Through the years I have bemoaned the fact that most Christian “book stores” have become a place to buy religious trinkets. There you can get a plastic cross, an expensive picture, a Christian video and even “TestaMints.” Part of the reason this has happened is the simple law of supply and demand. People want to show off their faith and so we buy a Christian T-shirt instead of giving the money to the needy. The T-shirt industry is plenty happy enough to supply the shirts at an often ungodly mark up. This thinking reaches its peak at Christmas. Christians hit the Christian bookstore with the same enthusiasm as they do Wal-mart and buy lots of over-priced religious junk to give away. As a pastor I know this is true because I am often the recipient.
So today I want to suggest that there are better gifts that you can give.
1. Beneficial Gifts – Find a need and meet it. I highly recommend you ask a teacher or school administrator of a child in need. In bigger communities there may be some resistance but often if you tell them why you are asking they will help point you in the right direction. Ask around and I bet there is someone in your life who has a need. Find those people and give them something they need. Side note – shoes are getting very expensive ($80-$150 for sneakers) and my wife sees several students who only have one pair.
2. Personal Gifts – My wife likes to keep lists of what other people like. Do they like chocolate or peanut butter? What color do they like? How many kids do they have? And so on. Then when a gift is given it lines up with what the person really likes. It shows that you know that person and really do care about them. Through the years I have been enormously blessed by people who gave me something that I really liked far more than being given another Bible Verse in a frame.
3. Unexpected Gifts – I bet the janitor at your work does not expect a gift. Neither does your neighbor. Neither does your boss or co-worker. Who in your life gets overlooked for Christmas gifts? Surprise them with something small … and maybe you do not even tell them who it is from.
4. Unreciprocated Gifts – Jesus spoke about giving without expecting repayment. Often we give to someone because we want them to do something in return. Something like, “I will give something to my boss this Christmas, and then he will remember that when it is time for a raise.” I just read of a couple in a Church who paid for a year of a Bible College student’s tuition. They know he can’t repay it, and that’s the point.
5. Timely Gifts – Take the older couple a meal the day after Christmas. Tell that young couple that you will watch their kids for free so they can have a night out. Look at the stage of life someone is in and ask, “What would be the most beneficial to them right now?” Parents are often looking for a break. Seniors are often looking for company.
I know this is a generic list. I know this is not a complete list. I have just been thinking about what I want to do for other people this Christmas and I use these ideas to guide me. Maybe they are helpful to you. I hope you have the most wonderful Christmas ever. I pray that your life is a blessing to others in every way, especially through the gifts that you give.