Since the beginning of starting our family, my husband and I have longed to find ways to make the Christmas season more meaningful, more true to what we believe the holiday could be: the joyous celebration of Love born unto the world. And not an imitation or distorted or limited love, but unfathomable Love.
Yet, each year we struggle to focus on Christ at Christmas because there are a number of other festive activities or rituals that distract us. And they are not all bad. There are plenty of wonderful traditions we simply adore. In fact, most of the things we do around the holiday represent some aspect of the love and light we hope to spread throughout our entire lives.
Our main distraction, however, has been and often is, the presents. Gifts have always been a central theme of the holiday for my family of origin, as I’m sure is the case for many families. Christmas was certainly a time for shopping, wrapping, and delivering. Baked goodies (at least!) for all friends and neighbors. Toys for cousins, something thoughtful for parents, and the kids? Spoiled rotten. My brothers and I would be buried in wrapping paper by the end of it all, hardly remembering who had given us the new pajamas or CD (you know, back in the day of CDs). And Santa? That guy. He went all-out in our house. We got the big stuff. And the stocking was my favorite. Overflowing with all sorts of fun surprises. Every small thing that you’ve ever wanted and things you never knew you wanted, were all stuffed in that glorious sock.
Yet, as the years pass, my husband and I have realized that gift-giving has become a less-than-joyous experience on several occasions. Frantically shopping and stressing about what to get the person who doesn’t need anything, trying to find time to wrap and deliver it all, spending more than we should on things that mean little in the end…it can all be quite exhausting. Draining the joy we so long for out of the season. And our kiddos? They hardly know what to ask for each year because they truly have more than they need as far as material things go. They can certainly come up with a list, and they always do after scanning the holiday ads. However, it has gotten to the point where it feels kind of empty on Christmas morning after the boxes have been opened. A huge rush to get the gifts purchased, and then a huge let down after it’s over. For us, it often feels like we are actually giving very little of what is truly needed and losing touch of the authentic source of joy.
This is certainly not true of all gift giving. A thoughtful gift given with love can be incredibly meaningful and bring great joy to another. Yet, the gift-giving craze has become something weighing on my husband and I for the past few years. So, not surprisingly, our family got a crazy idea. A crazy, wonderful idea. What if?
So, last year as the holiday season was coming to a close, I made a declaration. Next year, no gifts. None coming in, and none going out. No, not even homemade gifts, though that’s a fantastic idea Grandma. No, not just one gift per close family member. None. NO material gifts. The Frederick family, in 2013, is going to have a gift-less Christmas.
Yet, we didn’t want to simply get rid of gift buying and giving. We wanted to give. We were not aiming for a give-less holiday. Instead, we wanted to give of our time and love. We wanted to take all that time and energy we normally use in the hustle and bustle, and put it towards what we believe we are called to do in this world: love one another. So, for this past December, we set out to give ourselves through serving others. The only things coming in or out of our home with a bow…would be us.