I’ve noticed that gift cards are the “in” present this year. It’s not new, I know. They’ve been gaining popularity for some time. But the gift card is now the ideal present. I actually heard someone interviewed on TV saying, “Who knows what I like better than me? The gift card is the perfect gift.”
Often, the big complaint about giving gifts is that it’s too hard to know what to give. A close second, however, is the embarrassment of choosing a gift that is not liked, wasting money on something that no one wants, and revealing your poor taste to your gift’s intended target.
Businesses think the gift card is a godsend as well. In fact, they count on them. Some of our members, who clean windows for a living, overheard a morning staff meeting at a local eating establishment where they vigorously exhorted the employees to push gift cards on the customers. It was the only thing that got them through the winter last year, they said.
I think a gift card is a poor gift. The whole point of a gift is to express to someone your love and affection. Part of that is thinking about them and selecting something that you think will bless them, and at the same time, reveal a little about you. I enjoy getting gifts that surprise me and reveal how much the person had to think about me. It makes me feel cherished and gives me a glimpse into their life, which has the effect of building our relationship and drawing us closer. Isn’t this what giving gifts are for?
I was talking to a vendor the other day and she told me that this Christmas her family wasn’t going to be able to exchange that many gifts because of an illness. They had decided to just spend time together and make that their Christmas. I commented that was the purpose of gifts anyway, wasn’t it? She answered, “Um, I guess so.” She, like many in our society, focus on the gifts and not the relationships. This is what makes the Gospel alien to our culture.
Our community celebrates Christmas by exchanging gifts each year. In the summer we pick names out of a hat and then spend the next several months thinking about each other and scheming about how to bless with a gift that will delight and endear. And rarely will you see a gift card given.