Now that we’re past Thanksgiving, the Christmas season is in full swing. While Christmas festivities can make our lives merry and bright from December 1 to 25, they can also bring about undue stress. One of the biggest stressors I’ve encountered is also one of the season’s oldest and fondest traditions: giving gifts.
Now, I love giving and receiving Christmas presents. Watching a loved one’s face light up as they open that carefully wrapped item I chose just for them is one of my favorite parts of the celebration. But I have lots of family and friends, and limited funds. The season’s ever-present sales and commercials can lead us to focus more on the “stuff” than a spirit of generosity — I know I’m guilty. So while I will be buying gifts this year (almost done), presents will decidedly not be the center of my new little family’s Christmas traditions. Instead of focusing on “presents,” we will focus on “presence.” I encourage you to do the same, and here’s why.
You are a Better Gift
Do you remember what you wanted for Christmas when you were a kid? One year I wanted some sort of space projector. Several years in a row, I wanted a different American Girl doll. Assuming you remember, and you got what you wanted, where is it now? My American Girl dolls are in my childhood closet, collecting dust at my parents house. I couldn’t even tell you where that space projector is. Now think about what you got for Christmas last year. Do you remember what you received? Do you remember who bought you what gift?
If I’m honest, I don’t remember. But what I do remember is precious time with my family and loved ones. Though we long to attach a dollar amount to our love and cover it in wrapping paper, that is never the best way to give it. What will bless our family and friends the most is our full, undivided attention during the holidays. They will know our love by our presence, not our presents.
Remember the Reason
Despite the materialistic trappings of Christmas in this country, even the secular world knows that Christmas isn’t about gifts — at least in theory. Many non-Christians would say that to them, the holidays are about spending time with loved ones. Though family time is an important tradition, we as Christians know that it isn’t why we celebrate.
We celebrate Christmas because an almighty God descended from his throne to eventually die for an undeserving people. The fullness of God dwelled in a helpless baby, born in a barn — the least glorious origin story imaginable. We give gifts because the wise men first brought gifts to the infant Jesus as an act of worship, but also because Christ himself was an unearned gift to all mankind. When we remember the reason, it suddenly doesn’t matter if our gifts cost $20 or $200. The presence of the Lord becomes more important than the presents under the tree.
I’m not naive; I know that gift giving can be stressful even with these truths in mind. But it’s freeing to know that at the end of the day, the gifts are not what matter. At the end of your days, you won’t be asked to give an account of how much you spent to get your child the latest, greatest gadget. You won’t be asked how much your mother loved her designer sweater. But the way you loved your family and pointed to Christ will last into eternity. So this Christmas, I urge you to focus on presence over presents.
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