Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas gifts? Guilty.

I have a confession to make:  I really like Christmas presents.  Especially giving presents.

More than the presents, I love the surprise.  The secret lists.  The hiding and wrapping and anticipation.  I love thinking about the perfect gift for everyone on my list.  I usually try to add an element of the unexpected- just the perfect thing that they never knew they wanted.

This isn't everybody's approach to gift buying, but I do it anyway.

I really dislike the kind of gift-giving that is based on somebody's list of what they want.  I tend to think, why don't I just give you ten bucks and you can pick out the socks you'd like?  

Or, gift cards.  What is the point?

If I give you a ten dollar gift card and you give me a ten dollar gift card, doesn't that neutralize each other's gift?  And what will I do with the leftover 78 cents on the card?

But then, something feels not right about walking into a store and mindlessly searching for "something" just because you are obligated to buy a person some kind of gift.  I don't like giving gifts this way, either.

I really love gift-giving, but every year I feel like it ends up falling into one of these three forms of giving, and then a lot of the fun is taken out of the giving.

But I am not ready to give up on giving gifts entirely, either.

It is becoming increasingly popular to stop giving gifts completely, and I respect people who choose this, I really do.  But I don't see myself giving up on gifts, at least not now.  Maybe someday we will feel that we need to stop, but for now I am holding firmly to tradition.

I think I have some good reasons . . .

Gift giving is a good thing.  It is a good practice to think about what a person might like, to put energy into purchasing it, to show love in a tangible way.  

For some of us, it is our love language- the giving and receiving.  And I think that anyone who's love language is gifts will tell you (I hope?) that the size or price of the gift is irrelevant- it's the thinking, the choosing, the surprise- we love.  I could care less about jewelry.  And spending too much makes my stomach hurt.  The very best gifts may have cost nearly nothing.

And of course we give gifts because God is a giver of gifts, most importantly, His Son. 

At Christmas I think about the many gifts God gave me throughout the year . . . money miraculously saved, the gift of laughter when I needed it most, relationships . . . and some gifts too personal to write about . . . this is one of the ways that I experience God, through these intimate details of his blessings.

Which is why it seems to me that even if you don't give gifts at Christmas, maybe it would be good to find another time of year when you thoughtfully give gifts to people you love.

And yes, Christmas is a time for generosity, for blessing those less fortunate.  Yes, yes, yes.  By all means, keep this priority first at Christmas . . .

And . . . all year long.

I would say that we don't go overboard on gifts at Christmas . .. but it's all relative, isn't it?

This year I had an idea that has made our family's gift exchange a lot of fun.  At least, I think it is . . 

We're calling it our Favorite Things Christmas.  (Yes, in the spirit of Oprah)

We set a $20 limit for the exchange, and each person is buying THEIR favorite thing . . . their favorite coffee, favorite kitchen gadget, favorite book or cd . . . etc.  

This way, we are giving not only a gift, but a passion . .. something that we care about and have some expertise in . . . (I wrote last year about the gift of music my brothers gave my kids).

And, we are each getting to know a little more about each other, as well.

Of course we'll turn it into a game a steal each other's gifts.  And the jokes have already begun about what each other's favorite thing might be . ..

but at least it won't be sweater vests.

For of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace!

Oh, and my gift to you: this must-read post by Misha. You're welcome.

And for Shane Claiborne this is a "Season for mischief and conspiracy . . ."
A suburban congregation wanted to do something for families in our inner city neighborhood. We were all tired of distant acts of charity that do little to address the roots of poverty in a neighborhood like mine where we have a couple hundred thousand jobs in the last 30 years. We were all suspicious of do-gooder volunteerism that can so easily give a handout while pick-pocketing people of their dignity. And yet we were also convinced that inequity breaks God's heart and should break ours, and that we have the power to do something about it. There must be a way to be more creative with giving money away than the corporations
are with getting all of it.

We prayed for imagination.
. . . read about his new take on Christmas charity at the Huffington Post.


Fijufic said...

Great post. This is very thoughtful.
You should work for the FBI in your spare time. You would be great.

Merry Christmas,


Young Mom said...

I LOVE giving presents too! I've read about the no gifts thing, but I agree with you. What about the people whoes love language is gift giving? And you can say so much with a gift. I think that by avoiding the "give me whats on my list" mentality and keeping the gift list reletivly small you can avoid the frantic searching for any old thing.

Heather of the EO said...

I'm with you. I love your idea. I love intentional gifts, not just the absent-minded exchanging of money.

And I love catching up with you :)

Darcee said...

I'm a giver too! I really love your family Christmas idea! I might even steal it eventually. (If that's okay with you.)

MommyJ said...

Jessica!! I could have written this post! Well, actually, I'm not sure I could have written it as well as you did, but THIS, this is how I feel. Completely, exactly, perfectly. You nailed my feelings about gifts at Christmas time. Thank you for verbalizing it.

I was feeling terribly stressed and unhappy about the idea of spending money on Christmas this year. But then, we put up our tree and sang Christmas carols and I became giddy with the anticipation of seeing joyful happy faces opening presents. I'm excited to see my brother's face when he sees the t shirt that I spent hours picking out because I know it is perfect and he will LOVE it. And you know what? It was a gift to me to get to spend those hours thinking about my brother, why I love him, and what I think might make him happy. Christmas giving is what we make of it, I think. It can be obligatory, stressful. But it doesn't have to be.

It can turn us into giving, loving, joyful, joy spreading ministers. if we let it.

charrette said...

What Mommy J said.

Also, I can't see myself giving up on gifts either. I, too, love the giddy anticipation. My grandmother took gift-giving to an art I hope to emulate.

And consider: Wise men? Gifts. Sacrifice? Blessings. Focusing outside ourselves? Divine.

Shannon said...

I love picking gifts for people I love- two years ago we decided to "just buy for the kids" on both sides, but I'm slowly going back to my old ways. It' doesn't have to be expensive, but that little "just perfect for them" thing. It's often a gift that is meaningful- graham's footprints, a picture mug... or the most amazing deal on something I found that they'd love.

The favorite christmas idea sounds great, please update us on how it goes! Love you zamni mwen!

Misha Leigh. said...

I am a gift-giver, too - and one of the absolute ways Jesus has won my heart and affections has been his surprise, intentional gifts to me. So I agree. : )

Love your brain, thoughts and heart! : )

Grace said...

What a sweet post and fun idea for gift giving!