Merry Christmas, y’all! This year has proven to me (once again) that I am slower than I care to admit in assembling the gifts, getting the tree up to par, and generally having all my ducks in a row.
And more than any year, this year has been a shock to the gut for me as far as Christmas goes. Maybe it’s the fact that money is tight, maybe it’s the fact that things are changing and people are changing and life doesn’t just stop so that we can adjust to how things are going to be eventually. But this year I have been butting against the consumerism and the excessive gifting.
I like giving people things, but it is definitely not my love language. What if they hate this gift? What if they already have it? What if they’re allergic? The anxiety sets in more than the joy of giving something to someone that they either find useful or worth of displaying prominently in their life. Is it worth obsessing over? Is it adorable enough. Does it fit? Will they keep it in the closet after it’s unwrapped because they just hate it that much? Will they talk highly about it with others? Is it their favorite?
Maybe I am too skeptical altogether, but this Christmas season has been hard because I have felt distracted from celebrating Christ’s coming to earth and actually being joyous about that versus filling my life with more stuff that I like but does not ultimately make me a “better” person except by maybe the world’s standards.
In recalling all of this, I remembered a brief conversation and impression that happened two years ago exactly. I had given a friend of mine (mind you a friend for many, many years) a gift — the response I got was kind and gracious, and alarming at the same time. After this friend opened my gift (albeit small and seemingly insignificant), they said,
“Thank you so much for this gift! I am actually not doing gifts this year, so I am sorry but I don’t have one for you. But thank you for this!”
This was, in my grand 22 or 23 years of life, the first time I had been told that there wasn’t a gift in my future even though I had just doted my love on them in gift form.
My gut reaction was annoyance. And quickly I forgot about it because that friend meant (and still means) more to me than the exchange of physical possessions. But I cannot help but remember that small interaction and being struck with judgmental thoughts like “does this person not care about me” and “does this person just not have the money for it” and “have we drifted apart” and “what a grinch.”
Two years later I have realized the error in my thinking. Gifts are meaningful because people tend to give them as a sign of affection and love. I do enjoy receiving gifts — but with stats like “37% of people say they use credit cards to finance their holiday spending” I have to wonder if what I am getting (or giving for that matter) is of real worth.
My mother did an excellent job while I was growing up of reminding me that storing up treasures on earth does not lead to happiness or fulfillment but that storing up treasures in heaven is where moth and rust cannot destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal (Matthew 6:19-21). And that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also .”
This year I aim to set my heart on the gifts that have been investments in my future life — my everlasting life. The life where robbers cannot gain access, and where negligence does not invite dust. This is not to brush over the good gifts I have already received or that I have yet to unwrap, but instead to help me find rest and thankfulness in the gift of not having to give the best gifts, or do the best wrap-job, or be the most thoughtful. I bend under that pressure, and it’s not even the point of Christmas anyway.