Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas gifts

As I mentioned in this post, we're counting down to Christmas using an Advent calendar this year.  Each day we read a Bible verse or two, and there's a question for us to consider.  Yesterday, we read, "on coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.  Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh," (Matthew 2:11) and, "the King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'" (Matthew 25:40)  And the question to consider was, "why do we give gifts at Christmas time?"

Code-man said it was because we're celebrating Jesus' birthday (but then why do we give gifts to each other, instead of Jesus?); Logo, typically, said, "Whaaa?" and had to be asked the question multiple times before parroting his older brother's response.  Bubby said, "baby Jesus!" which is probably as good an answer as any.  Sawblock said something about giving to others because when we give to others we're giving to Jesus, which seems to have been the intended response, based on the verses we read, but then, I don't consider myself, or most of the people I usually give Christmas gifts to, to be "one of the least," so I'm not sure that's really it...  And I just sat there with a cryptic look on my face, pulling a "Mary" (that is, pondering all these things in my heart--you've got to admit, I'm quite the ponder-er).

This is a question that I have considered in the past, and if you want, you can refresh your memories about my past thoughts on the subject by reading this post and this post, and maybe even this post (even though that one's not about gifts), but I've never really come upon a satisfying answer for why we give gifts to each other at Christmas time. 

When I'm feeling optimistic, I'll say it's because we're commemorating the gifts of the wise men.  Or even that, when faced with the overwhelming, ultimate gift of salvation, given to us in the person of Christ, we feel compelled to respond by giving a gift ourselves.  And, since it's difficult to give gifts to God, we give them to whoever's handy, which is usually the people we hang out with, like friends or family.  What it really comes down to, though, is most of us give gifts at Christmas time because it's expected, and no one's quite sure why anymore.  Christmas has become a giant, commercialized monster, it seems, and the true meaning of Christmas is not as important as finding and giving the one (or ten) perfect gift(s).

I've been feeling kind of sad this Christmas season, because no one is going to be giving me Christmas gifts this year*.  I didn't understand why I was feeling this way, because while I do love receiving gifts, it's really not at all about the stuff for me--I'm just as happy to have someone give time or money to a charity in my honor, or to have someone spend time with me, as I am to receive an actual physical item.  For me, it really is the thought that counts--the gift is, in some ways, irrelevant.

And then it dawned on me: the top reason that folks have given me for not wanting to exchange gifts is that when they need or want something, they just go out and buy it, so they don't really need or want anything (from me) for Christmas.  The reason I was bummed was because no one wants me to give them gifts for Christmas this year.

A couple of weeks ago, I spent about an hour and a half in Target, shopping for gifts for the Tubman Alliance Christmas party that our church is hosting tonight, and hosts annually.  Tubman Alliance provides support and resources, and a place to stay, for women, and their children, who have fled domestic violence, and/or are dealing with mental illness or addiction issues.  I had so much fun, chatting with Bubby about the merits of various potential gifts, rummaging through my coupons, trying to get the most for our money, picking out items.  We didn't have a list, we just followed where the Spirit led, praying for the children who will receive these gifts, and it was pure delight. 

This year, these little boys and girls, who otherwise would have had nothing, will open the gifts that we selected for them, and find, in the midst of this dark time in their lives, the light of hope, in the form of Jesus.  That's right: these gifts may look like a doll, or a lego set, or a paper guitar, but these children are getting Jesus for Christmas this year, all wrapped up with a bow.  And Jesus is getting, hopefully, them.

I'm still not sure of the why of Christmas gifts--if any of you has an answer, theological, or otherwise, feel free to share--but I do know that I found the true joy of giving that day in Target.  Maybe that's what it's about.

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Speaking of gifts, if you're lucky enough to be giving any this season, you can make potato printed wrapping paper to wrap them in, just like we did!
I rolled out a dining-room-table length of brown kraft paper, and taped it to the table.  Then I made some potato "stamps" (to make the stamps, cut a potato in half, then stick a small cookie cutter into the cut side, as far as it will go.  Use a sharp knife to cut into the potato around the cookie cutter, lift the excess potato away, remove the cookie cutter, and there you go--beautiful, symmetrical shapes, that actually look like what they're supposed to be)--we had a heart, a snowflake, a star, and a tree.  The kids applied paint to the stamps using foam brushes, and then stamped away.  Valerie over at Frugal Family Fun Blog would be so proud!  And yes, as usual, this activity soon degenerated into finger painting. 

When Pal's mom came to pick her up, Pal presented the wrapping paper to her mom, and mom informed me that Pal wrote in her letter to Santa that she wants wrapping paper for Christmas this year.  Who knew?  And Santa, you're welcome.

And speaking of Valerie and gifts, wouldn't an iPad make a terrific gift?  Thanks to Target, Valerie gets to give away a terrific prize package!  You can go to Frugal Family Fun Blog to enter to win an iPad and an assortment of children’s books courtesy of Target!

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* I do need to mention that my husband (who just happens to be the best husband in the world that I am aware of) is giving me gifts for Christmas this year (but that's not why he's the best), so it's not really no one, but there is a "but," which I have discussed with my husband, that allows me to make that statement.

Oh, and please don't run out a buy me a gift now--I didn't share that to guilt anyone into giving me stuff--just being real.  And the reality is, if any of you had wanted me to give you gifts this year, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to experience this joyful giving transformation.

1 comment:

  1. Personally, I think you think too much. We give gifts because we love the people in our life and want to show them in some small way. Why do we give gifts on birthdays? Anniversaries? Easter? Baptisms? Graduations?

    Just for the record, YOU are the one who initiated the no gifts from the Colorado Shepards this year.

    Technically, you are getting a gift from us (you already know what it is, although you might not have considered it a Christmas gift). That is, you will get one if I get to UPS in time.


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