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Blog // Thoughts
December 7, 2005

Advent: Why Bother With Gifts?

I always find it sad when Christmas and in particular gift-giving is spoken of in terms of empty obligation; another thing we have to do. To me, Christmas is the one time that many families feel sanctioned to express their love for each other, to show their esteem for each other. Many people I know […]

I always find it sad when Christmas and in particular gift-giving is spoken of in terms of empty obligation; another thing we have to do. To me, Christmas is the one time that many families feel sanctioned to express their love for each other, to show their esteem for each other.

Many people I know seem to hate the ritual of gift-giving, they don‚Äôt share my joy in searching for gifts and the pleasure of reflecting on those they would give gifts to. Some avoid the ‚Äúhassle‚Äù by giving pre-agreed gifts, which always seems a little sad to me. Sure it is practical, isn’t the whole point of Christmas it‚Äôs lack of practicality and it’s sense of mystery? Christmas, if you will forgive me for a moment, is absurd.

Consider the story; the saviour of the world is born in a barn to an engaged couple in a manger, who frankly are far too young to be “with child,” surrounded by shepherds and later visited by three guys from far away looking for a King. Amazingly both the foreign kings and the shepherds sense this poor child is something special.

It is the Advent tradition to reflect on the birth of Jesus as a gift to humanity, an act of God‚Äôs grace. Interestingly God’s gift was not what the world what wanted at that time, not a philosopher, not a political liberator, nor a revolutionary. God gave them a poor carpenter‚Äôs son. The wise men wanted to find a king, instead they found an unremarkable infant. God‚Äôs gift of Jesus was the perfect surprise, not what was expected. This was possible because God both knew and understood the human condition.

My contention is that we find gift-giving so hard because we know those we would give gifts to so poorly. Maybe it is time that we admitted that the reason we hate gift giving so much is that it shows up our lack of imagination and the paucity of our relationships? All of us have desires, if not for things then for experiences. Often it is surprising how little it can take to bring a smile to the face of a loved one. My hope is that we would all try it a little more often.

[tags] Advent, Christmas, Theology and Culture [/tags]

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Responses
Toni 17 years ago

Pre-arrangement of gifts saves those with little time, limited facilities or intended recipients that ‘have everything’ with embarassment.

There wa a time when gift-giving was special, but in a world where most people have ‘all they need’ plus many luxuries it’s much harder to be meaningful. I agree that there’s a pleasure in giving and receiving, but it’s very hard to make it un-alloyed in a materialistic culture.

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