by Lexiann Grant

“Ensure that Holy Christmas is never a celebration…of appearances or of useless gifts, or of excessive waste, but that it is a celebration of joyfully welcoming the Lord…into the heart.” Pope Francis, Dec. 2014

Whether it is the symbolism of the gifts from the three Magi to the young Christ child, or the aid given to impoverished children by the monk, St. Nicholas, giving gifts has been a long-held tradition at Christmas. The intent has often been described as a show of respect, love and admiration.

Despite our Christian perspective of the Nativity, this tradition has become the focus of most celebrations. What is the latest and greatest gift trend? Does this present cost enough? Should I buy for so and so and so and so? Will they like my present? Is it something they want, not need? Will my gift be the best? Will my gift make others think I’m the best?

Rush to the sales. Buy, buy, buy, spend spend spend.
Tired. Out of funds, out of energy, out of time.
Almost miss Christmas.

Maybe miss the point of Christ-mass?
Where is the true spirit of giving?
And, what would Jesus say?
Do you give joyfully? Without stinginess? From your heart? In my name and honor?
What would Jesus give?

This year for many people, buying presents could be limited, and for some, might be impossible. So, what would Jesus have us do (besides being a total Scrooge)? Think outside the gift box with some alternate, but personal, love-inspired ideas.

Write a letter and tell a friend how much she means to you, what you admire about her.
Remind someone of how he has helped you become who you are, or thank him for some ways ha has assisted you in the past.

Make a list of your happiest, best memories with each family member or friend on your list.
If you could make a boundless wish or dream come true for everyone, tell them what it would be, no matter how extravagant. Tell them what you would buy if you could.
Share these dreams by way of handwritten notes, or print them using a beautiful typestyle.

Craft a personal item using supplies around your home.
Paint a small picture, snap a special photo.
Bake homemade biscuits to go along with a warming soup.
Sing a song and video share it with them. Write a poem.

Go help someone on your list with a work project — cleaning, yard work, repairing their car, grooming their pet — particularly if it’s something that’s difficult for them to do. Volunteer to go with them to work on their favorite charity, like a soup kitchen or food pantry.

Donate to a charitable organization in someone’s name. Ask the organization send the thank you note to your recipient as the donor instead of yourself.

If you still feel the need to give hands-on presents, personally meaningful belongings can be lovely gifts. Pass on an heirloom or old family photo early while you’re alive to see them enjoy it. How about a favorite book you’ve kept to reread along with your comfiest throw to snuggle under when the recipient is reading it? Even a useful or unique personal item that your recipient once admired. 

For those who feel overwhelmed with the number of people for whom you “must” buy, remember that there are those who have no one to whom to give, who will not have the pleasure of choosing special gifts and seeing a loved one enjoy them. If this is your situation, choose something nice from your clothing and donate to a homeless or women’s shelter. Or purchase and assemble gift bags of sample-size conditioners, lotions and chapstick for the residents there if you can afford to do so.

Consider reducing your Christmas budget this year even if you are financially secure. Then use those dollars to help an individual or a family or two, that currently have difficulties paying utilities or keeping sufficient food on hand. Send them gift certificates for necessary supplies or pay a bill on their behalf.

Even if someone isn’t appreciative now, this type of giving is a valuable life lesson whose worth will eventually be recognized.

Children also might not grasp as quickly this type of gift. Some of the best presents I received as a child were my immediate family’s time and attention, shown through the invention of non-material games, like clue based treasure hunts through the house, or bundling up together to play in the cold, even shopping with them for someone else. If your child likes animals, see if they’d enjoy going to an animal shelter to help walk dogs or feed cats. These are excellent ways for parents to teach by example the true meaning of Christmas giving.

Give from your heart to the other person’s soul. Presents like these are a part of yourself, the most generous gift of all. They will be remembered  — and appreciated — for years to come…and it might just be what Jesus would do give.

“Give, although your heart may never
To a grateful tear respond;
Deeds of kindness bless forever,
Reaching to the world beyond.

Give not grudgingly but freely,
With a heart allied to God,
And your alms will prove to be the
Winglets scattering love abroad.”
excerpt from “Benevolence” by Daniel Clement Colesworthy

Read the whole poem at https://discoverpoetry.com/poems/daniel-clement-colesworthy/benevolence/

Lexiann Grant is a retired writer & author, a former chalicer and layreader, but still an Episcopalian who enjoys encountering God in the mountain backcountry.



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