I enjoy receiving gifts and, even more so, giving them. But it is with a certain antipathy that I consider the feeding frenzy of the Christmas shopping season. Every night the mall is packed, and on the weekends it is hard for someone like me to move without nearly mowing someone over. But it is not their poor sense in cramming themselves like sardines into the stores that irks me. I am frustrated, rather, by their frustration.
Many of them are buying their presents without any pleasure; they expect little gratefulness. Christmas gifts, instead of being recognized as an act of generosity and sacrifice on behalf of the giver for the sake of their love of the recipient, are seen as due by the receiver; these gifts are what they are owed, by right of merely existing. So much the worse for the giver, should their offering be found wanting, because scorn certainly waits in the wings to belittle their efforts.
Parents, friends, grandparents are held to ransom by expectations, and not by expectations of thoughtfulness. It is not the thought which counts, after all, but volume. I am regularly appalled when the people shopping at work look at an item, doubt whether the intended recipient would like it, but buy it anyway, because they need more for that person. They are stuck outbidding one another, hoping to secure the esteem of their friends and family by lavishing more gifts on them than others.
The ultimate perversion is that these gifts will often be begrudged. They will not be selected and given in spontaneous and exuberant love. The relationship preserved by our present custom is less a mirror of the tender love of God the Father, giving us His only Son, than it is a mirror of the enmity between the IRS and the taxpayer; presents will be given, or there shall be consequences.
There are, of course, many who still give gifts in love and charity, and I sincerely bid them Merry Christmas, but I fear they might be in the minority. The cranky, often rude, people I deal with on a regular basis certainly do not.
I love giving and receiving gifts, but the sickness of our present Christmas tradition turns my stomach and makes it difficult to find Christmas spirit.