Christmas Gifts

This is the first time in years I’ve received Christmas gifts. I’m not sure I like it. In fact, I’m pretty sure right now that I don’t like it much at all. It seems so artificial. If I need something, why don’t I just get it when I need it? And if I don’t need it, why would anyone buy it for me?

My family finds it hard to buy me anything. They think I have obvious needs, but then I disagree. I don’t need X, Y and Z; I have enough of everything. When they insisted that they must buy me something, I was stymied to name anything I might want. I decided on socks. I needed socks. And potholders. I obviously was planning to buy a discount card at the fabric store in our town. So these are the things I got. I am pleased, since I won’t have to go buy these things for myself right away. But then I feel a bit guilty that I have such a utilitarian view of Christmas gifts.

But here’s a major difference between being Plain and worldly. The socks are fashion socks. The potholders are practical, but I would have bought twice as many. I look forward to using the discount card, since the last time I had one (about three years ago) I saved approximately $100 in a year. But since I have been recycling fabric and clothing for a while, what will I buy?

I am more monastic than I realized. There is no piece of jewelry, wall ornament or new dress that would entice me. I have clothes. Some of them need mending, God knows! but I am decently and cleanly clad every moment of my life. I have a pair of boots, a pair of house clogs, and a pair of sandals, as well as a pair of rubber barn boots, so I am well-shod. I have a black wool coat, a black wool cape, a denim jacket, a black shawl, a winter wool bonnet and a cotton summer bonnet. I have a pair of winter gloves. There is nothing I need.

There is more food in the refrigerator than we can eat in three days. There is a security to our housing and heat, a continuity in this place which we have not experienced in a long time, and it may be illusory, but no more than anyone else’s living arrangements. What more do we need?

We received a figurine of Christ carrying the cross. It seems appropriate for us at this time of the year, for we know that the Nativity is a foreshadowing of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection.  But, for us, it seems – extravagant. Our niece was certainly thoughtful, and it is lovely and and meaningful – but where do we put it? It may require a shelf all its own.

I would own less rather than more. I have no wish to acquire goods. The most meaningful light display we saw on Christmas eve was the Constellation of Orion, above the horizon in a briefly clear sky, as we returned from Midnight Mass. The beauty of that seasonal display put all the electric, artificial lights to shame, made as it was by the Creator’s hand, and set in place by Him.

I suppose, in this busy modern world, I long for simplicity , for simple purpose, for a day of keeping the hours of prayer and work in serenity. I long for a home in which nothing exists but for utility. I long for the time to gaze upon the seasons as they happen, not as they are imposed by advertisers and merchants.

Is this a blessing? I believe it is, but it an awkward one, and greatly misunderstood. Shall I say that I am glad that Christmas as it is usually kept has passed? I will now endeavour to get life back on track, back on the path of prayer and contemplation, and purposeful work.

In all we strive to serve the Lord, and not ourselves; may the Lord so bless us!


3 thoughts on “Christmas Gifts

  1. I think we both have to remember the love our families are trying to show us. My boyfriend mentioned that he’s never had a Christmas like the one I took him too – my grandparents, my aunts, uncles, and cousins. And they got him gifts. They had never met him, but they got him a little cup, and a shirt, and a gift basket. One of my aunt’s didn’t put his name on his gift, because she didn’t know it. It didn’t matter though – she still wanted to give him a gift. Maybe your family is like mine? Our family likes to give things, year round, but especially at Christmas. It seems that our entire family’s “love language” is gift giving.
    I’m not plain living at all, I suppose I would consider just less worldly than most – but I remind you back to the comment you made to me about gifts a few weeks ago 🙂

  2. Dear Magdelaina,

    i find myself nodding and sympathising with your own thoughts here; Oh how much can be seen the way in which ‘we’ (the people at large) have turned life base over apex; divorcing themself from God and God’s Creation; the rhythms of life established at the beginning… I am brought to thinking upon Jeremiah 6: 16 and left musing upon the fact this old world of ours is in the mess that it is because ‘we’ have stepped out from the protection of God’s sovereignty, His Authority, the restoritive and sustaining power of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ following after supposed ideals created by the creation rather than following after the timeless loving wisdom to be found in the Word of God given to us from none other than the Creator. Here in Australia, the plain, simple, noticeably ‘Plain’ ‘Annabaptist’ type of life is virtually unknown and most definitely alien. Our nation in the earliest years of colonization had taverns long before churches.

    Here is much to think upon and ponder.



  3. Amber, you’re right. Our family is generous. But our challenge as priests and spiritual guides is to lead them into Godly generosity, as well. I do appreciate that they wanted to show their love for us materially. You must treasure your family and their welcome to a newcomer, a “stranger.” My own mother was so much like that. When my own children were young, I drove to Northern Maine from Maryland with them and a small boy (just four years old) who wasn’t related to us at all, because his mother couldn’t find a babysitter over Christmas when she had to work. We arrived at my parents’ house in a snowstorm, and when I said that the little one had seemed sick and feverish on the way, Mom hustled him upstairs to the tub while I relaxed with my father and sisters. About five minutes later she shouted down the stairs, “This child has chicken pox!” The warm water of the bath had brought out the rash. I had told her only twenty hours before that I had the child with me, just as I was leaving; she and her neighbors and my sisters, none of whom knew this child or his mother, had all gone to the stores and bought gifts for him. I remember that he received a fire truck which he absolutely loved.

    Yes, Sarah, even professing Christians are tempted to wander from our Lord’s teachings in the confusion of secular Christmas. And thee has chosen to follow the Lord as a pioneer in your country, which makes it more difficult. Are there any Conservative Quakers near thee? I don’t know, and I will attempt to find out.

    God bless all of thee greatly as the New Year approaches.

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