the one about gifts

It is no secret to those who know me well that I absolutely love the Christmas season. I sing Christmas songs year round, own two dozen Christmas CDs, have been known to start counting down in July, and I even dressed up as "Christmas" for Halloween in college.

It's true.

I love it.

Having children only intensifies my love for the joyful season. Seeing their eyes sparkle in the glow of Christmas lights, watching my toddler hang ornaments tooclosetogether on our family tree, and partaking in advent activities makes me so happy.

However, as with all things, there is a downside (even to Christmas). For me, the downside is listening to all the people downplay (and even criticize) one of my favorite facets of the Christmas season.

Gift giving.

Perhaps you have already rolled your eyes. Maybe you're thinking that I am a materialistic, consumeristic brat who loves counting her piles of presents on Christmas Day.

Or maybe I like to just buy and buy and buy and buy for my small children so that they can have more and more and more and more.

Those perceptions are entirely false.

People have different ideas and families have different traditions when it comes to giving Christmas gifts. Many argue that buying gifts takes away from the true meaning of Christmas. That it means the focus is not on the Reason for the Season-- the birth of Jesus Christ. That giving gifts is not an expression of the love or admiration you have for your loved ones.

I would have to politely disagree with all of that.

I might argue that the Christmas season is actually very much about gifts.

Let's start with the gift of Jesus Christ himself. God sent Jesus to us as the ultimate gift. To be a light in the world. To save us as sinners. To do God's will. To be a demonstration of God's love. To be the Savior of the World.

Upon the birth of Jesus, the wise men came bearing gifts suitable for a king-- gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Not the most useful gifts to a new baby, but valuable and meaningful gifts nonetheless.

In this season, we bake cookies for the neighbors, exchange Secret Santa gifts at work, or pick out something small for a hardworking teacher.

In this season, we pluck ornaments off "Giving Trees" in church and school lobbies to make sure that less fortunate families have something to place under their own Christmas trees. We contribute money to red kettles under the watch of bell ringers outside of stores.

In this season, we come home to shoveled out driveways and sidewalks (like we did last night) and de-iced windshields in parking lots.

In this season, we give gifts.

In this season, it is permissible to provide gifts of edible goodies, humorously inappropriate gag gifts, $5 trinkets for that random gift exchange, and spare change to perfect strangers, but the idea of buying gifts for our own friends, family, and children is dismissed as greedy and materialistic.

Black Friday shoppers are perceived as animalistic, aggressive, consumerists who hate their families enough to leave them the day after Thanksgiving to shop.

Children who look forward to seeing what Santa brought them must be spoiled and ungrateful for what they already have.

Each year, we do hear of Black Friday horror stories. We see grown women beat each other up over Cabbage Patch Dolls and we hear of people being trampled in pursuit of a gaming system. This is ugly, and it is unfortunate that this happens.

But each year, when I go out on Black Friday with my mom, a tradition we have had for quite some time, I see groups of sisters checking family members off their lists, volunteers for organizations buying presents for needy children, and plenty of people showing lots of patience and Christmas cheer.

Each year, there are children who receive toys they won't play with, expensive clothes they will just tear holes in, and too many things considering they already have too many things.

It does happen, but it doesn't happen everywhere.

I grew up in a house that celebrated all aspects of Christmas. The decorating. The music. The gifts. The Reason. And despite the fact that my brother and I typically got our gift wishes fulfilled each year, I grew up with a true appreciation of Christmas as a whole, and I do not feel it made me a spoiled adult.

In fact, I learned from my parents that the true joy of gifts is in the giving and not the receiving.

I learned to listen as loved ones drop hints throughout the year. I learned to save money months ahead to avoid financial strain. I learned to take advantage of sales and coupons and to shop early to save big. I learned quality over quantity and that handmade gifts are extra special. I learned it is not about how much money you spent, but in how much thought you put into it.

So for me, my gift giving is an expression of love and admiration. It says I know you. It says I listen to you. It says I planned for you. It says I thought of you. It says I love you.

I plan to enjoy all the gifts of the Season, those wrapped and unwrapped. Those that fit in boxes and those sitting around the dinner table. Those that come in the form of cookies and shoveled driveways, and those that come from the hands who made them.

All of these gifts, in celebration of the greatest Gift of God's Love.

Merry Christmas.

1 comment

  1. Made me cry. Merry belated Christmas. I love gifts too. They are my favorite.