After a week of being asked if I’d completed my Christmas shopping, I finally started it on Saturday. As I waited in the check-out line with a jostling swarm of people, carts overflowing with goodies, I was struck by the incongruity of the scene. What’s up with the so-called bad economy?
That drove me to check the statistics. According to what I read, Americans will spend a total of anywhere from $400 billion to $584 billion for Christmas. The average comes out to $935 per person, with the majority going for gifts for family members and a sizeable chunk being spent on decorations and Christmas entertaining. Surprisingly, gifts for oneself ($99) edge out gifts for friends ($85). The typical pet owner will spend $46 on presents for their furry (or scaly) critter.
How do people struggling financially swing this? I went on to read that the average Joe will carry a credit card debt of $8,562. We complain about being broke and the economy being tough but we still choose to sink ourselves deeper into the mire. That begs the bigger question: Why?
Why do we feel a compulsion to buy gifts we can’t afford? Do we think that we have to in order to be accepted or loved? Probably the idea of exchanging gifts started with the magi presenting Baby Jesus with frankincense, gold, and myrrh. Their offerings were an act of worship to the King of Kings. God tells us in His Word that He delights in loyalty more than sacrifice. He wants us – our whole hearts and our whole lives. There’s absolutely nothing we can do to earn His love; His heart is big enough for the whole world and He freely gives of Himself.
Doesn’t it follow that our family and friends also prefer the gift of us over our sacrifice? Even in this entitled and indulged culture, bombarded by advertisements attempting to persuade that a certain product makes life complete, we all long for something other than material goods. We want to know that someone took the time to think of us. Our presence to others is much more valuable than any present money can buy. And the best part is that it’s free.
And so is the gift Jesus offers.