The other day, Elaine handed me a piece of paper she had written on. "This is my note to Santa, Mom," she said, "Will you please read it?" She persists in believing in Santa even though we've never encouraged it, and Lucy makes a point of continually telling her he's not real.
I took the note from her hand. "Dear Santa," I read. "I love my mom so much. She is the most awesome mom ever. Please bring her a region-free DVD player so she can order all those movies she likes from England."
She took the note back. "That's not what it says at ALL," she said reprovingly.
The other night she put her hand on my arm while we were doing our Advent devotions before bed. "Mama," she whispered, and I smiled at her, thinking she had some profound spiritual truth to share with us. "Yes, baby?" I answered. She continued, "Will you please remind Santa to put those Polly Pocket dolls in my stocking?"
I have also been looking at all the gift lists that pop up on the Internet this time of year--what to give the person who has everything, gifts under $30, Oprah's gift list, which by the way, I would love to do a sendup of, but another blogger does it so much better than I ever could, plus really all I can come up with to comment on that is, doesn't Oprah know you can get most of that stuff at TJMaxx for a fraction of the price?
I also love to look at this: the Neiman Marcus annual fantasy gift list. Look! You can buy a cupcake car that goes 7 miles per hour and comes with a matching hat, for only $25,000!! I truly love the sidebar that tells about the fantasy gifts of years past, and one is a Black Angus Steer for $1, 925, served in steaks or on the hoof. Now I'm not totally sure what "on the hoof" means, but I can pick up enough contextual clues to know that I don't want to delve into that too much. Or wait, Lucy and Elaine would absolutely love this: a custom mermaid tail and swimming lessons for $10,000. Is the mermaid tale gold-plated? Is the swimming instructor Michael Phelps?
My poor girls, what they're really getting for Christmas are this and this. Actually, we all saw those and squealed with glee, with glee I tell you, and not just them but me too, because they.just.look.like.so.much.fun.to.play.with.
All of the above rambling to say, yes, we believe in presents at this house--we enjoying giving and receiving them. But in all of the excitement, we daily keep in mind that Jesus was born in a stable and, other than the manger, never really had a place to lay down His head. The first people notified of his arrival were a bunch of raggedy shepherds. And all around the world, people are in desperate need of basic things with which to survive.
"Are we rich?" Lucy asked me the other day. "Or are we poor?"
"Well, among the people around us, we're in the middle," I told her. "But among the people of the world, we are disgustingly rich. And because God has given us so much, we have a responsibility to take every opportunity we can to help people who don't have things and are in need."
This morning, Jennie alerted me to this revolting Gap commercial with the comment, "The little Gap commercial girls who demand that their parents 'retire' their perfectly good clothes? Need to be sent to Bangladesh to learn some humility."
And on Chris's blog the other day I saw this, which everyone should take the time to really look at.
So, here are some Christmas gift lists from our family to yours. If you are wondering what to get for your child's teacher, a Sunday School teacher, a neighbor, the person in your family who has everything, here are some great places from which to order gifts that will make a world of difference to someone. We have ordered from these for Lucy and Elaine's teachers in the past (and will do so again this year), and they appreciate it so much (trust me--teachers have enough mugs and apple-themed merchandise to last them several lifetimes). I'm sure most of you know some great places too, but if not, feel free to use our suggestions--they are reputable organizations, which I am sure give the items directly to the people who need them.
We have also ordered personalized gifts for each member of our family--vaccinations for children in Haiti for Darren's brother who works for a pharmaceutical company, sewing materials for women in India to start their own business for my mom who loves to sew, building materials for a church for Darren's dad who owns his own roofing business, Bibles for my dad who is a chaplain, etc. etc. One of the nice things about doing this is that many of the gifts are so inexpensive, that children can earn the money to give the gifts themselves.
Like I said, we love to put presents under the tree and open them on Christmas morning, just like anyone else. But instead of retiring our perfectly serviceable (and overpriced) Gap sweaters
from 2008 or buying a cupcake car with matching hat (it goes too slowly anyway, and you might feel kind of silly driving it around) consider giving a gift that will not only help someone else but will honor the One whose birthday we celebrate!