Janet Pisors’ family does not exchange Christmas gifts....and my family does. So is one of us right and the other wrong in the way we are leading our families?
Every family that is putting Jesus and His Kingdom first place in their lives is to be celebrated and respected. Every sacrificial expression of giving for the sake of our Lord and King is to be honored. Avoiding, at all costs, the traps of materialism, hedonism, selfishness and greed is critical in our Christian walk. That is why I was deeply moved by Janet's article, even if I was not ready to imitate her exact suggestion.
My heartfelt desire is to support the Pisors family's decision. They obviously have given the issue sincere consideration and prayer. My goal is to lift up another side to this issue that is worthy of consideration. And, in the end, we may conclude that Janet and I are both right!
For perhaps the issue of whether to exchange Christmas gifts among family and friends is one of those discretionary areas where we give our brothers and sisters in Christ room to hear God's vision for their own lives. (Romans 14:5-6)
In our very busy household, the planning and strategizing for our annual family gift exchange has been in high gear for several weeks. And, quite frankly, I am glad. For this is the time of the year when every one of my children is intensely focused on giving a special gift to each of their siblings and family members.
A few years ago, I considered urging my large family to start "drawing names" to cut down on the work and hassle—until I overheard one of my children talking to another, saying, "I hope no one tries to make us draw names for our gift exchange. That would be horrible! Giving my brothers and sisters their gifts is much better than getting gifts myself. And besides, I want it to be more...personal."
With ten children, two of whom are married and have children themselves, can you see why I would have made the suggestion? Just do the math and consider the mess.
But here are the top 11 reasons why I refrained from making my gift-limiting suggestion and embraced our tradition of family gift giving:
- It encourages generosity: I have been touched to watch my children work extra in order to give to one another.
- It builds relationships: Investing in others opens doors for kindness, mercy, and grace to flow in personal relationships. Our goal is to help our kids form lifelong friendships that transcend the seasons of life.
- It creates memories: In our family, we remember the big pile of gift treasures. We have our favorite memories that draw our hearts together with the re-telling. Like the year of the flu, when we moved all the recliners and couches in a circle to make sure no one was left out of the party.
- It shows appropriate value to family relationships: Companies give bonuses and friends exchange gifts....so why would I not give gifts to those who are truly my cherished relationships?
- It builds joy: A wise Christian counselor once explained to me what he had discovered was the highest predictor of family value transmission. He called it the "joy factor." The more joy and laughter in the home, the more children wanted to imitate their parents' values.
- It shows love to those who are natural gift givers: Gift giving is one of the five love languages. (Click Here to view The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts.) Some may find gift giving annoying or expendable...simply because it is not their personal style. People tend to express and receive love the same way. So, for some, gift-giving events are extremely important!
- It creates social maturity: Every person needs the experience of receiving the ugly sweater they would never wear. Learning manners and social skills creates mature leaders.
- It honors God: God by very nature is a giver. When we step into giving we reflect His nature.
- It prioritizes values: We ooh and ahh over every gift given in our family, whether it was a Dollar Tree special or a handmade trinket or an off-season clearance item. We value the love behind the gift and honor the expression of that love no matter how it comes. And (most importantly) we only have our own Christmas celebration AFTER we have spent much of the month of December working on our church's annual Christmas Operation 350, an outreach of food and gifts to 350 families in our community. Doug and I are honored to watch our kids mature in their personal relationships with the Lord. And we believe it when they say each year as we finish distributing the last of our 350 boxes, "That was the best part of the Christmas! Now let's get ready for ours."
- It connects the generations: We still have the privilege of helping our grandparents host their annual gift exchange events. It does not matter to us that we now do "all the work." We love the opportunity to connect our hearts to theirs and serve them with the opportunity to still be the fun place to come.
- It builds our team: A family that plays together - as well as prays together - works together.
So what do you think? Is there value in the gift exchange tradition that is important to families?