When I was little, I thought the best gifts came in big boxes. If they were both taller and wider than me then I knew with certainty there was a great gift inside. Once I discovered shiny trinkets, I felt quite the opposite. It was tiny boxes that magnified the glimmer of something costly and precious that I most coveted. Nowadays, I just buy my own gifts and I am not very particular about the shape or size of the box. I give them to my husband to wrap so he has an inkling of what he bought me, giving him special instructions to put any clothes in a gift bag in case I happen to need to wear them before Christmas.
I don’t pretend that any of this is romantic or that the Three Wise Men would be impressed with my self-giving. It just seems like a practical solution to the pressures of gift-giving. And, there’s so much pressure. So much of gift-giving feels transactional. Christmas lists have been replaced with links that specify everything from size to color. We ask people what they want so they won’t be disappointed or so we don’t waste money on something that would otherwise end up in the top shelf of the hall closet. Just as often, we give money as a gift because we’ve been conditioned that it’s the one-size-fits-all solution to the woes of the world.
We look to material things to convey the genuineness of our love and affection, and inevitably they feel inadequate. Perhaps that’s what the Grinch realized when he said, “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas…means a little bit more.” Yet it isn’t a little green man that I think about at Christmas no matter how wonderful it is that he converted from greed and grumpiness. It’s a baby in the manger. Read more