is not fair and neither is Christmas.”
I love that~ ‘we’re all old enough to be happy with what we get’…..isn’t that the truth!!
She goes on to say, “Sometimes I think we also need to be good receivers not just givers. Perhaps the person doesn’t have issues and they’re not trying to prove anything and giving gifts is their thing. The story of the widow’s mite comes to mind – Jesus valued the little gift as much as the big one, so should we! Maybe for them, giving the big gift represented a similar effort to someone else’s small one.”
So, this month as you go about buying gifts and making your lists, try to put some effort of thought into who you’re giving to. And on December 24, 25 or whenever you gather to exchange gifts, be a GOOD RECEIVER. It shouldn’t matter who spent what, but rather that someone thought of you.