Advent Day 22 and 23: Seasonal Weed and Feed

Even though there are plenty of ways we abuse the Christmas holiday with Black Friday and doorbuster sales and buy one get one and layaway and credit card debt, I can’t imagine ever abandoning the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas.

Last Christmas, I had something akin to superhuman energy and assembled a dozen or so homemade Christmas gifts, and as I finished and wrapped each one, I got more and more excited for Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, when the gifts would finally be opened.  There were also a bunch of presents bought that I knew would be a surprise and a delight.  Maybe my grin and giddy sofa-dance of anticipation even topped the recipient’s joy.

This year, however, I had zero thoughts of making Christmas presents, zero ambitions to top or meet last year’s measure of creativity. Instead, constant on my mind this season was a longing to damper any motivations to buy gifts out of a place of obligation: This is just what you have to do at Christmas. Buy other people things.  Meh.

If you’ve been reading along, my Christmas spirit meter has been somewhere between “Bah, humbug,” and “HO. HO. HO.” most of the month.  It doesn’t take long for whatever melancholy, darkness, or gloom that has seeped in to spread its tentacles into the whole of the holiday, strangling joy and sinking its bitter root deep into the season.

But the desire to find the perfect gift for someone else is like Weed and Feed – it kills the bitter root and plants joy in its place.  Gift giving is an expression of love and friendship, an opportunity to plant in someone’s hand tangible evidence of affection.  Sometimes the gift is much needed.  Sometimes the gift is extravagant. Sometimes it is clear that the giver thought long and hard about the gift, regardless of expense.

But the difference between an obligatory gift and a meaningful gift is significant to both the giver and the receiver.

The magi traveled long and far to deliver their gifts of deep meaning to Jesus. Theirs was a sacrifice of time, talent, and treasure. Embracing the challenge to try to find meaningful gifts this season broadened my vision beyond the Scrooge-iness and lapse into blind consumerism. That more specific focus on others allowed some of those seeds of joy to take root, so that now, I am ready and eagerly waiting that magical time Christmas morning.

“Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’ After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” – Matthew 2:7-12

Published by Sarah M. Wells

Sarah M. Wells is the author of The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Gospels to Help Kids and Parents Love God and Love Others (2022), American Honey: A Field Guide to Resisting Temptation (2021), Between the Heron and the Moss (2020), The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Bible to Help Kids and Parents Engage and Love Scripture (2018), Pruning Burning Bushes (2012), and a chapbook of poems, Acquiesce, winner of the 2008 Starting Gate Award through Finishing Line Press (2009). Sarah's work has been honored with four Pushcart Prize nominations, and her essays have appeared in the notable essays list in the Best American Essays 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Sarah is the recipient of a 2018 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She resides in Ashland, Ohio with her husband and three children.

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