Thursday, December 15, 2005

Good Gifts Don't Come Wrapped in Pretty Paper

During the past few days I have been doing my Christmas shopping, and I am becoming increasingly more and more uncomfortable with the giving and receiving of stuff that we don't really need. We draw names on both my and my husband's side of the family, so we each have had to choose gifts for two persons (not including shopping for the kids in the family). When I think about it, though, we aren't buying things for these people that they couldn't buy for themselves. In my family, we have pretty much just asked each other what the other wants for Christmas, and for many of us, that's what we'll get. It all seems so contrived. None of this will keep me from having fun on Christmas, but, well, I don't really know what I'm trying to say here.

On another note, this week, my mom and I went to the mall to do some shopping, and we saw a big booth set up by one of the local churches where volunteers from the church are wrapping gifts for mall shoppers for free. Hmmm.

I used to attend a church where this idea was considered. The whole idea was to "show God's love in a practical way." OK. I agree that Christians definitely need to go out and show God's love, and most certainly they need to go about showing this love in practical ways. But wrapping gifts? C'mon. What's next, showing God's love by volunteering to hang lights and wreaths on the tops of people's houses?

Aren't there some other more pressing practical needs than giftwrapping presents for people who obviously can afford to buy their own wrapping paper and bows? What about the practical need of heat for someone who can no longer afford the outrageous price of propane or who is physically unable to split his own firewood. What about the practical need of food or rent money for people who have lost their jobs? Or the practical need of companionship for someone who is lonely? Sure makes the practical need for giftwrapping services seem trivial.

This is going to sound harsh, but those who think they are doing a service by wrapping presents for mall shoppers need to get real. Giftwrapping is not a worthwhile cause for the follower of Christ. The type of gifts Jesus gave required self-sacrifice and didn't come wrapped and tied with a bow. I'll be so bold as to say that those who think that wrapping gifts is a practical need are either very self-consumed or extremely ignorant. What kind of sacrifice does it take to wrap presents? Oh, yeah, those paper cuts can be brutal!

Jesus met people's practical needs by giving the gift of food to hungry masses, giving the gift of sight to people who couldn't see, giving the gift of health to people who were sick. Surely we, Christ's followers, can at least give a meal to a hungry person, or a coat to a cold person, or maybe even pay for a prescription for a sick person, or pay someone's heating bill for a month. Those types of gifts would be much more practical, and certainly they would be more appreciated. And the sacrifice involved would be much better than a paper cut.


jettybetty said...

I'm in the midst of composing my cyncial Christmas post right now.

There are NO gifts under our tree. I haven't bought a thing--and probably won't buy much more. We are going to do the pig or goat thing--when all the kids get in, we'll decide which animal to go for and that'll be it. This is the first year that we got the crap exchange halted in our extended families--what you describe is the reason why.

I suppose wrapping gifts is better than doing nothing at all--I don't know how I feel about it. I can tell you if I wrapped gifts it would not bring honor to God, because I am absolutely abysmal at wrapping crap.

I do see Christians doing the good stuff you mention here--I hope we just keep doing it the rest of the year! People need stuff all year long.

I suppose it's time to go be cynical on my own blog.

Tony Arnold said...

JMG: are saying that wrapping gifts is not the same as washing feet. Oh you are a heretic!

Way to go Jettybetty! Alternative (Radical) Christmas in the spirit of Alternative Spring break.

My wife and I talked about suggesting to both sides of the family that instead of buying a gift for each person, take the amount you budgeted and donate to the charity specified by that person, so that instead of exchanging gift lists we would exchange charity lists.

The we just place under the trees Christmas cards of where the $ went.

By the time we thought about, some shopping had already been done. I think we will try this next year.

BTW--I am very proud that what evolved into Alternative Spring Break across the nation, began at my alma mater--Vanderbilt.


Ayatollah Mugsy said...

For some reason, Tony, your charity idea stirs visions of George Costanza's gift to the Human Fund.

Tony Arnold said...

Is that related to the Human League?

Oh sorry that was a bad '80's band.