Dear Gabby

Dear Gabby,
Christmastime is here again which means I have to face a gift-giving dilemma. I have a friend who every year gives me a gift. She isn’t my best friend, but someone I’ve been friends with all through high school. Now that we’ve graduated, I’ve been trying to make delicate suggestions about stopping this tradition but she never seems to get the hint. It’s just that there’s so much spending and shopping this time of year that I would like to reserve gift-giving for family. What should I do?
Grinchy in Gainsborough

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9: 6-7

Well Grinchy, if you read that passage, you can probably sense where Gabby is headed. Now, if you really wanted, you could come out and say to your friend that times are tight, and that you are carefully watching every penny you spend this Christmas, and would she mind if you didn’t exchange gifts this year … and that would be okay.

But before you do that, Gabby would like you to take a quiet moment and consider why your girlfriend has deflected all your gentle efforts to stop this Christmas exchange heretofore. If money is genuinely tight, then consider giving your time and your heart. Maybe bake some Christmas cookies and tie them up with some pretty tissue paper or put them in a little basket. Paint a Christmas ornament just for her. Invite her out for a cup of coffee and some girl talk. None of this costs much money but it has the added payback of giving you some quality time with the Holy Spirit! Taking a moment to bake cookies or quietly paint an ornament with some music on could actually be a gift to yourself! Come on Grinchy, you know how busy and crazy we all get during the few short weeks of Advent! The peace and joy that we crave only come to us when we make some unguarded time to slow down and enjoy the moment. And anyway, Gabby suspects this friend of yours needs this exchange. Perhaps what she really wants is the connection, the affirmation of your friendship. So accommodating something so simple with a cheerful, loving heart is your real gift to her.

It reminds Gabby of Christmases past, when she was a child. Gabby had two widower Scottish uncles, named Bill and Bob, who lived together. Really. They liked cheap, sweet wine and couldn’t imagine a more perfect gift than that! So every Christmas, they would stop by and promise Gabby and her siblings a Shetland pony for Christmas (we never got one) and hand Gabby’s parents the bottle of nasty. It never seemed to matter to them that Gabby’s parents didn’t drink. Now Gabby’s mother couldn’t stand these gifts and would mutter and mumble about the impending visit and threaten to tell them to keep the wine. But even as a child, Gabby could see the light and joy on those two faces as they came, stooped and lumbering, like dented packages in their wrinkled flannel shirts, through our door and into our home. They joyfully presented their dusty bottle of cheer. My parents’ gift was to accept their present, pull out a chair and offer them a cup of tea. It’s what they really wanted anyway. Try it yourself this Christmas season—Merry Christmas!

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