We are in full blown Christmas mode now. The house is decorated (inside and out) and the cookies have been made (and eaten). The kids have only one week left of school and so the countdown is on to get as much shopping done before I have an entourage with me 24/7.
My mom came up to Memphis on Tuesday for our annual Mother/Daughter shopping day. Truth be told, we spent more time chatting and lunching and pointing out ideas for our family than actually purchasing. She and I are the same person in a lot of ways especially when it comes to gift buying. We take great pride in searching for and choosing the perfect gift for each person on our list. Of course this also means we are usually finishing our shopping on the 23rd of December, but that is the price you pay for being picky.
You know what has been helpful for me this year? Those lists that everyone and their mother create to help people on their "perfect gift" quest. You know the ones. They are all over social media.... Top 50 gifts for Her. Top 10 gifts for Him (because 10 items is seriously all you can think of for a man). The best gifts for little girls, teenage boys, and your dog. There is a list out there for everyone. I think more people should take advantage of these lists. Why not? The writer of the list has done the leg work for you so you can show up on Christmas morning with an age/gender appropriate gift for your favorite niece, uncle, or sister-in-law and look like a Gift Genius.
Instead there is a new trend. (I say new but it really has been around all of my adulthood although it seems to get more and more extreme every year.) Im not sure what really started it. Maybe it was the gift registry business that became more hi-tech in the early 2000s. Before Y2K to register for a Wedding gift you just went to Dillard's/Goldsmith's/McRae's or down to the local "fancy dish store" and picked out your favorite china and Authur Court pattern and called it a day. But then came the ability to scan any and everything you could possibly want at Target, Bed Bath and Beyond and other big box stores. I feel like this was the beginning of people saying "No it's not the thought that counts. You strayed from my pre-approved list? You are dead to me."
Now I must point out that I am not pointing fingers at anyone. This is a First World Wide epidemic. And we are all caught up in it. In an effort to take the guess work out of the holiday season, we have somehow forgotten the meaning of a gift. We have streamlined gift giving almost to the point of making it obsolete.
Think back to the 80s (which everyone knows I like to refer to as the Golden Years). No one told their family what to give them for Christmas. That's how Ralphie ended up with that god awful pink bunny costume, and Kevin MacAllister received that sweater with the big bird knitted on it. Those gifts weren't on a wish list or registry. Those gifts were specially picked out by the gift giver and memories were made. Back then, the only person you could get away with telling exactly what you wanted for Christmas was Santa Claus himself. Because that was the cornerstone of your entire relationship with St. Nick. Anyone else who was giving you a gift had a relationship with you beyond presents. They knew you personally and therefore the gift was representation of that relationship and their desire to bring joy into your life.
Can you tell this has been on my mind? I've been growing frustrated for the past couple of years with the exchanging of the wish lists and couldn't really figure out why. The joy was fading. I started resenting the whole gift giving part of Christmas and felt like it was affecting how my kids viewed gift giving. I want my kids to be able to receive a gift from someone that is not exactly what they want and graciously say thank you because they know that someone picked that for them. I want them to have those memories. I don't want them to grow up thinking everyone gets exactly what they want all of the time. Even at Christmas.
It took reading the Christmas story for the 1 millionth time to remind me of the purpose of a gift. We can look to the wisemen for our inspiration.
"When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great JOY. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshipped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh." Matthew 2:10-11
These men came to see Jesus and they brought him wonderful gifts that were picked out specifically for Him. And they had such joy in their hearts because of the opportunity to give something to the Messiah.
Joy. That is what were are supposed to feel this time of year. The custom of giving gifts is meant to remind us of the first Christmas and the gift that God gave us in Christ Jesus.
I would love to get away from the passing lists back and forth and get back to heart of gift giving. I want to think and pray for the person I am buying for and look forward to the surprise and joy on their face when they open it. It may not be the exact thing they would buy for themselves, but maybe, just maybe, it is something they love and didn't even know they wanted. Because I don't want to reduce Christmas presents to a glorified to-do list. Before we know it, my sister and I will be exchanging toilet paper and Diet Cokes (as if I drink diet anything) and wonder why we aren't feeling the Christmas spirit.
We need to stop phoning it in. If we are exchanging gifts with someone, they must be someone important in our lives. I know if we really think about them, we can come up with something that would bring them joy. Sure it is a little harder, but I think everyone on my list deserves more than just what they need from the store.
So if you are reading this, would you join me at reclaiming the fun and joy of a thoughtful and surprising gift? Let's give ourselves the freedom to love on each other and remember those wise men who looked forward to presenting their finest gifts to a baby king. Gifts that could not be found on the Target baby registry.
FACEBOOK FROM THE PAST
Guess what you get when you mix multiple batches of cookies, several sticks of butter, Christmas Tree cakes, peppermint mochas, lots of Coke, 3 thanksgiving dinners, marathon carb loading, and a 4 course holiday progressive dinner?... A muffin top. (Some things never change)