So how was it supposed to be? We never had much money growing up, but my mother was still careful to teach us the point of gift-giving—it was to do kind things for others, not amass things for oneself. She taught us to listen to one another all year long, to make note—sometimes literally—of things different ones of us needed or mentioned wanting, usually something that would make life a little easier. None of us ever wished for the expensive and unattainable. What was the point? And then a couple of weeks before Christmas, the four of us went to the Mall, my sister and I with money carefully saved from our allowances and birthday gifts. We divided up and I went with my father to buy for my mother and my sister, while she went with our mother to buy for me and our father. Then we met in the middle of the concourse at a predetermined time and switched companions in order to finish our shopping. We were usually so excited about what we had gotten each other it was difficult to keep the secret.
Then on Christmas morning each one in turn got to choose a gift to give to another. We all sat and watched that person open the gift. The joy, the excitement, the pleasure on the other person's face was as much a part of the gift to us as the gift to the receiver. We had very few gifts under that tree, but that gift giving process lasted far longer than our neighbors' who were soon out riding new bikes or scooters and hauling out boxes of trash while we were still sitting there enjoying the process of giving as well as receiving.
I passed that on to my boys. We were in the same boat as my parents in their early days—not much money and few gifts. But they have both told me that choosing the gifts and watching their opening was always their favorite part of Christmas. I still see that in them as mature adults, looking to give, looking to see the needs of others, looking for ways to share what they have. My mother did that for me and she has now done it for them too. I think I see it in my grandchildren as well.
Christmas does not have to be about materialism. What it does have to be about is this: It is more blessed to give than to receive, (Acts 20:35). Don't let your Christmas morning be a feeding frenzy of piranha in the river "Gimme." Make it a point to take time and savor your gifts to others. My mother thought that was what it was all about, and that is a gift I truly treasure.