I have recently had several conversations with women who are already stressed about Christmas. Not visiting family, or traveling, no - instead they are stressed over finances for gifts. Perhaps you are one of them.
One of these conversations involved a list of things one woman said she has to buy for her kids (for gifts). I heard the desperation over how much the list will cost, and the inevitable stress she is preparing for now, to be able to get through what it will take to buy these things. Perhaps you can relate to her.
Here's what was running through my mind while I listened to her - Have to buy? Inevitable stress? These are choices made, not facts of life.
I realize we all want to give good gifts to our children. Jesus even said this is a reflection of how God Himself wants to give us His Holy Spirit (Who brings with Him a bounty of wonderful gifts into our lives!)
But what does a "good gift" truly look like?
There are many meanings for the word good. One that I noticed while reading through these definitions is "healthy, beneficial". Are expensive gifts beneficial to our kids? I know they can be fun for a time, but does more money spent equal more fun? And at what cost? Does making our kids happy require a certain dollar figure, stress, frustration, fights with our spouses, and the long-term effects of letting our kids grow up thinking material consumerism is healthy?
A friend told me yesterday she does not want her kids to have a poverty complex - to feel like they have to pinch and scrape and do without, with the underlying basis of fear - because God is a generous God. I agree.
I also know, from experience, that "blessing" does not mean "being rich and the absence of money problems". If that were so, then God would be short-sighted, which He most certainly is not. While He wants us to have every good thing He can pour out in our laps, these things have a more eternal wrapping on them, and they come, not from a jolly old elf, but His powerful Holy Spirit. Unexplainable Joy... Peace Despite Circumstances... Wisdom...A Future and a Hope... Love... And More and More, because God is limitless!
As we've seen, God's lavish gifts are not things that can be measured or priced. God even gave His Son, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, which was an immeasurable gift with profound possibility - life without separation from Him.
That leaves us at a disadvantage, especially since we do not have the vast universe at our disposal for creating perfect gifts for each person on our list. Perhaps that is why we are tempted to spend so much - money feels like the currency of most worth that we humans can get our hands on (what, you don't have a Tree of Faith in your yard, or a Big Box of Peace in your closet?)
Part of the meaning of gift is "something bestowed or acquired without any particular effort by the recipient or without its being earned." Do any of us deserve the gifts we receive, either from God or from others? Obviously not. So that leads me to ponder, what do our children deserve as gifts? Somehow, "more money spent = more special gifts" just doesn't quite sound right to me in this light.
Is money the only valuable currency you have? On the contrary; you, yes you, have things can be gifts to others. Another meaning for the word gift is "natural endowment, talent". Take a moment and make a mental list of the natural talents you have. Ask God to show you what they are, if you are having trouble coming up with something - He knows how He made you! With a little thought, those talents can be turned into gifts for others.
Are you crafty? The possibilities are endless! Are you craft-impaired, but willing? There are magazines and blogs and websites galore that can give you ideas and directions to make special gifts that are not complicated or costly. Can you cook? I don't know anyone who would not appreciate a home-baked treat or home-cooked meal.
What about your time? Time is a precious gift. Make up a "gift card" that offers a special "date" - a meal, or an ice cream cone, or coffee (for adult recipients, unless your kids are immune to caffeine) with time to sit and chat. Or how about for a "fun day with Mom and Dad" of games, movies, and whatever else your kids enjoy doing, all in the comfort of your home, with your undivided attention. I'm sure you can come up with more ideas besides these. Please share them, too, as I always need new ideas!
Your choices regarding gifts will impact your children in ways you may not see now. Will they remember every gift you stress yourself out to be able to afford? I doubt it. I know they will remember the peace, love, and joy that surrounds them when their home is filled with God's Spirit - the true Spirit of Christmas.