The Christmas gift return drives me insane. They irk me. They drive me nuts. (I feel better for getting that out there). There is the occasional needing of a new size or an item needs to be returned because it was damaged. I get that. However I cannot imagine that the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on returns the day after Christmas are all wrong-sized or damaged goods. Nope, the number one reason people return gifts is they wanted something different. When was the last time you gave a gift and not had to find out before hand if the gift was “ok” or “preapproved”? Are we that narcissistic, that self-involved that even our gift giving has to be tailored perfectly? The answer is yes.
What is really lost is not the art of gift-giving but rather the art of gift-receiving. What is lost is the humility and grace and appreciation that someone has thought enough about you that they have invested their time, emotion, and money into a gift. We have lost the fact that we are valued in their lives to the point where a gift of their choosing is an expression of the value of that relationship. This is why the personalized gift, the one that really requires something from the gift giver is being lost. The best gifts cost us something. They require us to think about the person and their likes and needs. They require us to give a piece of us away, a true investment. I love to give packages of beef jerky away. I cut the steak. I marinate it. I dehydrate it. Nearly everyone who has received my gift loves it. They love it (I hope) because they know I have invested into it. Think about that, especially the next time you reach for a gift card.
I can’t help but think, though, that the way we receive gifts today is quite representative of our spiritual state. I really don’t know that many people who are not demanding God give His gifts in ways that are pleasing to us. He gave us Jesus, his only son and yet here we are trying to define Jesus the way we want him to be. Jesus the “My God of the Vending Machine” (put a prayer in…get out what you want), or the “Cash Machine God” (I waste all my money but I want you to give me more), or the “Sex Machine God” (give me someone to fulfill my needs without any investment or commitment on my part). We have turned God’s greatest gift into nothing more than an impersonal gift card exchange. Are we losing the ability to fully accept and receive His gift?
I invite you this season to be a better gift receiver. Accept your gifts with understanding and appreciation. Loosen the demands on the gift giver and I think you will be amazed at how rich this season will be. Know that the best gift you can receive is your savior. Accept Him for who He is and know that the gift you have been given, the gift that we celebrate at Christmas, is the best kind of gift because it really cost someone to give it!