I have a confession to make: I’m not a huge fan of Christmas.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I hate celebrating Jesus’ birth or spending time with family and friends or enjoying delicious turkey dinners. It’s the pressure that comes around gifts.
I like to get people gifts, especially when I know it’s something that will make them smile.
I bought a copy of Beauty and the Beast for my oldest daughter awhile back, and she threw herself on the floor and squealed with glee (ah, to be 4 again…).
My wife and I went to Chicago to attend a conference back in April, so I got tickets for an architectural tour of the city and she was thrilled (she loves history and city planning).
My youngest daughter and I went to Starbucks and I bought her a cookie and she was ecstatic (it’s so easy to please an almost-2-year-old).
So Christmas is easy when it comes to other people. But I get really uncomfortable when people ask me what I want for a gift.
Deciding what to ask for isn’t easy in part because I’m in that stage of life where if there’s something I really want, I can get it myself. Adding in my specialized interests — I am the weirdo who asked for a primer in biblical Greek and Spurgeon’s autobiography for Christmas — I typically find myself scrambling to pull together something that isn’t going to result in headaches or expense.
One of the things my wife and I decided early on in our marriage was that we wanted Christmas to be about more than getting — we didn’t want wish lists to be the focus.
As we read the scriptures, we saw these reminders that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35) and that “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). Those reminders really hit home for us.
That’s what we wanted Christmas in our family to be about — to remind ourselves of this truth and teach our children the same.
There are a few ways we’re doing that:
One way is that we look for needs that we can practically meet right here in our community, whether giving to the local food bank or doing something as simple as buying a cup of coffee for a stranger.
Another way is taking an opportunity to give to ministries that have been a blessing to our family and are helping move the gospel forward.
And a third way is looking for ways to bless the global poor with gifts like what you’d see in the Gifts of Compassion catalog – giving tools to help others earn an income, stay healthy and get an education.
These may not be mind-blowingly original ideas, but they’ve really helped us relieve the pressure that comes around gifts as we focus on others rather than ourselves.