I used to spend money like a deranged Rockefeller every time the holidays rolled by. The only way to go, in my opinion was all out, so I did. Anything less seemed like not keeping up with the season.
Indeed, one did not skimp at Christmas. If it had a designer label, was (about) the right size, and could be returned, I’d snap it up. The important thing was that come December 25th there were elaborate presents for everyone I knew under my tree. Going into hock this time of the year was expected, and all my friends reciprocated. I’m not quite sure how and when the custom started. (Was I the ring leader?) It was just something we all did.
Worse still, this all-consuming-shop-until-you-drop tradition clashed with the slow-down-and-savor-the-sights-and-wonder of the season…and won. So sharing the spirit of Christmas was totally out of the question. There was too much buying and wrapping to do.
Then, a couple of years ago, I decided to leave my job and go out on my own just as a shakeup hit the publishing world. As publishers pulled in their belts, my work slowed. And while I waited to hear about this book or that, my rainy day funds trickled down and evaporated. When Christmas was upon us, I had pretty much drained all my reserves. I thought this would be the worst Christmas of my life. But as it turned out, it was not only the best, but also made every holiday since (including this one) more meaningful.
See, because I had no money, I had to call friends and, with a face redder than Santa’s suit, announce there would be no presents. It was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. To my surprise, though, collective sighs of relief greeted me. What’s more, I actually turned out a hero. Seems everyone’s pocketbooks had moths in them that year. So nobody really had money to burn. Yet no one wanted to be the first to come out and say so. That made me wonder how many times before I had inadvertently put pressure on friends to buy presents they couldn’t afford.
Lesson Number One: Being a good friend has nothing to do with buying expensive gifts.
It was then our group decided to break out of the material mold for good. We made a pact to stop the shopping frenzy, forgo the hoopla, and instead, spend some quality time together. We had a pot luck gab fest at my house instead. We drank mulled cider, and ate the tidbits everyone brought. And you know what? We each still got a pretty nice Christmas gift in the bargain. Only this time, it didn’t strap us financially …since the gift we gave was the gift of ourselves.
Lesson Number Two: Giving the gift of yourself is better than any you can buy in the store.
Canceling the Christmas gift-off proved better than I had imagined in other ways as well. It left me free to enjoy holiday happenings like Christmas tree lightings and the singing of the Messiah at the neighborhood high school.
Then, too, without all the pressures of gift-buying, I was able to concentrate more on what this holiday is intended to commemorate: the birth of Christ. I thought about how awesome it was that the King of Kings would even consider leaving his throne in heaven to come into a world like ours. I thought of Him being born a helpless baby, in a cold stable, without even a crib for His bed. I thought of the love He must have for us, and how that love shines far and away brighter than any bauble I could own or give. I thought about how His love will be the one present that’s as new tomorrow and every day after as it is on Christmas Day.
Lesson number three: God’s love is the best gift of all. It doesn’t break and it won’t wear out.
Indeed, stepping out of the material mold has taught me a lot. And as my friends and I get ready for our Annual No-Gifts-Allowed Get-together, I hope this new custom will be the norm for years to come. What’s more, last night, when I sat down to breathe in the scent of pine, and enjoy the twinkling lights, I thanked God that there was nothing but a tiny stable under my Christmas tree.
– Allia Zobel Nolan
Be sure to check out Allia’s newest Faithgirlz release, Whatever Is Lovely: a 90-Day Devotional!
This article is used by permission. copyright © 2016 Allia Zobel Nolan