After four Christmases together as a married couple, my husband and I finally came to our senses. Every year as Christmas approached, we would both find ourselves stressed and scrambling to not only get gifts for each other, but to also buy for as many people in our families as we could. Being separated from my family by over 1000 miles, you add the time and cost of shipping, and you have yourselves some stressed out, over-extended Wagners. Not to say that we don’t like giving gifts. We do. We love giving! We love putting thought and effort into a gift to show the recipient how much we care about them. Still, with the natural busyness of the season and the growing list of those to buy for, we have tried to adjust our approach.
First, we started by trying to give gifts that give back (some incredible gift options). There are several noteworthy organizations that are doing much to alleviate poverty and slavery around the world, and the products that they offer make excellent gifts. Then, we started thinking even further. What if we focused on making memories instead? What if we planned “experiences” that we could share together instead of buying, wrapping, and placing under the tree something that may be liked but just isn’t needed?
We have had so much fun with this! Not only does this new approach free up much time, money, and energy, it’s intentional investment in our relationships, with each other and others. What do I mean by “making memories” and “creating experiences”? Well, this year, as a family, we went to see the Broadway musical “The Lion King” together. We all loved it so much more than opening gifts from each other, because it’s a memory and a shared experience that we will have for as long as we can remember. We’ll take one night out from our busy schedules to grab a good cup of coffee and drive wherever we can to see Christmas lights, and enjoy it even if it takes all night. We’ll go to our favorite restaurant with our favorite people and share a fabulous meal together. For Christmas this year, Jeremy and I are going to Chicago to spend Christmas with my family, and while somewhat costly, this will be a week-long trip filled with countless memories and quality time spent together as a family. There simply isn’t a wrapped gift under the tree that could compare.
I am not suggesting that gift giving during Christmas should cease. I don’t think it should. I do believe, however, that we all should check the motives of our hearts. Do we give out of obligation or joy? Are we so wrapped up in the hustle and bustle, in the giving and getting, in the over-extending and overspending, and in the chaotic commercialism of it all that we miss the moments, the worship of the long awaited Savior child, and each other? Instead of making wish lists this year, how about we focus on making memories instead? Quality instead of quantity. Joy instead of angst. Peace instead of dread.
My prayer for you this Christmas is that Jesus Christ becomes the center and love becomes the motive of everything you do, every gift you give, and every memory you make. For, if we miss Jesus in Christmas, we miss Christmas altogether.