Last month I asked my husband if we could dispense with Christmas gifts this year. No gifts for each other. No gifts for extended family. No gifts for the kids… I asked it because I was angry about the commercialization of Christmas. Because I was tired of people asking my kids what they wanted from Santa. And I was tired of my kids, unable to talk about anything else (despite their roomful of stuff). I was angry because Christmas has become one giant spending fest, everyone expected to play her part.
I wanted to lead a rebellion.
I’m always wanting to lead a rebellion….
Yesterday, I took my girls shopping for shoes. I bought Eve’s before I picked her up from school. I showed her the box and she exploded like a firework in excitement and joy. She put them on and thanked me a hundred times while I tied the laces. She said, “I love them! They make me look like a six year old!”
And my heart melted at the chance I’d had to make her so happy.
With London it would be different. Eve and I picked her up and drove to the outlet mall. She tried on twenty pairs of shoes at ten different stores. Every pair was wrong—the fit, the color, the style—and the look on her face and the anger in her eyes tested my resolve to love her (with warm, well-fitting footwear). Finally, the shoes were right. She was calm and sure. She said “These are my style.”
With Eve I was so pleased to give her the gift, because it made her smile (and bounce). With London I was pleased to wade through the prickly pickiness and to prove my love in my patience. Both gifts were pleasures to give.
Today, my girls put their shoes on the moment they awoke. Eve pushed open our bedroom door, light just barely peeking through the windows, and said, “I’m going to wear these shoes every day.”
There is a joy in gift giving I can’t explain. The gift needn’t be big for the joy to be. It’s not about impressing or proving. Gifts are ambassadors, carrying love and friendship past borders and over seas. They are, at their best, entirely voluntary, given with no compulsion. I like them most when they meet needs—no, not needs, almost needs. Like when you’ve “needed” warm socks for two years and never have taken the time to buy some and your husband comes home with the coziest pair (true story).
Gifts are grace. Unmerited favor.
Receiving a gift is beautiful. But giving a gift is like dressing up in God’s clothes.
This week I spent a morning alone buying presents for friends. I carefully chose each one, lifting it off the shelf, turning it to see every angle. I held the gifts gently as I imagined people I love using them at breakfast or at night after a long day at work. I was pleased to imagine my friends with my gift in their hands, a token of my love warming them, filling them, blessing them…
This Christmas we will give gifts (small gifts), despite our aversion to stuff and Santa and sales, because Christmas is about a gift, about grace and an Ambassador carrying a message of love—warming, filling, and blessing.