The hustle and bustle of Christmas is in full swing. Last minute shoppers are out in numbers… grumbling, complaining and grabbing whatever they can find on store shelves. Anything, absolutely anything would please them more than working through their dreaded lists of who to buy for this year. And frankly, who could blame them? After all, it isn’t a very friendly scene out there sometimes. That tends to happen when people are in a place they don’t want to be, and for all the wrong reasons.
I’m always left wondering “Why?” Oh, and I don’t mean “Why do you wait until the last minute to shop?” That question is too easily answered after all: procrastination 😉
The one thing which really grabs at me each year (and more and more as the years pass in fact) is: Why do people insist on offering gifts to people they have little contact with? I keep hearing phrases like “I have no idea what he likes!” Or, “I know she is going to get us something; so I have to find something she might like.”
I can’t help but think to myself: If you don’t know someone well enough to know what they like, WHY on earth are you spending your time, energy and money offering them a gift. Let’s face it: it isn’t as if the gift will be heartfelt or sincere.
Let me say it directly and succinctly: Obligation gifts are not what the season is about. As difficult as it is to believe, (insert sarcasm here): you should never offer a gift to someone unless you mean it. Sounds ridiculous when you say it like that probably; but its basic wisdom really. I’d bet that any mother anywhere around would tell the same thing to her child.
Quite a number of years ago, I decided that no matter what others did, I would forge my own path. OK, for those who might have known me as a child, this is probably no surprise. *laugh* But I have to say that where gifts are concerned, it is a freeing thing.
This year, I offered gifts to some of my neighbors; but not to others. I didn’t overextend my budget to “make it even”. I didn’t concern myself with who might be offering me a gift this year and who might not. And I’ll tell you why: Christmas is for Jesus. When that baby lie in the manger and those kings traveled hundreds and hundreds of miles to have a glimpse of Him, to pay homage to Him, to show Him how much they cared. Our offering of gifts is a reminder of what those kings did for the baby Jesus. They didn’t make that journey for just anyone, they made it for Him. So, it seems counter-intuitive to me to insist on offering a gift to every person you have talked to this year, right?
I’ve got another little secret to divulge: I love Christmas! I love the lights, the parties, the decorations, the carols… I love it all. But I love it because I have found a renewed sense of what Christmas is. But, part of the reason that I can love it is because I’m not stressed out by who spent how much on whom. I offer my heart to those I care about. But, isn’t that what we are supposed to do in life?
As the New Year starts, make a new habit. I don’t mean a resolution that you’ll be vigilant about for two weeks only to forget by February. I mean make a new habit, a lifestyle change of sorts. When you are baking bread for your family, bake an extra loaf for a neighbor. When you see that “little something” that you know your co-worker will enjoy, wrap it and give it to them… just because. Mail a card to your grandma, (yes, a card… NO email!), to tell her how much you love her. Do things for people when they least expect it.
I promise you that if you do create this habit, no one will be counting how many gifts you offered them at Christmas. Because they will know that you have them in your heart all year. Then you can enjoy next Hanukkah or Christmas like I do: stress free. Instead of spending your time trekking around in the cold winter weather spending yourself into debt; invite those you would have bought gifts for over to share a great cup of coffee or something you baked with some fair trade chocolate. Spend the time with them, laugh together, relax together and just enjoy the season.
If someone does pop in with a little something for you at the last minute, just say “thank you” and mean it, sincerely. But instead of feeling guilty and keeping count; use it as a reminder that you’ve kept your habit all year long and that you might have affected that person in a more profound way than you thought.
Now, go enjoy the season! And that, dear friends, is an order!