final_advent_cover4.jpgEvery good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. James 1:17 (NAS)

Do you wander the aisles aimlessly hoping the right gift will jump off the shelves at you? Or maybe you stare at your budget willing more money to appear because otherwise you don’t know how you will buy gifts for every member of your extended family. Or perhaps you’re trying to decipher what she meant when she said, “You know me and what I like. . . .”

Whether we’re rushing around at the last minute or trying to find a gift for that hard-to-buy-for person, buying gifts at Christmastime can be more stressful than enjoyable. Even once we purchase the gift, the anxiety remains until the receiver opens it and genuinely seems pleased with our selection. How do we retain the joy of gift giving during this busy season? The answer will look different for each person, but here are a few of my thoughts.

Fix your eyes on Jesus. Spend time reading about and pondering God’s priceless gift of His Son. Let the joy of receiving it overflow into your own gift giving.

Focus on the recipient. Use this as an opportunity to consider all the things you enjoy about the person, and spend time in prayer thanking God for him or her. If you’re buying for someone with whom you have a difficult relationship, think about how God has grown you through that relationship. See gift giving as an expression of your love for the recipient and a tangible demonstration of God’s love overflowing through you.

Prepare in advance. Whether you buy gifts all year long or you wait until December, try not to wait until the last minute. Feeling like you don’t have enough time only creates more stress. Take a look at your budget earlier this year than last year so you can build in realistic spending expectations.

Communicate. You’re not a bad friend or family member if you can’t think of gift ideas on your own. Go ahead and ask what people want. If you want to keep the actual gift a surprise, ask for a short list of ideas from which you can choose. If you are married, make sure you and your spouse are on the same page regarding budgets, who’s buying what for whom, and your timeline for doing so.

Let go of worldly expectations. More is not necessarily better. Price does not determine how much you love a person. Give from your heart and not out of self-imposed obligation.

This season, slow down and enjoy the process of gift giving, from choosing the gift to watching the receiver open it. Don’t let stress and anxiety rob you of the joy giving gifts can bring.

Father, You love giving your children good gifts. Help me to learn from You to enjoy giving gifts also, especially during this busy season. Let Your love overflow through me to those around me.

Is gift giving enjoyable to you? What can you do to ensure gift giving is a joy this year?