Christmas Presents

christmas-gifts-2-1121740-mChristmas presents have been the bane of my existence. When I was a kid, I looked forward to Christmas morning like every other kid, but I hated that first day back to school when the most popular question was, “What did you get for Christmas?” My family wasn’t rich or upper middle class or really not very middle, middle class. Consequently, Christmas presents were often things like socks or underwear or pajamas.

I remember a puzzle or two and a few books, maybe a board game. There were probably other toys that have slipped off my radar because they were not particularly to my liking. This, you see, was in the days before kids told parents what to buy them for Christmas.

I had an Aunt Mary who I didn’t know. She and my uncle had divorced and I don’t remember ever meeting Aunt Mary, but with regularity she sent a box of Christmas gifts—usually strange things, to my way of thinking. But once she hit a homerun, as far as I was concerned. She gave me a pair of “lounging pajamas.” That’s what the packaging called them. In reality they were a kind of silk sweats—more comfortable than I’d ever enjoyed before. I’d have worn them all day, every day if my mom had let me.

But I was talking about how Christmas presents having been the bane of my existence. As an adult I discovered that giving the right present was a lot harder than it seemed. With my siblings moving away and my nieces and nephews growing up outside my presence, it was my turn to guess at what they might like. The fact that I can only remember one present that hit the sweet spot and was really right, shows how often I missed the mark.

All that being said, I went Christmas shopping today and had fun doing it. But the present I bought isn’t for someone in my family or even for someone I know. It isn’t even going to be from me. In essence, I’m standing in the gap for a parent, an adult who is incarcerated and unable to buy her child a gift.

My church is involved in a program called Angel Tree which gives us the opportunity to give a gift to a child who would otherwise have little at Christmas. And we do so in the name of the parent. In that way, the child/parent bond is strengthened, and the kid gets to open something special on Christmas.

The thing I noticed most about this gift is that it feels more like giving than anything I’ve experienced with Christmas presents before. I mean, I’m not getting a present back, and I’m not getting a thank you card the day after or a hug and smile on Christmas morning. In reality, more than any other Christmas present, this one is not about me. It’s purely about a little guy away from him mom, getting a little something that can give him a glimmer of hope.

And I love it. I get why Santa Claus does what he does. 😉

Sorry if I horrified anyone not expecting to read the words “Santa Claus” on a Christian worldview blog. But think about it for a second. If you could afford it and had the means to pull it off, wouldn’t it be a blast to give unexpected, and perfectly fitted, gifts to a bunch of children who were in need?

Of course Santa Claus isn’t real, but the idea of him—the generous spirit this fictitious character embodies—is something that is appealing. Who doesn’t love being a secret pal or an anonymous donor? There’s something special about that unadulterated, no-strings-attached giving.

I think we love Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol in part because Scrooge at last embraced a generous spirit and found joy in doing so. It’s not just that his giving met the needs of many others. It’s that Scrooge himself relished the giving, not the getting or hording.

Is that the “true meaning of Christmas”? Not by a long shot. But let’s face it, Christmas presents occupy a lot of our time, thought, and effort this time of year. It’s not a bad thing to think about how we can do them better.

Perhaps that includes giving a gift to an unsuspecting individual without signing your name.

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Published in: on December 5, 2013 at 6:23 pm  Comments (1)  
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One Comment

  1. We weren’t rich either, but we always knew what we were getting as presents because of the smell. Christmas, of course, comes at the height of summer. We would traditionally leave home on Boxing Day and stay down the south coast (spending most of our time on the beach) until Australia Day. The presents under the tree would contain essential equipment: flippers, masks, snorkels. In the heat the smell of rubber would mingle with the smell of pine tree.

    What I really wanted was Lego, but never got it. I mentioned this to my mother one day when I was grown up. So I got my first Lego for Christmas when I was 24. Life is full of surprises.

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