(From Brooklyn: Dave is upset, I am preaching about the birth of Jesus, and Mom and Dad are soaking it in!)
Christmas is near! It's also the time I have problems with, as some of you do, buying gifts. It wasn't always the case for me. This is from January 5, 2009.
I've written in the past about my struggles with Christmas shopping. For the past ten years or so, my nieces, Karis and Meagan, have accompanied me to the malls and various outlets in Wichita and St. Louis in order to find just the right gift for my family members. Meagan and Karis love me and they love to shop. It usually turned into an all-day affair as they sought to please their uncle and the recipients of the presents. We had fun and I cherished the time and times with my brothers' daughters. When we returned to whatever house was housing the festivities, the cousins would wrap the treasures, another skill that bypassed my genetic makeup, so carefully. My job was to entertain the girls and to write, "To --------: Love, Uncle Steve" on the stickers stuck on the wrapping paper. I had my part down to a science.
This year was different. Karis was working, Meagan was only going to be in Wichita a short while before flying back to Africa, and everyone was preparing to scatter and visit other relatives. My total shopping took only an hour and consisted simply of buying gift cards at six different stores. There was no suspense and no excitement. Meagan was with me but took no active role, as even I could pick up a small plastic rectangle off a rack. There would be no wrapping of the presents either as I simply slid each into a recycled gift bag. There was no tearing open packages and wondering what was inside. The only mystery this Christmas was the amount filled in the blank. I was efficient this year...but something was missing.
I asked one of my eighth grade classes today if any of them had ever spent a whole day trying to find one perfect present for a loved one. Several girls raised their hands and smiled. It was obvious that the search brought them joy. This year, I let convenience triumph over tradition. I love getting gift cards and I know they have many benefits, especially when you don't know someone well and are on a budget. Gift cards have flexibility and are more precise in matching what the receiver wants and needs. But with me, it's become the lazy way out. My brothers' families showered me with presents and the only gift card was one I requested. But I felt I let them down in a sense because, even though I spent more on them in years past, there was less thought involved. In 2nd Corinthians 9, verse 7, Paul writes that,
"Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."
Paul was speaking of our contribution to the works of the Lord but I think the same principle applies- that thought in giving leads to joy in the heart of the giver. Let me clarify my words with the acknowledgement that the holiday season should not revolve around how much we spend but on the Lord's coming into the world. On the other hand, the Scriptures are filled with references to giving on many different levels as an act of love. Next year, my acts of love will be accompanied by a great deal more deliberation. Mom used to buy Christmas presents in the summer because she was always looking. I won't say I'll go to that extreme but I promise I will do better. Only three hundred fifty three shopping day to go!
Applicable quote of the day:
"Probably the reason we all go so haywire at Christmas time with the endless unrestrained and often silly buying of gifts is that we don't quite know how to put our love into words"
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