Give the gift of shared memories

While I love most aspects of the holiday season, Christmas shopping has to be one of my least favorite things to do. Traffic, long lines and crowds make the experience stressful and burdensome.

But even worse is the anxiety that comes from trying to find just the right gift for the people I care about. I want my presents to be meaningful and to reflect how much I love them. Yes, it would be easy to buy a candle, lotion or gift card, but those things seem too impersonal.

In our age of consumerism, is it even possible to give someone something they need? What can I give that will be useful and not just another thing to take up space in an already cluttered house?

Each year we give more and we accumulate more until the things that were supposed to bring us joy cause us to be overwhelmed instead. I only need to look as far as my own home to see a prime example of this scenario.

Every Christmas for the past 13 years my daughters have received a mountain of presents from my husband and me, their grandparents, aunts and uncles. Toys, dolls, books, craft supplies and clothing fill three upstairs bedrooms and a downstairs toy room.

Bought with much thought and care, many of these items have been played with a handful of times and then tossed to the side. They sit there waiting to be loved and played with again like a reject toy from a “Toy Story” movie.

As I survey the amount of stuff they have accumulated over the years, I am having a difficult time bringing myself to buy yet another thing that they don’t really need or want just so there is a pile of stuff under the Christmas tree.

Have you ever wondered why we give gifts at Christmas, a time when we are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ? Some may say it is in honor of the gifts that the wise men brought to the humble baby in the manger. I like to think it is to celebrate the greatest gift that was ever given to mankind—Emmanuel, God with us.

When the Son of God left His heavenly throne, lived among us, and allowed Himself to become the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, it was so that we could once again be in right relationship with God. That relationship, once broken and marred by sin, can now be whole and beautiful.

The Apostle Paul tells us in his letter to the Colossian church that Jesus is the Lord of all creation (Colossians 1:15-18). Jesus could have given us anything and everything we ever wanted. But He knew that material things could never fill the God-shaped hole in our hearts, so he gave Himself.

And maybe in that beautiful, mind-boggling fact is the answer to the stress of the holiday hustle and bustle. Could it contain the antidote to the stuff and clutter? Or the cure for the stark reality of debt when the credit card bills start arriving in January?

Instead of giving things this Christmas, give the gift of relationship. Give the gift of time, memories and experiences. Invest in annual passes for the family to an amusement park or season tickets to a sporting venue. Give some kitchen supplies with a certificate for cooking classes or a pair of fins with scuba diving instruction.

Don’t feel like you need to break the bank, though. You could just as easily create a coupon book for things like family game night, a back rub, movie night, a trip to a museum, coffee at a local shop, etc.

But whatever you choose, plan to do these experiences together. Give the gift of shared memories that will never be lost, broken, forgotten in a corner or under the bed, or donated to Goodwill.

When you give the gift of relationship, you will be celebrating the real reason for the season. And while it may or may not cost you something, never forget that it cost Him everything.

I wish all of my readers a very merry Christmas and pray that God blesses you richly during this sacred season.

Heather Ablondi is a women’s ministry speaker and author who lives in Fredericksburg. You can contact her through her website, heatherablondi.com.

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