I don't spend a lot of time deciding what to wear in the morning. I usually already know what I want to eat when the waiter asks for my drink order. I've been known to purchase shoes and even furniture on impulse. All in all, I'm a pretty quick decision-maker. But when it comes to buying gifts for others...I'm p-a-i-n-s-t-a-k-i-n-g-l-y...s-l-o-w.
I can't help it. I love to give gifts. But just any gift won't do. I have to find THE gift. I envy people like my mother, who picks up random items all year long whenever she comes across a bargain. She has drawers full of gloves, sheet sets, baby blankets, etc. So, whenever an occasion arises...BAM! She's ready at a moment's notice. I've tried her philosophy. I really have. Even this year. Finding myself in IKEA a few months ago I loaded up on candles, linens, and other versatile items...in the hopes that, come Christmas, I could match them up with an appropriate recipient. No such luck. I have a hard time giving someone something while at the same time knowing in my heart that I didn't buy it specifically FOR them.
Don't get me wrong. Sometimes I have no choice but to resort to the more generic gift options. For instance, this year the majority of my husband's and my grandmothers are getting scarves, and...drumroll, please...SOCKS for the granddads! What's not to love about socks?! Everything. That's what. Socks aren't fun. They aren't personal. They reflect a failure on my part to know what the person needs or cares about, as well as possibly a deeper seated need for approval. But that's another post.
So, what DOES make for a good gift?!
I wish I knew. I just want it to be what the person WANTS.
Ask someone like my husband what he wants for Christmas/birthday/anniversary/etc. He'll answer..."nothing." When I'm insistent for him to tell me something, ANYTHING, he then replies..."less debt." Joking aside, though, what he really wants in a gift is something that he would have ended up having to buy for himself eventually, but would rather just get as a gift in order to eliminate the extra cost associated with him buying both the needed thing AND me buying him a gift (e.g. boots to replace the ones he's worn out, a bedliner for his new truck, or a pressure washer).
I, on the other hand, am just the opposite. What I'm seeking is something I would NEVER have considered buying for myself. Frivolous little things (not necessarily expensive, just unnecessary) that I'll probably keep a long time and that I will never forget the occasion for which they were given. What I should receive this year (if the hints have worked): cowboy boots, a tambourine, and tickets to the National Championship game (ok, so maybe I've given up on the last one).
One of my favorite gift-giving tales is a story by one of my favorite authors, O. Henry, called "The Gift of the Magi." It's about a young couple, scrounging to make ends meet, who desperately want to buy each other something grand for Christmas. The wife, with no other available options for raising funds, sells her gorgeous long hair in order to buy her husband a chain for his watch, his prized possession. She does so only to have him come home to surprise her with beautiful combs for her hair, which she'd been eyeing for some time in a store window, but of course could no longer use. How did he afford such an extravagance? You guessed it...sold his watch!
The Magi referenced in the title are actually the wise men who brought gifts to the newborn baby Jesus. They appear (perhaps erroneously, as it would have taken them years to travel to where Jesus was) in Christmas pageants, nativities, and stories we tell as we reflect on the true meaning of this season. So, technically speaking, I submit that they could indeed be the first-ever givers of a Christmas gift. Or are they?
Back up a few years. A few thousand years. (As it were, the first Christmas was a long time in coming.) And, if necessity is a factor in determining the worth of a Christmas gift...then, MAN, were those Israelites needy! Because, while focusing on the real story of Christmas and the baby in the manger, it's also important to remember...the story didn't start there.
It started in the Garden of Eden when man gave in to temptation. It continued as God's people were overwhelmed by their inability to atone for their own sins. It escalated as they cried out for the Savior who had been promised, who would deliver them once and for all from sin and death. It was fulfilled in a stable, by a simple girl, giving birth on an ordinary night.
So, why the wise men? Why the gifts? Was it because a King had been born into royalty? No. He wasn't. Was it because there was a great banquet at the palace to celebrate His birth? No. There was none. So, why then?
It was because the prophecies of thousands of years had been fulfilled! The answer they'd prayed for had come! Their most desperate need had been met! Talk about gratitude! (Oh, how it shallows my request for boots.)
I said the story didn't start in the manger, but more importantly...it doesn't end there.
Jesus was sent for a singular purpose. Not to be born into a brief life on earth, but to die for something eternal. This baby would take on the sins of the world (past and future), endure the wrath of a loving yet just God, and forever atone for a people who could never do enough to achieve holiness.
Merry Christmas to all, as we celebrate the birth of the One who satisfies every needs for those who believe and follow Him.
Q: What's the best kind of gift to receive?
A: A sacrificial One.