I love receiving gifts, and I love giving gifts. Finding a perfect gift, something you know will be used with purpose and fill a person’s need, is a wonderful feeling. The anticipation of the gift being unwrapped, the look on your loved one’s face as they share their delight, the general good will of a special time of year, this is one of the parts that makes Christmas so wonderful.
I have to admit I’ve felt a bit conflicted this Christmas when gifts are mentioned. There are gifts piled under the tree, but they wait only for my wife and me. We have a home full of things, and are ready to receive more. A little something here, bit more of that, or in a different color. I love it, I enjoy it, and it worries me at times.
Jackson Browne sings,
We guard our world with locks and guns
And we guard our fine possessions
And once a year when Christmas comes
We give to our relations
And perhaps we give a little to the poor
If the generosity should seize us
Last week, there were a couple of robberies in my neighborhood, causing a little panic amongst us. We rarely lock our doors when we leave, now we’re doing it every single time. I don’t want to lose my fine possessions, even as they pile up. One of the themes from this year has been that I have enough, and the Rebel Jesus is enough.
But I don’t act like it. I ask for more, I give more to family who also have enough. I’ve thrown parties for people I know, trust, and like, and like me. I’ve stayed pretty comfortable. Yesterday I walked past a homeless man who I have met and spoken to before, but didn’t this time. I felt too dressed up, too rich, and too ignorant of Jesus’ charge to serve. I couldn’t get past myself to talk to him. I couldn’t give him a gift of any sort, including my time and attention.
When we buy gifts, what is the result we hope for? Happiness? To incite guilt? To grow closer? To get the person off our back? To out-do him/her? Even in the midst of the recession, our holiday buying continues to shoot up. On Cyber Monday, Americans spent 1.465 BILLION dollars, and spending is up 16% for the season (source). The American Research Group reports that gift-buying should average $854 per shopper, up 32% from last year, and the highest since 2007. Do we merely give because it’s expected, or because we want to?
When I give a gift, I try and think of 4 qualifications. Does the gift help the recipient …
- DO something?
- LEARN something?
- CREATE something?
- GIVE more time to friends and family?
As more money is spent on giving things to each other, I hope to give more of my self. Time with friends, time with family, time to the poor, time to God. I believe sometimes we give physical gifts because we don’t want to give the gift our time and attention. It’s easier to wrap up something shiny and present it as our love. Then we go back to watching TV and perusing our smartphones. I hope the gifts we give instigate something big. Getting outside, learning to cook, playing music, spending time together, and more. Physical games are great because we have to do them together!
I struggle with these issues too, every single day, and I barely do enough about it. I haven’t changed that much, I try and buy people off, and I continue to accumulate. My priorities are still out of order.
But I’m seeing the light, it’s seeping through the cracks in my life. God isn’t done with me yet, and thank goodness.
I’ll allow Jackson to take it from here …
Now pardon me if I have seemed
To take the tone of judgement
For I’ve no wish to come between
This day and your enjoyment
In a life of hardship and of earthly toil
There’s a need for anything that frees us
So I bid you pleasure
And I bid you cheer
From a heathen and a pagan
On the side of the rebel Jesus