I’m reposting from last year’s series on Redeeming Christmas. You can catch all my posts here. I’m attempting to pull some of my favourite ideas and posts and bring them to a new audience for this year.
Gifts. I’m not really sure where to start with this. I used to love shopping. I actually still do~for other people. I like finding that one thing; the one that will make people cry and tug on their heartstrings. I love those kinds of gifts.
What I don’t love is shopping malls. I. HATE. MALLS. They are money pits that serve one purpose: indulgence. Bigger malls are being built with fancier stores than I ever recall being built in my entire 40+ years on this planet. Shoe stores, women’s stores, men’s stores, jewelry stores, toy stores, hat stores. Too many stores. And WAY too many people in malls on any given day.
I people watch and what I see in malls is a lot of people buying a lot of stuff that they don’t need and in 6 weeks won’t care about or want anymore. A lot of time and money is wasted in malls every year. And the other thing I see is stress. Stress on the faces of all those people. Frustrated, hurried, concerned and not at all cheerful.
2 Corinthians 9:7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
If we are to be cheerful givers, not under compulsion to give, not reluctant givers then why do we make the lists that lead us into a guilt-laden journey?
Can I tell you a secret? You don’t have to give anyone a gift for Christmas. You don’t! Really, I’m not even kidding. You DO.NOT. HAVE. TO.
Buying gifts to me should be intentional, for the purpose of building up, blessing and out of the generosity of our hearts. If we feel guilted into it then we have missed the point. If we don’t even like the gifts we’re buying, we’ve really missed the point. And if we are TOLD what to give and who to give to , then we are actually disobeying the Word of God.
Here’s my experience:
1. I don’t give to the same people every year. Some are the same but most are not. Of course I give to my kids; I want to . I enjoy it. But I don’t HAVE to. And they don’t HAVE to give to me either. I rely on circumstance and opportunity to dictate who gets gifts from me.
2. My parents and inlaws often do not receive gifts from us. I may really be stepping on toes with this one but I want you all to think about this. Our parents have lived longer than we have. They have every token, trinket, picture frame, sweater, appliance that money can buy. They are fairly self-sufficient and they also have quite a few kids and grandkids. Our parents like giving their grandkids gifts(if money permits) but don’t usually expect much in return. And I know what you’re thinking: ” All parents say ‘don’t get us anything’ , but they don’t really mean it; they’re just being polite.”‘ I disagree. Sure they probably love the thought of the gift but if you were to really have a conversation with them, they don’t want any more stuff. They don’t need it. They are trying to downsize and simplify along with the rest of us but they have 20-30 years on us! Now, my mom lives alone and I like to make sure she gets something from us , even if it is small. I will talk about *Christmas in a Box* in a later post. But unless we’re spending Christmas with one set of parents, we don’t generally send anything to them.
3. My husband and I go regularly without exchanging Christmas gifts. Gifts cost money. And when money is tight you trim the budget and the list. We don’t need anything else. If we want something and can afford it, we buy it. We don’t need a calendar to tell us when. Besides, we have a lot more fun buying for our kids and friends.Very often we will give a card that expresses in words how we continue to give our hearts and our lives to each other. I love those cards. They are priceless and they’re one of a kind.
4.If giving isn’t fun, I don’t do it. Ever. Remember that part about a cheerful giver? Ya, that one. I take that very seriously. The FUN of giving is well, fun! When I get something that someone is going to love or that I am going to love giving(because it’s silly, ridiculous or just plain awesome), I cannot tell you how great I feel. It is a rush. It is more fun than getting a gift any day, hands down. So if you’re one of those list people that beats the pavement to find the very thing your kid wants and you hate every minute of it, stop it. Just stop. Cheerfully. Look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself this question: ” What am I teaching my children , my friends and the poor clerks in the stores about my faith?” Ouch. Painful, isn’t it? You should never ever put a retail clerk on minimum wage through the ordeal of dealing with your crabby moods because you can’t find the exact colour or size of what Missy said she HAS to have. EVER.
5. Giving gifts should never put you into debt. Cash people. Use cash. If you don’t have it, you don’t buy it. Don’t justify under any circumstance the use of credit to buy someone a gift. It’s not worth it. On Boxing Day people wake up to their stupidity(overspending and needless debt) and also to the pouty same faces they saw two days before Christmas. Things don’t make people happy. Things don’t make kids more behaved. Things don’t satisfy. So, no debt. Say it with me : ” I will not go into debt this Christmas”.
6.I never expect a gift from anyone. Growing up poor has a lot of benefits. If you see your single mother struggle to put food on the table you darn well know not to expect a gift under the tree. And then when you get something, you appreciate it so much more. Don’t give your parents, your husband , your friends or anyone a list of what you’d like. Don’t Pin a Christmas Wish List board for all to see. Don’t cut magazine pictures and put them on your husband’s side of the bathroom mirror. Don’t send e-mail hints or set up gift registries. Don’t. Can I tell you a sad story? I know of someone who is middle aged. He has kids. A couple of years ago he went to his mother’s house for Christmas dinner. When gift opening time came around, his elderly mother had a gift for him and one for each of his kids. When he didn’t get more than one(as he had come to expect for his 40+ years of existence) he picked up his kids, stormed out of his mother’s house in disgust and made it clear to all in attendance how disgusted he was that all he got was “one measly gift”. You can’t make this stuff up. Pathetic. Ungrateful. Unkind. My shock and outrage…well, I’ve had to let it go because it doesn’t affect me. But what an awful thing for his mother to endure.
7. If a gift doesn’t make me think of Jesus, I’m not buying it. This might sound silly. But remember, we’re redeeming Christmas from commercialism and the *way we’ve always done it*. When we see people with the Father’s eyes and we love them the way the Father loves: lavishly, uninhibited and generously, then we will give accordingly. If you go to the dollar store just to fill up space in a stocking or give to a kid in the family who you don’t really know but feel obligated to give to, then that’s not really seeing them from a Jesus perspective. When you buy a gift you should see it as a reflection of your love for the person and the love Christ has for them(because obviously, we give to some people we don’t love very much…or love very well). If we spend too much on something that isn’t really that great, or if we buy because we’re in a rush or pressured or obligated, we won’t give the way Jesus would give. Consider the gifts that Jesus received as an infant: gold, frankincense and myrrh…special, selective, rare, expensive. We can’t maybe afford the expensive but we can afford to be selective, take some time and make it special. This is why handmade or rare gifts say so much. The sacrifice of our time and effort can speak to the recipient of a gift.
This topic of giving gifts is deep and wide. If you have some other thoughts or advice, please share. For most people who celebrate Christmas, the giving and receiving of gifts is the most important, central theme of their Christmas experience. In fact, there are many who believe that without the giving and getting of gifts there would be no Christmas. We need to cautiously examine the message that sends to our children and our larger communities. Redeeming Christmas~the renovation of what we’ve always done ~is not an easy, painless process. It will require a huge shift on our parts to become cheerful givers who are not bound by the same routine of obligatory gifts to the same people year after year. I look forward to hearing from all of you.