For The Person Who Has Everything....

Gift-giving can be a lovely experience.

When you know what to give, that is.

Perhaps youíre one of those blessed, foreword-thinking souls who can, at this point ten days before Christmas, gaze in contentment at a closet-full of wrapped gifts, some even ready since spring. The slight excitement you feel at the prospect of receiving pales Ė no, totally disappears Ė at the prospect of all those you love opening their perfect, flawlessly selected gifts.

Yeah, thatís you. Then thereís the rest of us.

Itís not that weíre stingy. Itís not that we donít want to give. Itís just that with little of that commodity called time on our hands, we never seem to have the mental space we need early enough to give the task of choosing gifts the attention it deserves.

Aside from the issues of time, pressure and guilt, the task of selecting a meaningful gift for those we love takes on other, varying shades of difficulty, depending on the age of the recipient.

For our parents and others who seem to have everything, thatís exactly the problem. They have everything, and most have the means to buy what they donít have and want, so what in the world can we put on the table that might actually be unique?

(Especially when we wait until December 16 to start shopping?)

But with the children, thereís a slightly different problem.

What they want is quite often not what we want to give. At all.

And what weíd love to give is probably not something theyíre not exactly craving.

They want three hundred dollar video game systems, or at the very least, the fifty dollar games to go with them. We blanche, cringe and balk at the prospect of contributing any more than we already have to the highly dubious cause of young eyes glued on flashing screens.

They want the latest CD from the latest Slut-in-the-Making, whatever interchangeable blonde teenager with a tinny voice is capturing the media spotlight by alternately claiming her girlish innocence and posing nearly-nude on the cover of Rolling Stone.

Not exactly where you want to spend your money.

Itís an endless struggle. You want to see them delight over simple, classic, sturdy toys. They want whirring, flashing plastic gizmos that will break on December 26. You think the childrenís video on the life of Beethoven would be swell. They want the ďBrand New Recycled Adventures of Scooby-Doo.Ē You wouldnít mind spending a few well-chosen dollars on some classy-looking clothes. They just want the cash.

Itís frustrating. Why do they just want junk? Why are they obsessed with having stuff thatís popular now, but will be dropped for the Next Big Thing tomorrow? Why do they get most excited about things that are bad for them and things that will break?


Seems as if the frustrations of giving to children arenít only familiar to earthly mothers and fathers.

Maybe the Heavenly Father knows something about that, too.

Kids, even the well-brought up ones, donít always know the difference between what they want and what they need. Or, to put it another way, they donít know that what they want isnít what they really want at all, but only temporary fixes until the only temporarily satiated hunger rises up again. That dynamic may sound a bit familiar.

What is it, after all, that Jesus tells us will make us happy? Time after time, he says it, and thereís really no mystery in his words: Loving God and neighbor. Sacrifice. Simplicity. Putting God first. The gift, in other words, of a vibrant, living relationship with the God who made you.

But how do most of us react to this potential gift?

Itís as if God told us, as soon as we reached the age of reason, to go ahead and make out a big Christmas list. What do we put on the list? Honestly, now.

Are we like Solomon, asking only for wisdom? Or is our list full of nothing but stuff: the objects and lifestyles that we think are necessary to make us happy, even though, like the gizmos our kids want, they will all break, they will all fade, and some of them might even harm us?

Yes, gift-giving is tricky. Itís a tough to stand there, bearing a gift you know is beautiful and sound, and will, in the end, bring happiness to the recipient, only to have it politely accepted and stashed away, never to be used in favor of the flashy, the tacky and the cheap.

God knows, itís sad. God knows.

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