Are you shopping for a great Christmas gift? Unsure what to get?
Well, search no more – here are some carefully selected recommendations to make your Christmas shopping easier.
And by the end, I’ll be recommending that you rethink Christmas and imagine ways to spend far less than ever before.
If They Love To Read:
This is where I have to start because, for me, gifts = books. I love books. I assume, therefore, that others would love books too.
For this year’s Christmas book recommendations, I’m going to suggest five different biographies or autobiographies. The immersive experience of understanding just one person’s life is often eye-opening and transformative.
1. Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, is a riveting story of survival and hope.
2. Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson, is an important book for understanding the story behind one of the world’s most influential companies.
3. The Path to Power, by Robert Caro, is THE biography on Lyndon Johnson (it is a multi-volume work). An absolutely fascinating account of Johnson’s entire life with surprising relevance to modern politics and American culture.
5. A Heart For Freedom by Chai Ling. A highly vulnerable and transparent account of her life. Very powerful, very moving, very persuasive.
If They Are Searching For God:
1. The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel is a very readable, very accessible, introductory text.
2. The Reason for God, by Tim Keller, is a more intermediate work. It takes more effort than The Case for Christ to think through his arguments, but the payoff is arguably worth it. (Here’s my review of The Reason for God).
3. True Reason, ed. Tom Gilson and Carson Weitnauer. Totally shameless self-promotion here, but as biased as I am, I think this is a great book. It deals directly with one of the most common claims against Christianity: that atheists love reason and Christians love faith (but not reason). This collection of essays is important because it thoughtfully overturns a very negative conception of Christians.
If They Want to Mature As a Christian:
1. The Life You’ve Always Wanted by John Ortberg. Good advice on the spiritual disciplines. Realistic. Funny. Honest. Worth it.
2. Tactics by Greg Koukl. Practical wisdom for navigating daily conversations with humility and grace. The best-in-class resource for doing evangelism in a way that actually builds friendships.
3. The Radical Disciple by John Stott. His last book: short, sweet, insightful, and challenging. An excellent book.
Actually Good Christian Music
A lot of Christian music (ok, a lot of music period) is just terrible. But there are some truly talented Christian bands out there. If your friend loves good music, why not get them a CD – or tickets to a show?
1. Josh Garrels plays some phenomenal tunes in Love and War and the Sea in Between. This CD is often on auto-repeat.
2. All Sons and Daughers stays honest – and makes it beautiful – in their EP Brokenness Aside.
Indelible Grace puts old hymns to new music. The reason? To recover the wonderful lyrics of the saints for today. Their latest CD is Joy Beyond the Sorrow.
Creation Care: Something for the Environment
You can donate a tree in their honor.
Make a gift from recycled parts (knit something, build something, paint something).
Spend time together cleaning up a public space. Have a picnic while you’re there.
Relationship: Share An Experience
One of the best Christmas gifts can be a shared experience: a concert, a trip to the art museum, taking a drive on the weekend to a cool restaurant on the other side of the state, a sports event.
Think of something you’d both really enjoy doing – and use Christmas as an excuse to set up the adventure.
The Surprise Choice: A Donation
As best I can tell, most of us are awash in stuff. We even rent out storage facilities to keep the stuff we can’t cram into our homes.
Jesus once warned the crowds, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).
Not giving a gift, but giving a donation, or serving together, is a great way to re-imagine Christmas. It is all about expectations. If your special someone is expecting a new car, and you give a goat in their name to someone overseas, your 12 Days of Christmas might start to feel like 100 Days in Hell.
But if someone is important enough to you that you want to give them a gift, there’s a good chance that you are close enough to discuss expectations about Christmas.
So why not? Why go along with everyone else?
Why spend money we don’t have to buy products we don’t need?
I think it is worth pushing back against the acquisitive, gimme gimme gimme, materialistic cravings of Christmas. There are other, better ways to express generosity, love, friendship, and care for one another.
For instance, why not serve together at a soup kitchen or go spend time with people at a nursing home?
You could spend time in prayer and study, finding a few nonprofits where you want to volunteer your talents in the coming year. Give them a Christmas gift.
Consider the people who serve you: babysitters, your honest mechanic, etc.
The point of this final section is to encourage a moral vision for how we participate in the Christmas season:
- What kind of person will you become this holiday season?
- How will you contribute to the lives of others in a meaningful way?
- What do you want Christmas to be about?
Think it through. Pray about it. Talk it through with family and friends. And then: participate in Christmas with great conviction and joy!
One final request: If you do any shopping at Amazon.com this year, please start your shopping at Reasons for God. By clicking through to Amazon from this website, a small portion of your purchases will go to support the ongoing work of this website: hosting fees, web design, and so on. Thank you.