The gift-giving season should be reframed

It is that time of year again– gift-giving season. You know, the one that comes after Thanksgiving. I have been struggling with this whole gifting thing this year. I have become frustrated with the artificialness of it all. Along with artificial Christmas trees, artificial gift-giving is something that has crept into this over-commercialized season.

What is the point of gift-giving? Making sure your loved ones get what they want by exchanging Christmas lists? How do you give gifts? By setting monetary limits on what everyone can buy so the giving is equal and when your brother buys you $3 socks, you do not go out and buy him $50 tickets to a NFL football game?

Now, do not get me wrong. I love presents. I love receiving them, and I love giving them. I think Christmas list are helpful and monetary limits needed sometimes. But what’s the point of it all if it ends there? If we make lists, shop, give, receive, and move on to the next season? What’s the point of buying my sister a sweater from Urban Outfitters? Is it just my yearly token of love costing only $39.95? That says I love you, right? It is what she wanted according to her Christmas list.

But when did gift-giving solely become about what we want or a dollar amount? Yes, spending money on other people is a selfless sacrifice, especially when you are a college student with loans to think about. But when Jesus came to the earth, He did not love people with His wallet, He loved them with His self, His being. He gave gifts of compassion, forgiveness, acceptance, and life.

Given that this Christmas season is about Jesus humbly coming to earth and giving of Himself, I am personally challenged to find ways to give not solely from my wallet, but from my being as well. To not just give my mom another pretty cake stand, but to spend quality time with her. To not just give my dad another burnt orange shirt, but to hear him out when he is trying to give me advice (even if I do not think I need it).

By reframing gift giving, we can actually foster growth in our relationships with people. We are connected not by material things, but by life. As Henri Nouwen wrote in his book Life of the Beloved, “Our greatest fulfillment lies in giving ourselves to others.”