FAMILY AND MARRIAGE: Don’t let Christmas gift giving stress your marriage | Features

“For it is in giving that we receive.” — Francis of Assisi

“Who (Jesus) gave himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father…” — Bible (Galatians 1:4)

As we approach Christmas most of us are thinking of gift-giving and receiving. When we receive gifts, our biggest challenge is having the right attitude, no matter what we think of the gift. We want to believe the gift comes with a sincere heart and a desire on the part of the giver to please us.

Perhaps the bigger challenge is giving gifts with the right attitude. Consider why we give gifts at Christmas in the first place. Whether the world realizes it or not, Christmas should be about the greatest gift any of us can ever receive: the gift of a relationship with God the Father through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ. God gives us that gift with no strings attached; He gives it because He loves us.

Often with our spouse we tend to get something without a lot of thought, knowing that it’s expected of us; they would feel bad and we would feel guilty if we didn’t get them something. We tend to take them for granted and give out of obligation. Vance Fry, in an article for Focus on the Family, suggests some ideas as we consider gift giving and receiving at Christmas time.

Spend more time learning and less time shopping

I’ve been on those shopping trips where I wander through a department store with no prior preparation hoping my eye will land on the right gift for someone. Although it may be a little late now, give some thought to things our spouse has shown an interest in through the year. Consider what your spouse’s hobbies and special interests are. This may not guarantee the perfect gift, but at least your spouse will know you made a sincere effort to please them.

Don’t expect your spouse to read your mind when it comes to receiving. Since there is the expectation of giving and receiving between husband and wife, give a few hints as to things you would appreciate but don’t have. Keep in mind appropriate price ranges. Men in particular have a hard time knowing what their wife might like. (We husbands don’t think like our wives and we often haven’t been paying much attention anyhow.) I always appreciate the not-so-subtle hints. I like to know the general gift category and then I can surprise her with the special personalized selection.

Get on the same budget page

It helps if both husband and wife are in general agreement on how much can be spent on gifts. After all, we have to keep in mind our budget for the rest of the year. We often hear of people who spend so much for Christmas gifts that they are paying for them the rest of the following year – not a great post-Christmas present. This also goes for gift-giving to everyone else in and outside the family.

One of the biggest challenges for any family at Christmas time is establishing a pattern of giving that honors God and uplifts the giver and receiver. At times we have chosen not to give physical gifts but instead to focus on times together and other ways of showing our love for others. If we are talking husband and wife, a short vacation trip away from the home environment may be much appreciated; just focusing on enjoying each other.

With children, perhaps we can help them understand Christmas is more about giving to others than receiving. Consider deciding as a family to spend the bulk of your gift funds on something another family with limited resources really needs. Ultimately Christmas is about the gift of relationships – with God and with each other. “God loved the world so much, that He gave His one and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him may not be lost but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

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