“Neither fortune nor position can shut out the awareness that the possessor lacks so much else,” said Huston Smith. He probably said this while in a shopping mall, or at least this his how I feel when I walk through stores about this time.
My best strategy is to avoid the mall. As long as I stay home, I’m happy with my wardrobe, my gadgets and my homemade coffee (really, I can make better coffee than Starbucks). But it’s December, and I must risk wandering into that den of thieves in hopes of leaving with a few holiday gifts for my loved ones.
I Love Christmas Shopping
I genuinely love Christmas shopping. It is the most guilt free of spending sprees because, unlike my usual selfish mall excursions, it is all in the name of generosity. There is, however, the issue of funds. This winter finances have been tight, and initially I was in despair about how I’d be able to afford gifts. I took this in prayer to Jesus, and he gave me two answers: work overtime and sell stuff.
In a year of an insane production schedule, this has been the maddest two months at the factory. Getting overtime was easy. Meanwhile, my Varage Sale app got a workout as I sold everything that wasn’t tied down: clothes that are too big now, paintings, a set of books. I have some bankroll to play with now. I shop sales and get creative.
The concept of sacrifice has become more real to me as I’ve prepared for Christmas. A sacrifice is “an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy” (New Oxford American Dictionary). That is my reality as I shop.
My first sacrifice was to sell a set of books that I actually wanted to keep. I knew they’d sell, and they were gone in a few hours. The second sacrifice was working a Saturday when I was already exhausted from a busy week. This week I also worked instead of sleeping, or going for a midweek run.
This is likely no more than many parents make for their kids on a daily basis. But these small sacrifices prove gifts are a lot more than just the object: behind them is a sacrifice of money, the time that it took to earn that money, the time and gas money it took to go to the mall and pick it out, and also the loving thought that made them choose it for you. I’m not trying to make a martyr of myself here, but rather to put that image in our minds when someone puts a gift in our hands.
The idea of sacrifice makes the gifts seem lavish, whatever their size.
Christmas shopping can be beautiful, but there is a dark side that I see in myself, and in Canadian culture as a whole. Have you seen those TV adds where they urge “get this for yourself?” You deserve a new tablet, a new outfit, a new minivan (who buys a minivan as a gift?!).
I admit that I see fifty things I want for every five gift ideas I spot. Today it was the espresso maker that I eyed up at Canadian Tire (which, for my international friends, sells a great deal more than tires), and the hat at the clothing store. I bought neither. Yay me. Other times I haven’t been so self-controlled. I remember remarking last year, “It seems my shopping trip is incomplete if I don’t find something for myself,” even in it’s just an Americano from Starbucks. It’s downright disturbing how generous I am to myself–far more generous than I am to my family.
This idea of ‘self-gifting’ could suck the life right out of Christmas giving. It takes this act of generosity and spins it right back to selfishness.
It’s not about me. It’s not about me. It’s not about me.
As I peruse the shining shelves of the mall, I keep repeating to myself, “It’s not about me. I’m not shopping for me.”
Which is not to say that come Boxing Day I won’t be back in the store shopping the sales for myself.
But for now I get heady doses of enjoyment out stashing shopping bags in my closet, buying scotch tape and gift boxes, and anticipating Christmas morning when my family will get the treasures I picked for them. Each box and bag represents something I gave up for them. I hope it reminds me of the ultimate Christmas generosity: Jesus gave up the luxury and acclaim of heaven so he could be Emmanuel, ‘God with us.’
Enjoy your Christmas shopping. 🙂