5It’s endemic to this time of year. As Christmas approaches, ‘Secret Santas’ and their sometimes bizarre array of brightly wrapped Christmas blessings begin to pop up everywhere. They infiltrate homes, offices, churches, schools, clubs, and every affinity group imaginable. The perpetrators come disguised as family members, workmates, friends, and cohorts, and they highlight the fact that the ‘gifting gauntlet’ is virtually inescapable in the early weeks of December. So, we crank up ‘Joy to the World’ and engage in the mandatory hunt. We shop for them, barter for them, make them, bake them, and build them. We even have a new class of thief, dubbed the ‘porch pirate’, that steals them. All that effort means that the term ‘Christmas gift’ in America has come to span the spectrum of human imagination, artistic skill, and marketing ingenuity. It also means that they can prompt some interesting responses when they are finally delivered.
Being the unsuspecting target of one of these exuberant secret Santas can have its challenges. We hold the surprise gift in our hands as they stand there looking at us like they just handed us a winning lottery ticket and can’t wait to see the look on our face as we process the incredible blessing. Meanwhile, we’ve focused all our energy on trying to maintain an expression of breathless anticipation, hoping to counteract the underlying premonition that this exchange is not going to make it into our list of ‘cherished Christmas moments’.
We slowly begin to tear the paper off, reminding ourselves that the Hallmark Channel gives us hope. They have dramatically demonstrated about 947 times already this season that Christmas miracles do happen, meaning that maybe this gift will be something we really want. But, in spite of all that, our Christmas optimism fades at about the same rate as the beautiful wrapping morphs into worthless trash. Important questions begin to emerge as we gaze on our newfound treasure, questions like:
1) What on earth is this thing?
2) What would I ever do with that?
3) If there’s some actual store that sells whatever this is, is returning it a possibility?
4) If the answer to #3 is yes, what are the odds that they will find out whether or not I kept it?
5) Is God punishing me? (And if I repent, will it go away?)
6) Is there anyone else I can ‘bless’ with this and not totally wreck my whole relationship with them?
Let’s face it. Re-gifting happens. We’ve all either done it, or wanted to do it, and it’s important that we address the issue, because the prospect of re-gifting often raises the ugly specter of ‘guilt issues’. For instance, if I re-gift, does it mean that I’m some kind of a ‘Secret Santa diva’, awash in personal vanity and only willing to accept gifts of a certain quality or price? Am I a ‘closet’ Christmas bigot? Have I unintentionally made unfair judgments about the giver, like maybe holiday stress has put them in need of professional help? Is it all that wrong to fake my death and assume another identity like they do in the movies, and can I pull it off before ‘next’ Christmas?
Whatever your struggles with re-gifting, let me give you some hope. You may be surprised to discover that God’s in favor of it—although not for quite the same reasons that we do it. Our individual motivations for re-gifting may vary, but our overall reasons for doing it are pretty consistent. We dump gifts on other people because we don’t want them, or for any number of reasons, we don’t like them and/or don’t need them. They’re doomed by problems like size, color, personal taste, or the fact that we don’t know what to do with it anyway—like one of those new watches that tell us what a slug we are because of all the exercise we didn’t get today. In any case, gifts can bring us more problems than they solve, and because our parents taught us not to waste things, we start looking for alternatives.
God has a different approach to the whole gifting thing. What if re-gifting was the intent of the giver all along? What if instead of giving someone a box of cookies, for instance, someone gave them a bag of flour, some milk and sugar, a few other required ingredients, and a note reminding them of how many folks don’t have a cookie, but would really love one. God tends to think like that. We’re more likely to pass along things we don’t see as very valuable—at least not to us. Our re-gifted items are like things targeted toward the re-cycling bin, just a little too good for the trash can, but not desirable enough to keep. Unlike the greatest giver of all time, the things we see as treasures and the items we cherish as priceless are the ones we most want keep for ourselves, and are least likely to offer someone else.
Peter had something to say about God’s intention along those lines. He said,
“As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” I Peter 4:10 (NKJV).
Imagine that. Peter makes it clear that God never intended us to hoard the things we’ve received from Him, but that we’re to re-package them in some new wrapping and pass them around to one another. We might remind ourselves, as well, that from His perspective, everything of lasting value we own or ever received was a gift from Him. Wouldn’t it be a paradigm changer if we saw our most cherished things as far too valuable to keep for ourselves, and instead of clutching them selfishly, we were compelled to give them away to others who don’t have them?
Mary knew, as she gazed on that miraculous little gift in the manger, that this was far too precious for her and Joseph alone. God didn’t send her a box of cookies or a loaf of holiday bread. He sent her all it took to feed a starving world, but as she lovingly gave Him away, it didn’t mean that He hadn’t provided enough for her, as well. May God help us to do some re-gifting this Christmas like He designed it to be.
© 2015 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
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