So often this season involves shopping for gifts to bless the people in our lives that we most cherish. For some of us it is a major chore because we are not a fan of shopping or because we are never able to think of what to get for the person. For others it is a grand adventure because they love shopping or are simply great gift givers.
This year shopping for Christmas gifts has likely been a bit more of a challenge no matter which category any of us may fall into. Perhaps we or a member of our household is ill, or the pandemic has brought a job loss and a financial strain. Maybe we can’t go out to the usual shopping malls or stores or we have tried to find things to order online and now it is ten days from Christmas and the tracking shows the gift hasn’t moved beyond its original destination.
If we’re honest, some of us just aren’t in the mood to shop or do the usual things for this particular Advent season.
When I was growing up, our family had more than one or two special traditions around this season, but gift giving was not a highlight of the time. There was never a great deal of money, but even so there was not a lot of time spent considering what gifts would most bless each one. My precious dad was a dear, but very poor at choosing gifts for my mother and though she loved him dearly I knew she was sometimes disappointed.
As a result, the very first Christmas that I was allowed to go shopping for gifts for our family with my dad, I couldn’t seem to stop finding things that I thought would delight and bless my mother. We were walking up and down the streets of my small hometown, stopping in the popular shops of the era such as Sear Roebuck, Woolworths, and others you can guess or add to that list.
At some point on the shopping trip, my dad checked in with me to see if I had found something for each person and was somewhat dismayed to discover that I had spent all my money and had a number of parcels, but they were all for my mother.
I still recall my dad pulling change from his pocket and a couple of dollars to give me to try to find something for my brother and him. It was already time to be heading home and I needed to hurry. Somehow, I had a harder time shopping for them because I was so aware of the desire to bless my mother with some things she would never expect that I had spent it all on her at the beginning of the shopping trip.
That early experience left an indelible impression on me that is still present today. I am not a big fan of “shopping,” but I love to give gifts for almost any reason or season. I will always honor the requests for some things if given a list, but I go on a quest to find something special for each person. It may not be the most expensive gift, but I am always looking for something that communicates to them that I “see” them and have a sense of what delights them. If I don’t meet that goal of something special, I am invariably not all that excited even if I bless the person with some nice things.
The first year my husband and I were married I went on a quest to find a Daisy Red Rider Air Rifle. He had something like it as a boy and his had been loaned for an event and was totally used up by the time it was returned to him so off I went to get my sweet new husband a facsimile of his boyhood favorite.
Two years ago, I gave my husband a special box at Christmas. A note was attached with little envelopes tucked inside. The note explained that the box represented “a year of dates.” Each month he would open a small envelope to discover a surprise date I planned for him for that month and we would end a year ago in December for our 55th anniversary. It was the most fun I have ever had surprising him with new places or old haunts and a few double dates. (I think he loved it as well.)
As I look at the gifts we have purchased waiting to be wrapped and placed under the tree, I am aware that there really aren’t as many of those special surprises for those whose hearts I would seek to delight. A variety of things got in the way of the usual shopping trips to places that fueled my imagination. In the process it seems our whole family is aware less of what they would like to have and more about what they are most grateful for. And even though we all won’t be able to be together in one place this year, we celebrate the gift each of us is to the other. We celebrate our son’s health after a cancer diagnosis in the spring followed by treatment and knowing he is now in remission.
We celebrate my husband’s health after several unexpected things sent him to the hospital this year and in addition, I think we realize the gifts of freedom, food, fellowship, and friends more than ever after a year that reduced our chances to share them as a result of the pandemic.
For each of us there is a fresh awareness that we have already received the perfect gift. It isn’t wrapped with tissue paper and ribbon under the tree but arrived at different times for each one of us at just the right time. It fit perfectly the size of our hearts and was and is the person this season is supposed to be about.
Jesus is the perfect gift and each day of the year we can enjoy his presence. He knows us best and even in shadowy places and hard times, He seeks to delight our hearts with the love, joy, and peace that can only come from Him.