This was written for the NCP Monthly, Dec 2010.
My husband is not easy to shop for. He works with technology but he doesn’t crave the latest gadget. His hobbies are inexpensive ones involving wind power, balance and T-shirts. Really, he is a man of simple tastes, the kind of man who can microwave a sweet potato for supper and be perfectly happy. I love him more than I can possibly tell you. He not only keeps his balance on various kinds of boards (not church boards, I mean surfboards and skateboards), he also keeps his sense of humor. We have been married a long time and have built a life together that is precious in all its imperfections.
You’d think I’d appreciate the opportunity to buy him a gift, right?
For a long time I didn’t. I rebelled against the commercialization of Christmas and that rebellion, combined with the burden of the season (which I believe is intensified for clergy), had the result of ruining gift-giving. I developed a grudging heart.
What does this have to do with the Christ-child? I’d grouse as I shopped and wrapped. Why can’t we all just focus on baby Jesus?
A few years I got tired of myself and gave up the fight. I decided that there are two entirely separate Christmases that exist simultaneously: the cultural gift-giving holiday, and the religious celebration of the mystery and beauty of the Incarnation. Why not try to enjoy both? I could write a sermon about John the Baptist on Friday and enjoy a bit of online shopping on Saturday. Baby Jesus would be okay with it.
My purchasing may not have looked any different from the outside, but it began to feel different inside. My gift-giving became a way for me to incarnate my love.
That doesn’t mean I always get it right. Gift-giving is a challenge! But that’s another post. This Advent I’m wishing you joy as you shop for your loved ones!