Posted tagged ‘gift-giving’

The Quandary: When Your Wife Says She Wants Nothing For Christmas

November 29, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                     November 29, 2017

        

I’m married to a woman from Italian descent filtered through North Dakota. It’s an odd mixture of passion and stoicism that emphasizes the importance of family and the simple things of life. Translated that means our grandkids make out like bandits at Christmas time while Grammy and Granddad enjoy the gifts of watching and laughing. Snapshots developed in our minds of family Christmas scenes are the greatest gifts we enjoy.

That being said, Carol tells me each year “Don’t buy me anything!” It’s a problem! Christmas Day comes exactly seventeen days after her birthday. For her birthday she says…you guessed it!…”Don’t buy me anything!”

So what do you do when your wife tells you to “go x-nay on the presents-nay”?

For Mother’s Day I usually give her a gift card to Lowe’s or Home Depot so she can go and pick out plants and flowers to re-create her garden each spring. She loves that! But a gift card to Lowe’s in December would be greeted with a North Dakota blank look.

We could always use a new frying pan or broom. How exciting would that be to open up a wrapped frying pan?

She’s not a jewelry person. In fact, she has about four pseudo-wedding rings that sit on the counter. It took half a dozen boxes of Cracker Jacks to create the collection.

Her vision has not been good since before we got married. Some would sarcastically say that’s why she married me- she didn’t get a good look before the wedding! Actually, Carol had a cornea transplant about thirty years ago. She reads the newspaper from about an inch away. But what do you give someone who can’t see well? She’s already got five pairs of sunglasses to help her on sunny days. She has an e-reader that expands the type.

We’re at that stage in life when neither of us really needs anything. Like I said, we’re simple people. Years ago I went to the Holy Land with a group of people from American Baptist churches in Michigan. My roommate for the trip, Rev. Tom Bayes, bought his wife a diamond necklace while we were in Tiberias. What did I bring home to Carol? A roll of Israeli caramel candies! Why? You guessed it! Because she told me not to buy her anything!

So, what to do? A Lowe’s gift card stuck to the side of a box of Cracker Jacks with a ring inside? I’m envisioning a gift such as that bringing her passionate Italian side to the surface. When she opens up that box of Cracker Jacks and discovers that new ring she’s going to grab me and smother me with passionate kisses…in my dreams!

Revising the Christmas Story

December 21, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      December 21, 2016

                            

I gave a “test” to the twenty folk who make up the congregation of the church I am “kinda’ pastoring” right now. I say “kinda’ pastoring” because my friend Steve Wamberg and I mostly fill the pulpit on Sundays, and are also helping them figure out the direction of their future ministry.

The test I gave them was “True and False” statements about the Christmas story. I love it, because it brings to the surface how much our understanding of the story has been determined by Christmas carols and conjecture. Through the layers of the years, music, and imagination there has been a lot of “stuff” added to the pure biblical story.

In Ken Bailey’s book Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels, he brings out a few of these story revisions. For example, how many nativity scenes will we see this Christmas that are set up in a make-shift barn stable? Growing up in eastern Kentucky where my grandparents lived on a farm, I identified with the Christ-child born on a bed of hay in a barn that creaked and shook in the wind. Since my grandparents had a pack of barn cats that roamed the farm I always envisioned a few feline figurines in the nativity scene. Ken Bailey makes the point that in the homes of Bethlehem the stable was actually inside the house. Livestock were brought indoors at night, and the house usually had two rooms- one where the family resided and one where the livestock bedded down. The manger would have been where the livestock were kept…in the house! It’s a cultural understanding that seems strange to us, so we have simply revised it to fit our understanding better.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing! Whether Jesus was born in a cave, a barn, or was bunking with the cattle in the house is not a detail that changes the essence of the story. The essence of the story that does not change is that Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us, come to earth in the flesh…fully human and fully divine!

But what about when layer after layer of imagination is added to the story? What happens when the created stories crowd out the original truth, the original meaning? As I sit on my “writing stool” at Starbucks I’m listening to Bing Crosby sing “White Christmas”, and humming the tune that tells me that the best Christmas has snow. Unlike Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, it’s pretty doubtful that the first Christmas in the Bethlehem of Israel featured snow.

Saint Nicholas is a great story about a 4th Century Greek Christian bishop, known for his generosity to the impoverished. As time went on children were given gifts on the evening before St. Nicholas’s day of honor, December 6. During the Reformation there was increasing opposition to the honoring of saints. Martin Luther promoted the giving of gifts to children at that time, but sought to focus it back to the Christ-child. Santa Claus emerged sometime in the 17th or 18th Century as a blended character of Saint Nicholas and the English Father Christmas from the 16th Century.

Great story! Great and entertaining story…a jolly elderly man coming down chimneys, helped out by elves, escorted by flying reindeer. Great story!

My guess, however, is that if you gave a test to children and adults alike a huge majority would be much more proficient at knowing the Santa Claus created facts than the actual story of Saint Nicholas and…the biblical story of the birth of Jesus.

Imagination and creativity are wonderful gifts, but sometimes they steer us away from the story of the most wonderful Gift!