Authored by Mara Hodler
Just about everyone is excited to receive a gift. Whether you’re handed a carefully wrapped package tied with a ribbon, or something that wasn’t fussed over at all, there is just something wonderful about knowing that you were thought of. Someone cared enough to think about what you would like, shopped for it or created it themselves, and gave it to you.
There is also a special joy in giving gifts. When you find a gift that you know the recipient will love, it’s fun to present it to them! The recipient’s delight over receiving the gift becomes a gift to you, and inspires you to keep giving. But stop and think for a moment of all the gifts you’ve received in your life so far, and which ones have stood out to you.
You might have been beside yourself with excitement when you received the video game you were begging your dad and mom for, but does it still bring you that same joy after a couple of weeks? The gorgeous top you just “had to have,” how often do you wear it now?
Here in the U.S., Christmas is a huge deal! There are a lot of traditions, and they vary by families, but it seems the one tradition they all share is gift exchange. Stores know this, so they prepare months before Christmas by flooding the shopping floors with potential gifts and pictures of happy people receiving the store’s wares as gifts. They aggressively offer deals, sale days, shopping rewards and incentives, and layaway plans in an attempt to earn your holiday dollars. Everyone from the car dealership to the dollar store offers ideas of what you can get your loved ones for Christmas.
As I’ve said before, I didn’t grow up in the U.S. And I didn’t grow up in places where Christmas equaled abundance of fanfare and gifts, neither for me personally nor for the average person. I’m not gonna lie, the first Christmas that I had the opportunity to “go all out at Christmas” and do tons of Christmas shopping for my loved ones and family, I was so excited! I spent days shopping at the mall, hours researching “best” purchases online, and more hours perfectly wrapping gifts and tying the packages with beautiful bows.
As Christmas drew near, I heard myself a few times saying, I can’t wait ’til this is all over. I had never felt anxious for Christmas to be over before! Each of my previous Christmases was spent burning the candle at both ends, whether I was at home making Christmas special for my loved ones, or out doing show after show for orphanages, hospitals, schools, prisons, shopping malls, and Christmas parties. I always loved every minute of it! Sure, we were tired by the end of it, but I never felt any dread associated with the season.
Now here I was participating in a “traditional Christmas,” and instead of it being a joy-filled time, it was becoming stressful. I realized I was surrounded and consumed by Christmas but had the feeling that I was missing Christmas altogether. But I powered through anyway, right up to the most hectic Christmas Eve celebration I had ever experienced. Hundreds of gifts were exchanged and trash bag upon trash bag of wrapping paper and packaging was gathered. I sat there in the aftermath of “Christmas” feeling so terribly underwhelmed. I felt like I had missed the grand finale of a great movie and just skipped to the part where the credits roll. Where did Christmas go?
All those thoughtfully purchased gifts? As the weeks and months rolled by, I happened upon various gifts I had given, stashed in the back of a drawer or sitting on a shelf gathering dust. I also found some of the gifts I had received were useless. We had collectively spent thousands of dollars on gifts, and a few weeks later, it seemed like no one was any better off for it.
Before I sound like the Grinch who stole Christmas, I want to make it clear that I am not against the giving of gifts. I just hate to see Christmas eclipsed by a frenzy of shopping and stressing. On that disappointing Christmas, I learned that the real spirit of Christmas, the joy that makes Christmas special, is something you have to seek out. It doesn’t just come because it’s December and you’re buying gifts, decorating a tree, and listening to Christmas music.
You probably want to make Christmas special for your family and loved ones this year, right? So how do you do that? A good place to start is by making a distinction in your head between Christmas and the giving of gifts. Christmas is the celebration of Jesus’ coming to earth. Ask yourself how to best celebrate that.
I can happily tell you that I will not celebrate Christmas by doing dancing and singing performances. I’m too old to be cute and not good enough to be worth watching. Here are some of the ways I plan to spread the spirit of Christmas:
*Sending Christmas cards to loved ones near and far
*Sharing inspiring Christmas stories with my kids and friends
*Posting thought-provoking, joyful, and meaningful Christmas messages on my Facebook page
*Sending donations to mission works that are making Christmas special for kids and families in need
*Practicing random acts of kindness in my community and anywhere else that I feel led to
*Making Christmas treats for teachers and friends
*Avoiding the mall
*Keeping Christmas simple: less fussing and more meaning
*Spending as much time as possible with family and friends
And the gift I am giving Jesus? Gratitude!
December is here. I challenge you to take time before the Christmas frenzy is in high gear to think of how you will make this beautiful season meaningful, and how you will “find Christmas” this year.
Read by Amber Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2013 by The Family International