Every Christmas, I find myself internally-conflicted in a couple of ways. On the one hand, I love giving presents. Turns out that gift-giving is one of my top love-languages. And I'm known in my family for buying gifts that people don't expect but are thrilled to get. Like the Australian leather cattleman's hat I bought for my dad not long ago. I should also mention the diamond ring I bought for Fiona one Christmas.
But on the other hand, I'm not so great at getting presents. Fiona tells me that I'm very difficult to buy for. Either I'm totally distracted by the cost of her buying me something after I spent so much on her, or I'm just not very easily pleased with what people get me. I can be ungrateful, focusing on the gift rather than the giver, wanting them to provide me with the same thrill I just gave them.
I guess that may be why I found the following video of Andy Rooney somewhat amusing...
Add to that the huge distraction of world poverty compared to the extravagant amount of money we as North Americans spend on Christmas presents and I can end up a real grump on Christmas morning. For example, did you know that last year, consumers in the United States spent about 10.7 billion dollars on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving), 6.9 billion dollars on the Saturday before Christmas, and 7.9 billion dollars on Boxing Day? That's over 25 billion bucks spent in three -- count 'em! -- three short days. To put that in perspective, Burundi's GDP (gross domestic product, or the total value of all the goods and services a country produces in one year) is about 3.1 billion dollars. Haiti's GDP is about 6.7 billion dollars. Those figures create some of the internal conflict I feel at Christmastime as we lovingly buy unnecessary items for each other.
Ah, the joy of living in the tension of two truths. I want to remember the poor, but does that mean it's wrong to bless Aunt Nellie with a new set of tea towels?
So that leaves me needing to remember two important lessons as Christmas Day approaches. First, when it comes to gift-giving, gratitude is as important as generosity. Gift-getting is as much an act of love as gift-giving, and no one's act of kindness ought to be spurned, no matter what the circumstances! And secondly, in the same way that God doesn't intend for the needs of the world's poorest people to prevent me from blessing my family and friends at Christmas, I don't believe He wants me to spend so much on them that I'm unable to give anything to help the poor in a meaningful way as well.
Hopefully I can remember those things this Christmas, and then I'll be able to enjoy the gifts I get as much as I enjoy being a blessing to others in the many meaningful ways that God leads me.
© 2010 by Ken Peters