One of my favorite things about Christmas is gifts!! I used to feel kind of guilty about that – like I should be “above” all that. Certainly, Christmas has become overly commercialized with people adding to their debt to buy the latest and greatest gifts for friends and family (and don’t even get me started on “self-gifting”)! But the idea of giving and receiving gifts is, in itself, not a bad thing.
When I was working, I bought most of the Christmas gifts. I loved to pore through catalogs and go to the mall to find just the “perfect” gift. I LOVE watching people open gifts that I’ve chosen for them. Now that I’m not working, I make most of my gifts. One way isn’t necessarily better than the other – my lifestyle right now is more conducive to making things than buying things. I love seeing the look on the recipients face when they see what I’ve chosen (at least if it was something they liked). And I enjoy seeing people use or wear or play with the items I gave them. Rosie Girl has been wearing the owl mittens I made for her last year and I feel so happy whenever I see them on her.
Gift-giving is not my primary love language, but it is probably my secondary love language. I feel loved when I receive gifts, especially useful things. I like to show love by giving gifts. I know that my parents (especially my mom) are the same way, at least when it comes to giving gifts. Christmas and birthdays were always big deals growing up and I think part of it was because my parents loved to see our faces when we opened our gifts.
So, doesn’t all this emphasis on gifts during Christmas lead to materialism? I’m sure that it’s possible. I know that I’ve struggled with materialism myself, but I think that a large part of the reason was simply living in a materialistic culture.
How can we avoid becoming materialistic or help keep our kids from becoming materialistic? I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve got a few ideas.
1. As we are buying and making gifts, it’s important to keep in mind the person for whom we are preparing the gift. Focusing on our relationships instead of the “stuff” is what is key.
2. Remember the “reason for the season”. Although gift-giving was part of pagan celebrations in Rome and other parts of Europe before Christianity reached them, we, as Christians, can and should focus on the ultimate gift of all: Jesus. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, even with “good” church activities and forget why we celebrate. Doing Advent devotionals with the family during this time of year is one way of keeping ourselves focused on Jesus.
3. Don’t go overboard. Gifts are not bad. Going into debt to get our kids (or others) the latest and greatest gadget isn’t in anyone’s best interest, though. Our children may not understand this when they are young, but they can certainly understand the concept of having a budget as they get older. In our family, our children buy gifts with money they have saved from allowances and odd jobs or they make gifts with our (large) cache of art supplies.
4. Give to charities. We should be supporting our churches and other charities throughout the year, but giving sacrificially during the Christmas season is a good “inoculation” against materialism.
5. Give the gift of time. This is a hard one in our society. Nonetheless, it’s important for us to keep our calendars from becoming so full during the holiday season that we aren’t nurturing the important relationships in our lives.
Check out Advent Conspiracy for more great ideas and thoughts about keeping the Christmas season sane! And enjoy giving and receiving this Christmas season while remembering the ultimate gift God gave us!!