A feeling of dread is already creeping up on thousands and thousands of people who work in retail. One of the worst times of the year is nearly upon them.
No, it's not the Christmas shopping season. They are already enduring that.
What they most dread are the throngs of people who will storm their counters the day after Christmas to return the gifts they received.
Don't quite like that extra fluffy sweater Aunt Betty sent you? No problem, just return it.
That cordless drill doesn't quite fit into your life as a soccer mom? No problem, just return it.
You really wanted that other, newer, better cell phone instead of the one you got? No problem, just return it.
Not a fan of fruit cake? Well, you're stuck with that ...
But you're not stuck with many of the things that may come your way by those thinking of you at Christmas time.
And that's the problem.
Many people think of others at Christmas, and they express those thoughts by giving gifts. And then the receivers return the gifts the day after Christmas to get what they really want. In other words, selfishness persists even through the holidays.
We're so selfishly driven in our receiving of gifts that most Americans would rather be able to select their own gift. Almost 70 percent of U.S. consumers surveyed by BIGresearch said they would rather give a gift this Christmas than receive one. If pushed, however, over half (52 percent) said they would prefer to be given cash or a gift card.
We're not very good at receiving according to the way others like to give. We like to receive the way we like to receive. The problem with that is it short circuits the whole cycle of giving. While the giver gives to bless you, the process of giving comes full circle by receiving graciously what was given. A gift well-received is a blessing to the giver. When we rebuff the gift, we rebuff the giving.
We even do that with God.
On that first Christmas, God gave us Himself. A holy, perfect, loving God who gave Himself as a Savior to the world.
But we don't like some of His standards ...
We don't care for that whole obedience thing ...
We really don't like His timing ...
It takes too much work and energy to keep this gift ...
... surely, there's a god this One can be exchanged for that better meets our lifestyles, right?
"Do you have a god in a size liberal?'
"Are you still stocking those extra permissive gods? I thought you had some in back. Or maybe a god with just one eye and poor hearing ..."
"I was wondering if I could exchange this Creator for a pocket god ..."
Sometimes, we're not very gracious about how we receive God's gift to us. Instead of embracing the gift of a Savior who desires restored relationship with us, we want something less demanding, less all-encompassing, a little more loose-fitting.
What better time of year to reflect on what we've done with the gift God has given us and, especially, how we've received it. Have we been gracious receivers? Or are we still waiting in line for something better?