Lately almost all of the websites I visit have had “gift list” suggestions. Here are ten gifts for your grandma! Here are five gifts for the friend that lives far away! Here are eight gifts for your local sportsman! In the spirit of these amusing lists, but also in the Christian spirit of being a tad less materialistic and shifting the focus to holier things, I thought I’d offer up a similar list of suggestions: gifts that you can give to yourself to make this holiday season a little more special, a little more meaningful, and a lot more joyful.
(I will have you know I have tested all of these. They work!)
1. The Gift Of Letting Something Go: I know. I know that you had planned to make DIY gifts for 14 people and send out Christmas cards and volunteer at the soup kitchen and make the cookies Martha loves and decorate the little tree for the hallway. You are not going to get it all done – or, if you do, it will be at the expense of time with loved ones, time to just relax into what the season means, and time to be alone with God. Drop something. Drop one thing without guilt. (The “without guilt” is the gift part). Martha will live. The world will keep turning. And you will be better for it.
2. The Gift Of Leaving The Computer: Step away from the internet from now until the New Year. I know, I know, some of you need to use email and related things for work (or to buy Christmas gifts!). That’s fine. But step away from the rest of it. Step away from the ceaseless barrage of horrible headlines, the two hours burned away clicking around on Amazon, the eighty-two articles you’ve been meaning to read. Take a Twitter and Facebook and social media hiatus. All of a sudden, you’ll find that you have time. So much time! Time to enjoy and relax and decorate and look at Christmas lights and catch up on your Bible study!
3. The Gift Of “I Can’t Change People”: I was telling my husband the other day that it made me a little bit sad to see so many articles this year advising people on how to tolerate/endure being with their families and friends over the holidays. I’m fortunate that I’ve always been blessed to enjoy my time with my family – and yet, I also realize that for a lot of people it’s a difficult experience. Sometimes the holidays bring you into contact with people that are demanding, offensive, frustrating, and upsetting. The best thing you can do is to realize that there’s nothing you can do. You can’t change them. God can, in His own good time, but you can’t. Sometimes, if you can withdraw from the situation, that’s best. But if you can’t, it’s good to repeat and remember that someone else’s behavior isn’t your responsibility, nor is it yours to fix or heal. Pray for them, and let the rest go.
4. The Gift Of Being Childlike: I am 35. I am, I have heard, a grown woman. I still get childishly excited over Christmas lights and look forward to seeing them with my family every year. I love to wrap presents, even though I am not very good at it. I still watch The Grinch and drink hot chocolate. And I got very tickled recently that I actually ran into Santa at the mall (where he was apparently taking a break from seeing kids to have a sub at the local steak joint). Last Sunday, watching the children’s handbell group at church, I was struck by how whole-heartedly the children engaged with the season and its fun. Indulge the childlike spirit and joy that lives in you this holiday season, and don’t get so caught up in being “mature” and “sophisticated” that you miss the fun stuff and the real delights.
5. The Gift of God: He is, indeed, the reason for the season, but we have a tendency to confine God to cantatas and candelight services and nativities in the front yard. Why not start a new, more private, Christmas tradition this year? Take a half or an hour, whatever you can spare, and spend it with God – just for Christmas. Make some hot chocolate or go on a wintry walk and have a chat with Him. If you don’t already read the Christmas story, start – and, if you do, find another meaningful passage that relates to the season. (I am focused on Isaiah 9). Start your own special habit that you can look forward to every year: something spiritually significant, replenishing, and joyful.