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Recently, a family member asked me if I had come up with my Christmas list. Sometime in the past number of years, our family has started making and sharing Christmas lists with each other. It is a very high-tech enterprise. After finding exactly what you want online, you copy the ULR and paste it onto your list which is then emailed out to the rest of the family. When someone gets you something from the list, the item is removed, thus ensuring no one else will get you the same thing. The upside of this system is that it has saved us from receiving unwanted, sometimes bewildering gifts, like a globe for example. 

As efficient as it is, I have mixed feelings about this method of gift giving. Back when Christmas was perfect (you know, back when we were children), we didn't write out Christmas lists detailing exactly what we wanted, and by implication, what we did not want, like a globe for example. We might have shared some ideas, but it was always somewhat of a wonderous mystery imaging what those packages under the tree contained. 

Herein lies my mixed feelings. I’m willing to forego imaging what wonderous mystery is under the tree if it means not getting things I don’t want or need. But on the other hand, just telling my family exactly what to get me doesn’t feel much like genuine gift giving. So, what is the best way to give and receive Christmas gifts? 

On second thought, maybe imagining what kind of wonderous mystery I might receive this Christmas is something I desire. But instead of a gift under the tree, I’m more interested in imagining what God might have in store for me. What new thing will the birth of Jesus mean for me in the new year? That seems like a wonderous mystery worth contemplating. 

What about gifts from my family and loved ones? I really don’t want to cry “humbug” on all gift giving. Gift giving brings joy to both the one who receives and the one who gives. One form of gift giving and receiving that I have found very meaningful is giving gifts to those who are truly in need. That is why it was so rewarding to be a part of giving out the Thanksgiving/Christmas Grocery Gift Cards here at Central. Those who donated money to purchase the cards felt as blessed as those who came to the reception to receive them. 

Another simple and effective way of giving gifts to those who are truly in need is through ELCA Good Gifts. These gifts can be given in the name of a family member or loved one. Gifts include farm animals, agricultural supplies, educational opportunities, and health care supplies. I’m not sure my granddaughters will fully grasp what it means that through my gift they provided a family in a foreign country a flock of chicks or a pair of goats. But I look forward to explaining to them as they get older. CLICK HERE for a link to the online ELCA Good Gifts Catalog.

As you think about what you want to give and receive for Christmas this year, I first and foremost hope you think about God’s gift of God’s self in the birth of Jesus. What does it mean, and how is it that you can both receive and help give that gift to others? I also hope you find joy in the giving and receiving of other gifts to family and loved ones. May you have a blessed and meaningful Advent and Christmas season!

Pastor Jim