It happened again yesterday. Somebody asked me what I was getting Danelle for Christmas and I said, “nothing.” I then got that look. You know the look? The one that says, “you are in so much trouble,” or “you are a really bad husband.” While it is true that I probably do get in trouble sometimes and that I could always use some improvement in the “husband” category, this is not one of those times. A couple of years ago, faced with the growing anxiety of the Christmas chaos that our culture throws us in every December (well, and November, and part of October) and realizing that we were going to make some serious, strategic financial decisions, we gave up exchanging gifts. We decided that if we really needed something we could buy it anytime; that time was our most precious gift; and that since it was Jesus’ birthday, Jesus should get the gifts.
Danelle and I both work. We have graduate degrees and work good jobs for great people. While we don’t claim to be raking in the big bucks, our income is stable and God has provided for everything we need, even during some difficult financial times. If there comes a time that we need something, we pull out the budget, take a critical look, and figure out what needs to move to where to make it happen. Right now I need tires for my car. This is a big expense, but we will make some adjustments and make it happen. Sure, I’d love an IPad, but I need tires. The day we decided that we would, from this day forward, refuse to spend money we didn’t have for things we didn’t need, a lot of other decisions were automatically made. If there ever comes a time when I need an IPad, we will budget for it. Even if I decide I really just want one, we will figure out what I am willing to give up in order to get it. God has blessed us with enough resources that if we need something; we can just go get it. To God be the glory, but the one thing we can’t buy is time.
The other revelation for us was that time was our most precious resource. We are busy people. We both have demanding vocations where we spend a lot of time pouring our lives into other people, often at times of the day that would traditionally be considered “family time.” We learned that we actually have to schedule time apart, and time away. Yes, we actually schedule lazy days when we watch DVDs, eat popcorn, and do nothing. This is a great gift. It is time with no agenda, no pressure, no expectations. Once we decided that we would essentially give each other our most precious resource, our time, then we began to learn how to make the most of that time. Our world rewards production. We are under constant pressure to “do,” sometimes the greatest gift is just to “be” especially if you get to “be” with the people you love most.
Lastly, Christmas is Jesus’ birthday, right? On your birthday, you get the presents (well actually we gave up birthday presents too, but that’s another whole blog…LOL). On Jesus’ birthday, shouldn’t Jesus get a present? We took the money that we would have spent on things for ourselves that we didn’t need and gave it to ZOE Ministry. That means in addition to his regular gift, our teenager will get a goat. Actually somebody in Maua, Kenya will get a goat, and Jacob will get a paper ornament on the tree letting him know that somebody half a world away gets a chance to make a new life rather than him getting a second present to end up crammed in his room somewhere.
Now, before you think we are giving you a guilt trip. We’re not! We love to give presents. We give stuff away all year long. We look for excuses to be radically generous. We even love to give gifts at Christmas to others! This is a decision we made for our family because it reflects the values that we hold. Sure, I will encourage you to match, dollar for dollar, the money you spend on yourself with money given to missions, but that is your call. I just thought I’d explain, why we have given up on giving gifts to each other at Christmas. Its also because we are:
Consumed by the Call,
PS. Santa still stuffs stockings in our house and sometimes he does go a bit overboard. ;-)