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Confessions of a Lousy Christmas Shopper

Christmas shopping, for me, comes closer to the agonies of Holy Week. 

Guideposts: A crowded commercial street during the holidays.
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To know someone is to love them and to love them means getting to know them. 

There is nothing more intimidating to me than the yawning approach of the holidays–birthdays come second place–and the prospect of trying to find the right gifts for the people I love.

I know people, some of my best friends, who start their Christmas shopping in October or even in the heat of summer, compiling lists, getting online, looking through catalogs, taking trips to the mall. They love to buy presents and get magnificently perfect gifts for the loved ones on their lists.

Me? I put down the names and then draw a blank. What on earth am I going to find for my mom who has everything she needs and yet deserves something magnificent in a box under the Christmas tree?

What can I buy my good wife whose presents to me are always just right, well-considered, the luckiest of surprises?

A trip to a mall is sheer torture to me. Just to stand in the parking lot makes me tremble with inadequacy. A stroll through a department store, especially one decorated for the season with carols blasting from hidden speakers, leaves me wondering what it all has to do with Jesus.

Actually, getting something for Jesus would be easy. Checks to favorite charities that reach out to the poorest of the poor feel like they’re good for the Baby in the manger.

Christmas shopping, for me, comes closer to the agonies of Holy Week. I can’t tell you how many stores I’ve darted into this year, looking for something for someone on my list, and then darted out, completely flummoxed. This is my penitential season.

It’s not that I think shopping is all bad. Yes, Christmas has become way too commercialized, and yet, isn’t there something wonderful about thinking of your loved ones, remembering how grateful you are for what they’ve given you and looking for a way to show that? 

Christmas giving is showing love and I want to be able to show my loved ones that I love them so much I’ve thought of the one thing they didn’t know they wanted but turned out to be perfect.

What I tell myself is that this process, just staring at that list and looking for the right gift for the right person is a sort of prayer process. It’s meditating on goodness and asking God, please, for his help.

There is a story about a boy who brought a sea shell to a missionary in Africa as a gift, an impressive present indeed for the missionary lived some miles from the sea.

“Thank you,” said the missionary, accepting the present graciously (another challenge for me). “You must have walked a long way to get this present.”

“Long walk part of gift,” said the boy.

So my dear loved ones, when you open those presents I’ve bought, picture the befuddled shopper, wandering up and down aisles of beautiful goods, staring at rows of things that might be right or might be wrong and telling himself, “Long walk part of gift.”

Merry Christmas!

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