rebelling against low expectations

The Christian Teen’s Ultimate Guide to Gift-Giving


It’s almost Christmas and stores are selling out of wrapping paper and gift tags as fast as you can say, “Happy Holidays.”

For those of us who celebrate Christmas – and the gift-giving tradition that so often accompanies it – choosing the perfect present, finding it, buying it, and wrapping it can be a stupefying process.

That’s why I’ve created this handy guide to gift-giving!

The only thing is, I’m not going to tell you what gifts to buy. Or give you suggestions. Or basically give you any advice about actual gifts whatsoever.

Instead I’m going to give you five principles to consider as you give presents this Christmas.

1. Give out of joy.

Your dad doesn’t want that incredibly cool (and expensive) new piece of tech if you give it begrudgingly. The best gifts are given not out of a selfish spirit but out of servile humility. They’re given without complaining.

They’re given out of pure love and gratitude for the person who is receiving your gift. Let that love spill out in delight for the person and excitement about the gift.

2. Give out of the heart.

Getting someone a chocolate bar from the dollar store for Christmas could be the perfect present. Or it could be the worst. It depends on what your motives are. If you are seeking to choose the best present with thoughtful care and consideration, that might lead you to this chocolate bar.

But if your motives are mercenary or selfish and the person you’re giving to hates chocolate (and dollar stores), then that particular gift has not come from the heart.

When you’re preparing to give someone a present, ask yourself a few questions: What do they like? What do they need? What would bless them? What would edify them? Your answers may not even be material or expensive. Perhaps what they’d like is your time or your talent or a casserole or a cut lawn. Get creative.

3. Remember that the gift is just a symbol.

The gift itself is not your love, your care, your joy, or your honor. It’s just a symbol of that. You want a good gift that reflects that, sure, but what matters is not the doll house or the iPhone or the chocolate bar – it’s what they stand for.

Gift giving should be an act of service that expresses the heart-deep reality. Don’t get so wrapped up in the gift itself that you miss what it represents.

4. Give to the glory of God.

We toss this phrase around so much, it almost feels trite. So let me explain it in a fresher way: give so that worship always goes to God. Give in a way that doesn’t reflect the praise to yourself or to the gift, but to the One whose ultimate gift we celebrate this December. We give because He first gave to us.

5. Realize that it really is better to give than to receive.

Truly! Don’t give so that you can get. Get excited about the giving this year. It will change your perspective to having an overflow of gratitude when you do receive. When you get happy about generosity, you’re reflecting the true meaning of Christmas.

That’s what gift-giving is supposed to do – make us generous, joyous individuals who love Jesus so much that we want to give to others to celebrate His worth.

And for the Christian, isn’t that what all of life is supposed to do? Make us generous, happy, and humble as we serve the ultimate Gift-Giver?

We have to adopt giving hearts all year around. Christians should be the most grateful, generous, and joyful people on the planet. That’s because we have received the greatest gift on the planet. We were undeserving recipients when God lavished His mercy and grace on us to save us.

What we celebrate at Christmas – the Incarnation, God made flesh – is the beginning of the life that changed ours. Jesus didn’t stay in a manger. The baby grew up to go to the cross. And the baby grew up to have victory over death. And the baby is ruling and reigning at the right hand of God right now. And He is no longer a baby but our conquering king, Jesus.

That should make us grateful. That should make us happy. And that should make us very generous this Christmas.

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Photo courtesy of Heather Durdil and Flickr Creative Commons.


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About the author

Jaquelle Crowe Ferris

is the former editor-in-chief of The Rebelution and author of This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years (Crossway). She's the co-founder of The Young Writers Workshop and hosts a podcast for youth called Age of Minority. She's married to Joe and lives in Nova Scotia, Canada.


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  • Very true. I normally make presents for my family and aunts and grandparents, but this year I don’t have a lot of time, nor do I have much money, so I’m not exactly sure what I’m gonna do…

    • Hey Olivia. I’m glad you enjoyed my piece. I understand how you feel about gifts this year. Sometimes Christmas sneaks up on us.

      Here’s a suggestion: why don’t you have a brainstorm session about some of the things your family members like? Then you can get creative about doing some little things that might be memorable to them – things like making a batch of your aunt’s favorite fudge or making a booklet of chores or something fun like that. You could check out Pinterest for more ideas.

    • Jaquelle has some great ideas! I am in the same predicament this year (no money and not much time) so I am planning on writing long, honest letters to my family members. If you like to write, maybe that’s another option you can consider, at least for some of your relatives.

      • Wow, Jaquelle’s suggestion had just made me think of basically the same thing that you just said you are doing! I have presents that I can make give to two of my aunts if I choose to finish them, but my third aunt, I just didn’t know what to do for. Then I read this, and came up with the idea of a letter and a collage of pictures of me and my siblings with my aunt. I think it’s a great idea because writing a letter can actually be more sincere and heartfelt than buying a gift anyway!

  • Love this one, Jaquelle. It’s so practical, helpful, and full of things to think on that point us back to the reason we give gifts at Christmas… because God gave His only Son to us. Thanks for writing!

  • Love this, Jaquelle!! We so often forget that this is what’s important, not just the material gift, it’s the heart with which it’s given that matters. 🙂

  • Thanks for these pointers! When I saw the title, I have to admit that I thought, ‘What a strange idea! Can’t we even choose Christmas gifts without first reading a blog article?’ But your points are really helpful, and something that I often forget… So thanks very much!

    Just one question: What do you mean by “servile humility”? I don’t mean to be critical; I’m just curious about why you would choose to put it that way. 🙂

    • You’re welcome, Sam. Thanks for the comment. 🙂

      To answer your question, I chose the term “servile humility” to intentionally emphasize the practical connection between humility and service. I could have just said humility but we sometimes see that as an abstraction and we wonder, how is giving someone a gift actually humble? Well, it’s humble because we are serving others and putting them before ourselves. That was my thought process. I hope I satisfied your curiosity!

  • Lovely article! It describes exactly what I have been trying to embrace this year: Giving for the sake of giving, having a grateful, contented heart, and taking joy in finding, wrapping, and giving gifts to people I love.

    I never was much of a gift-giving, or even gift-receiving, person. It just doesn’t come naturally to me like it does to some people. It’s literally the last thing I think of when I want to show my appreciation for somebody. This year though, I’m really truly excited about it, choosing wrapping supplies, buying and making gifts, finding more ways to give, and trying to stress less and just enjoy the season.

    I have never loved Christmas so much! Not that I haven’t complained a little …

    Who knew gift-giving was something that you could learn to take pleasure in?

rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →