Shopping for Christmas

It never fails, I always encounter the “Lamenter” and the “Enthusiastic Shopper” this time of year.  The “Lamenter” often complains that our culture has killed the true meaning of Christmas with its consumerism ploys. They rightly conclude greed is wrong, but inherently also communicate that giving is bad, too. On the other hand, you have the “Enthusiastic Shopper” who loves to shop and is often perceived as a wasteful person.  In their defense often these shoppers yes, love to shop, but also love to give.  However, this preoccupation with deals and material pursuit often show its worldly fruit and lack of wisdom when the credit card bills arrive in January…

I’ve been on one extreme or the other, too, failing to understand that Christmas is, after all, a time in history when the spiritual, infinite, holy God entered a physical/material body.  So yeah, Christmas is both spiritual and material. And as image bearers of God – we cannot but crave both! When we focus on one aspect or the other, we’ll always come up short.  We’ll trip!  We either become the Scrooge or the frivolous spender.  And neither brings praise to His grace. 

1591281276DSo what do we do?  It is hard to strike a balance.  I know! Something that has helped me over the years has been the reading of Advent books. Some have helped stretch my understanding of the theological implications of Christmas.  But one book has especially helped me navigate through this topic of gifting for Christmas, and that is God Rest Ye Merry by Douglas Wilson.  Much of my thinking has been shaped and confirmed by this book. (I highly recommend it.) 

So here are my two cents on this topic of Shopping. 

Remember to Approach it with Joy

The last couple years have taught me that while sheer sorrow can abound in your heart; one can still have joy and peace through Christ during the holiday season.  I think we often have this wrong notion that during the holiday season, life should cease to be hard and trials should stop coming. In fact, at times the holidays magnify our lack and our longings.  Yet, I would attest to the fact that the presence of sin and the reality of our brokenness is what make the coming of the Messiah all the more joyous.  And in essence, all-the-more-real.  This real tangible act of love from God in sending His beloved Son ought to bring us great joy!  This real joy is what ought to give life to our decorating and making of our homes cheerful and warm.  This spiritual joy gives life to the material cheer we sprinkle all around.  This real joy is what ought to drive our shopping and our giving.  So yeah, sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come!” and go on decking the halls and shop for your loved ones!

Remember Grace is Free

There’s often this imagined pressure women feel to give gifts indiscriminately.  That is simply unwise.  God’s grace doesn’t work that way.  God freely gives and freely refrains from giving. We don’t have to give gifts to every relative and friend we have!  Free yourself of such pressures and with a joyful heart give to those you can.

Remember Gifts Represent You

While we don’t have to give gifts to everyone, we must remember that our gifting represent us. Unthoughtful and cheap gifts communicate…well, just that, “unthoughtful and cheap”. What we give says much about us.  So don’t underestimate the time spent shopping and making those homemade goods to bless that neighbor or that acquaintance, or looking for the right gift for your pastor, or coworker.  They all communicate grace – God’s grace to you – and in turn your grace to them!  

Remember to Approach it with Gratitude

Nancy Leigh DeMoss in her book Choosing Gratitude says, “Gratitude is not the quiet game.  It begs to be expressed both to God and to others.” When you consider what to shop for consider expressing a message of gratitude rather than greed or over-indulgence.  Imagine how that would reform our thinking about gifting; especially when considering what to give our kids, who already have tons of everything?!

Remember Everyone has Different Budgets

Avoid presuming what is wasteful spending and what isn’t in others.  Everyone has different budgets and different resources.  Assume the best in others and be grateful for our Great Giver, we will never out-give him!  And believe Jesus when He says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35b)

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