A Few Thoughts on Gift-Giving This Christmas Season
As we are doing the 25 Days Christmas Questions and discussing various challenges Christians face in the holiday season, the idea of commercialism, giving, raising kids…and focusing on Jesus in the midst of it is an on-going discussion and heart-felt struggle for so many believers. I have recently come across some interesting ideas and thought I’d post them here as food for thought.
1. The Types of Gifts you Give
Jen Hatmaker has some interesting ideas on the gifts she gives her kids in her Christmas Conundrum blog. In a nutshell, she has a policy for gift giving to her kids. They give 5 gifts to each kid, but it’s not the number of gifts which strikes me, it’s what each gift IS. Here’s her criteria: Something you WANT, something you NEED, something to WEAR, something to READ, and something to GIVE. I love the thought behind that, the intentionality of the gifts. It’s also their way to guard against excess, to put some limits on the thing.
I don’t know that the whole 5 gifts concept is for everyone. I don’t know if it would be for me if I had kids. Pretty sure it wouldn’t. But I do think I might implement the concept of the categories…thinking through the types of gifts with some intent. I might ask my kids to tell me, if you could only have 5 gifts, based on these criteria, what would you ask for in each category? I think that might be interesting…
What categories would you choose? Would you add another category or swap one out? What about something to learn, or play or do? I might like a somewhere to go option! J
But more than anything, I love the whole idea of something to give. This is a new thing they are doing in their family. Each kid gets some money each year that they are only allowed to use for others. They must give it away. How cool is that?!
2. A Stocking for Jesus
Now, I have heard a lot of ideas before about giving gifts to Jesus. In fact, we used to have a wrapped box under our tree with a slot in the top (like a present-shaped piggy bank) where we could drop in our gifts for Jesus. However, someone in the comments under Jen’s blog said they did theirs with a slightly different twist. They have a white stocking hung in which to put gifts to Jesus, things like acts of service, etc. But, here’s the kicker, they read the gifts aloud the following year and everyone kind of talks about how they did in their gift giving to Jesus throughout the year.
My friend and I discussed this yesterday morning. She was looking to do more to bring Jesus into the season… and she just bought her own white stocking for their family.
The commenter with the white stocking suggestion didn’t say whether or not their family discusses what their gifts are that night, or whether they help hold each other accountable through year. But my friend and I have decided that we should both give something to Jesus, tell each other about it right off, and prayerfully help hold each other accountable to it throughout the year.
3. What Kinds of Gifts should you Give Jesus?
The white stocking idea is great – but what can you gift Jesus??? Um…seriously. I hear people asking me about my dad, “What do you give the guy who has everything?” And when I’ve asked Dad what he wanted, his response one time was, “Yeah, well, if I want something, I just go and get it, so I really don’t want anything.” You think HE is hard to buy for… What about the God of the Universe? The one who holds the world in his hand?! What do you get THAT guy?!
The thing is, Dad didn’t want any THING. He doesn’t need things. It’s not that he doesn’t want ANYthing from ME. He does like for me to give to him. In part because it shows my love, and my heart to give back to one who has given so much to me. But it’s not about the things themselves. He doesn’t need me to waste my money on dumb stuff just to fulfill a sense of holiday obligation. Even more so with God. First, he knows our hearts. He knows when we are doing things from obligation versus a heart of love and devotion. Second, we can’t really give him stuff so easily anyway. It’s not like you can just FedEx a package to Heaven, attention: Throne Room.
So, if you want to give a gift to God this year, just what kind of gift should you give? Is there any spiritual principle to help you think through what’s an acceptable gift for the King of Kings and God of all at this time of year?
Interestingly enough, I happened to read a devotional from Girlfriends in God in which they discussed just this. Not only that, but they basically (without knowing it) combined the first two ideas I have just listed (the white stocking and the kinds of gifts you give). In this particular devotional, How to Have a Joy-Filled Christmas, P 2, Mary Southerland (one of 3 contributing authors) talked about the kinds of gifts that people gave to Jesus as recounted in the Gospels. In a nutshell, Mary trusted Jesus, Joseph obeyed Jesus, the shepherds praised Jesus and the wise men gave sacrificially to Jesus. (Read the article, she goes into much more explanation of those gifts!)
So, as my friend and I think about the gift we want to give Jesus in our white stocking, I am challenged to think about not just A gift, but a gift in each category. A gift of Trust. A gift of Obedience. A gift of Praise. A gift of Sacrifice.
Note: I should probably just stop here, BUT all this talk about giving and about guarding against commercialism and excess in the Holiday season (and namely that everything I read seems to be coming from the same place of concern) has lead me to question if maybe we are missing something. I think there is another side to the argument, or more accurately another piece to the puzzle, which we, as people in God’s image, need to consider. I deal with my final thought on giving here, in Dealing with Excess-A Dissenting Opinion.
 Can I just confess that (and this is just my personal, more tom-boyish, bias) I feel that “Girlfriends in God” is such a cheesy name that I’m embarrassed to even write the title here?! A non-Christian friend happened to catch me reading one of their daily devotionals one day and boy did he razz me bad for that one! I know – it’s admittedly an uber-cheesy name…but I didn’t come up with it! And their content is good enough I felt it worthwhile to get past the name and let it fill up my inbox with daily devotionals! You might want to check it out.
 Please note that we have some slight discomfort over Southerland’s assumption that the magi’s gift was sacrificial. Certainly it was valuable, but since we do not know the amounts that were given (and they couldn’t have been too great or Jesus wouldn’t have grown up in middle to lower-class anonymity) or the financial standing of the magi, it cannot be categorically stated that they made any kind of a significant sacrifice to give these gifts. We do, however, love the idea of giving sacrificially to God.