I’d be surprised if you haven’t seen the movie “A Christmas Story” at least once in your lifetime, but don’t worry; I’m sure you’ll have at least a few dozen more opportunities to catch it on TV this season. At the climax of the movie, Christmas Morning, the main character, Ralphie, has to try on his gift from Aunt Clara, who, Ralphie says, “Had for years labored under the delusion that I was not only perpetually 4 years old, but also a girl.” And so he had to endure the humiliation of wearing a handmade, pink bunny costume. As Ralphie’s father put it, “He looks like a deranged Easter Bunny…. He looks like a pink nightmare.”
Obviously, this wasn’t an appropriate gift for a nine-year-old boy. Certainly, such a gift required a lot of time and effort to produce, and I’m pretty sure that if I had been in Ralphie’s situation, my parents would have told me, “It’s the thought that counts.” That usually means the receiver ought to be grateful for the thoughtfulness that led to the gift, if not for the gift itself. Gratitude is certainly a trait that parents want to help their children develop, but at some point, it seems we’re promoting the idea, “Just be glad you got a gift.” That seems to be the idea behind the last-minute, impulse-buy gifts at the checkout counters – the deodorant gift boxes and the rack of gift cards to every restaurant and store under the sun – it doesn’t matter that you haven’t put any thought into giving a gift, just give one so I/they can receive one. Clearly, the thought behind the gift needs to be more than, “Oh, I forgot to buy a gift!”
While we don’t want to get caught up in the materialism that seems to define our culture’s view of Christmas, we probably ought to put some thought into giving gifts. The low-level thinking that leads us to give gifts without much effort or consideration feeds the materialistic mindset of thoughtlessly receiving of gifts. Sure, we need to keep God’s perspective as we celebrate Jesus’ birth, remembering that John 3:16 says God “gave.” Let’s not forget, however, that God put a lot of thought into his gift.
God’s gift of Jesus and eternal life through Jesus came out of God’s love for the people he created. God’s gift wasn’t an impulse because God’s just a “nice guy.” There was careful planning and consideration. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:7 and 2 Timothy 1:9 that God’s plan was determined “before time began.” God’s gift was given because of his love for the world, but it wasn’t a random gift, it was something he planned before we were created.
There was a lot of thought that went into God’s gift, but more importantly, perhaps, the gift was given, and it was given at great sacrifice and with love. Now, I’m not saying that each of us has to give extravagant gifts the way God has given us his one and only Son Jesus, certainly not to the point of indebtedness, but perhaps our celebration of Christmas would seem less materialistic if we put some serious thought into why we are giving gifts. If it’s a matter of giving because it’s expected, because you’re hoping nobody feels left out, it’s time for a little more thought.
If giving gifts to others is how you celebrate God’s gift to the world, one that was planned from before the creation of the universe, then you’re probably on the right track. As you purchase, wrap, and give gifts this Christmas season, remember God’s love and share it with every gift. Even if you do send a pink bunny suit to a nine-year-old boy, make sure that he knows it’s because you love him and because God loved the world in such a way that he sent his one and only Son, Jesus, to give us eternal life.