In our culture, Christmas has turned into the biggest shopping spree and gift fest of the year. When most people think about Christmas, they think about presents. While gift-giving isn’t mandatory, it is an expectation in most families. Given that fact, how can exchanging gifts honor God?
Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than receive.” When I was a child, I would have disagreed, but now that I’m the primary gift-chooser in our family, I find that I get really excited about finding the perfect present for someone I love. I get even more excited watching them open the wrapping. We honor God in our giving when we give with a cheerful heart.
I start compiling my Christmas list in mid-summer. Over the years I’ve learned that waiting until the last moment just adds pressure, and I end up spending too much on something that isn’t really quite right. Every time I visit one of my daughters and their husbands, I look around and make a note of things they lack. Whenever I hang out with my friends, I try to pay attention to possible gift ideas. I keep a running list. That way, I’m prepared if I see something they’d like.
Starting early also spreads out the spending. I keep track of what I buy, so that we stay within our Christmas budget. Just be sure you remember where you stash things. There’s nothing like finding a wrapped gift hiding in the back of the closet… in April!
Several people I know are talented enough to make all their presents. They knit or do woodworking, sew or paint. I’m not that capable, but I have made a few things when appropriate. Take inventory of your skills. Are you a good cook? Give a coupon for a dinner you will cater. Do you have a green thumb? Start pots of herbs or force some spring bulbs. Again, starting early will give you time to complete your projects. And be sure to consider each recipient—giving your special homemade cookies to someone who is unable to eat sugar isn’t the best idea!
Every year I see magazine articles on “What to give the person who has everything.” Stop and consider how amazing that statement is. Our society has such abundance that there really are people who have no needs, and even no more wants! Do we really need to give more things to someone that blessed?
Here are my gift suggestions for those who don’t really need or want anything more.
Many ministries have holiday catalogs where your contribution goes to improve life for those in need. Last year we “gave” my husband a goat for Christmas. He was quite relieved to learn it would live in the Dominican Republic!
Give experiences. If you can afford it, get tickets to a concert, play or sporting event. Sign them up for lessons, a class, or lecture series. Even better, go together. While people may have an overabundance of things, we all have the same amount of time. Try giving some of yours. Offer to play games, go on walks, and explore new places together.
For an older person, try giving the gift of memories. Purchase a display case and arrange treasured mementos. Frame a family photograph. For my dad’s 80th birthday, I scanned our old photos, added some text, and put together an album of his life so far. (I called it “Bill Jordan: The First 80 Years.”) Since digitizing our daughters’ baby books a few years ago, I’ve been creating additional digital albums for them every year, covering three to four years at a time. That’s a gift only my husband and I can give.
The best gifts are ones tailored specifically to the person receiving them. Take the time to really know someone’s preferences, interests, and desires. A perfect present is one that says, “I love you.”