Christmas is coming! Did that fill you with the warm fuzzies or make you want to scream?

I’m afraid I now fall in the screaming group. Don’t get me wrong—Christmas is a joyous time to celebrate the birth of our Savior, but the month of December brings a crush of expectations. Decorating and baking and entertaining and Christmas cards, and worst of all, the shopping, wrapping, and mailing. I love the people in my life, and I want to find the right gifts for each one. This gets harder each year, because everyone seems to have everything they want and need. Still, we buy more.

And the credit card debt grows. And the pile of toys in the children’s rooms grows. And our closets get crammed with more and more until they overflow, so we fill our garages with stuff until they overflow, then we rent self-storage units to fill with all that stuff. Still, we buy more.

Jesus tells us, “‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions’” Luke 12:15.

How much of our time is spent working to pay for our stuff, shopping for stuff, taking care of our stuff, and figuring out ways to better store and organize our stuff? What if we realigned our priorities and spent our money and our time on things with long-term value? Family. Community. The Lord. How would that look? Warm. Fuzzy. Peaceful. Like Christmas is meant to be.

What about you? Do you have any creative gift ideas to reduce the flow of stuff in your life?

2 Responses to “Stuffed”

  1. Sean M. Pearson

    I know what you mean. I just had to seriously pare down in order to move to Korea. I still left a few piles of stuff at my parents’ house. Stuff, stuff, stuff, which for some reason I can’t seem to part with.

    As far as gifts go, I love getting hand-knit stuff from my mom. That doesn’t take up much space (she’s got a lot of people to knit for), but I remember that I’m loved every time I put on those socks. Socks do wear out, too, so I can always toss or give away the worst ones (I just shrank one by accident, so that pair’s going) when my drawer gets too full.

    I don’t knit, but I do cook and bake. One of the best-appreciated gifts I ever gave was a pumpkin pie, to a family who had just lost their baby boy to SIDS. Babysitting so a couple can have a night out, mowing a lawn (for someone who hates/can’t do yardwork), or tutoring sessions for a child who’s falling behind in school, are all good, meaningful gifts.

    I understand that gifts like these are time-consuming, and that’s partly the point. A gift is supposed to communicate love and affection, and the truest way to do that is with something that requires an investment of time and effort.

    That may mean the list will have to be prioritized. The most important people in our lives will get the biggest investment. More casual friends may get just a plate of cookies (which still makes a great gift as far as I’m concerned).

    Korea is a very space-limited country. (Suburbs do not exist here; my apartment complex is surrounded by heavily cultivated farmland.) So, they cannot afford to accumulate useless stuff. You might like some of their ideas.

    I’m not sure how they celebrate Christmas, but I’ve seen how they celebrate Chuseok (like Thanksgiving, but earlier) and a wedding. At Chuseok, the gifts that I saw were of food. (I got a 10-kg bag of new rice, and one of my friends brought a hostess gift of candies.) At a wedding, the traditional gift is cash (in an envelope). I’ve also heard of a common graduation present being a type of popular plastic surgery to make the eyes look rounder. (I generally disapprove of altering one’s natural features, but it’s a gift that doesn’t take up space.)

    Anyway, those are my ideas about gifts. For a similar perspective, you might read what C.S. Lewis says in some of his essays. “The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses” has a couple of good ones on this. (One is a good satire of a Greco-Roman historian’s treatise on British Christmas customs.)

    Personally, I’m trying to figure out what to get for people that are half a world away, and aren’t nearly as jaded by materialism as I am. How can I be true to my own values without being (or seeming to be) a cheapskate? (That’s a question I’ll have to answer myself, I fear.) Anyway, best wishes for you as you strive for balance in your life, and God’s will in all things. God bless you and your family.

  2. Sarah Sundin

    Thanks, Sean! Great ideas. I love to bake for neighbor, friend, and teacher gifts. None of those people needs another mug or stuffed animal or “world’s greatest teacher” plaque! I love the ideas of investing time and helping people – isn’t that more in the true spirit of Christmas than a gift card? As much as I love gift cards – they can get exactly what they want or need (and less hassle for me) – doesn’t the lack of hassle almost diminish the gift? Sigh. No easy solution.