Years of being blessed with a low checking account balance forced me to rethink my approach to Christmas. Those were not easy years as I tried to tell myself that Christmas isn’t all about the presents, while fearing that my family would consider me cheap or inconsiderate.
A budget gift is a budget gift.
In a happy case of irony, my focus on gift-giving led me back to a better conception of Christmas.
If art thrives on limitation, gift-giving followed suit. If I only had $10 to spend on each person, I had to ask very different questions for gift-giving, the most important being: “What would this person never buy for himself/herself?”
This led to a series of time-consuming projects, such as homemade applesauce, unique jams, hot sauce, and framed photographs. Everything was tailored to the specific needs of each person, and in most cases, kept us within our budget.
Ed's homemade applesauce.
The first time I gave my grandmother a jar of homemade applesauce, she opened it right away and burst into tears at the first taste. She hadn’t eaten homemade applesauce since the last time her mother had made it. My mom guards her jar of blueberry jam, while my in-laws don’t miss a meal without their hot sauce.
As we’ve reached greater financial security, we’ve been able to spend more money on gifts, but our question remains the same. Oddly enough, the homemade gifts are still a big hit. In addition, we’ve begun to keep our Christmas spending under control by joining together with family members to buy one large gift that someone would never purchase on his or her own.
I organized some pretty epic purchases that both met a relative’s need and ensured a minimum investment -- the biggest-ticket item being a computer for my wife before she entered graduate school. I’d share some examples from this year, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise for anyone.
Ironically, the more I’ve thought about my gift-giving strategy, the more I’ve been drawn away from focusing on giving gifts and pondering the power of God. Isn’t Christmas all about the power of God to do for us what we could never do for ourselves?
I love the promise that Gabriel made to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”
God overshadows us. He breaks into our gift-giving madness to remind us that our iPads will one day break, our e-readers will be replaced, our shirts will unravel, and even our jams will go rotten. We can’t beat greed, materialism, and selfishness on our own. We’ll keep thinking that these bits of technology and clothing are what we really need.
God knows that we need to be overshadowed. We need Him to overcome every competing desire in our life. Only He can overshadow every idol that tries to replace those quiet moments where we sense that the loving touch of God is what we were made to experience, even if we think we’ll be fulfilled by touching what we have made.
There is incredible joy in giving someone a gift that he could never acquire on his own. In fact, meeting a real need is the best kind of gift-giving. God knew that when He overshadowed Mary with His power and sent us a Savior as the greatest gift -- doing something we could never accomplish on our own.
May we find that joy, both in our relationships with God and with one another. May we find what only God can give and meet needs that would otherwise remain.
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This post is part of World Vision’s 12 blogs of Christmas project about the true spirit of Christmas and also appeared on inamirrordimly.com. To learn more about the real needs you can help meet this Christmas season, check out the World Vision Gift Catalog.