By Allen White
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. John 3:16-21
The wisemen gave gold, frankincense and myrrh (Matthew 2:11). And, boy, has capitalism capitalized on that. Could it be possible that the holiday shopping season starts after Halloween now? At this rate, we could start seeing “After Christmas Sales” before Thanksgiving.
During the week of Thanksgiving, commercial after commercial announced that stores would open at 3 am on Friday. I thought, “And, the store is also open, right now.” But, I guess it’s not really Christmas unless you are a cold, sleep-deprived Black Friday gladiator fighting for the best deals. Ah, how it warms the heart.
I’m not opposed to gift giving. I enjoy giving gifts and receiving them. I even like fruitcake. Gifts are great. Gift receipts might be even better. Read my lips: I am not anti-presents. I am pro-presents. But, why do we give?
We give some gifts because we should give. These would be gifts for people who share our DNA, people we work with, people we live near, and people who serve us. We like some of these people. But, if we only gave to those we liked, it might be a much shorter list.
We give some gifts because people expect it. If we didn’t give them something, they would be disappointed. They might even retaliate.
We give some gifts because someone gave us something. To not give them something would be like saying “I love you,” but having no “I love you” return. They expect something of equal or greater value in return. So, if I give you a $15 gift, then you give me a $16 gift. We work this back and forth until one of us eventually dies owing someone hundreds of thousands of dollars somehow (or did we just pay ourselves back?).
We give some gifts completely in the dark. A truly thoughtful gift is giving exactly what they wanted without being told what they wanted. This requires some sort of gift giving ESP that most men lack. Ladies: to get what you want for Christmas, your man must be told. If he is left to himself, then don’t be disappointed with a universal remote control and beef jerky in your stocking. It’s his love language.
While Christmas giving has morphed into something surreal compared to the simple scene in the manger, giving is still at the center of Christmas. “God so loved the world that He gave…” We know those words well. Hopefully, they haven’t become “yada, yada, yada” to us. God didn’t give because we deserved it. God didn’t give because we expected Him to. God didn’t give because He needed to reciprocate somehow. God gave because He loves us. No matter who we are or what we’ve done or what we continue to do, God loves us and desires to have a relationship with us. God doesn’t give because it makes Him feel good. He gives because it’s His nature.
You and I are most like God when we are generous. When we faithfully give to God’s work either in the offering plate or online, we are reflecting God’s character and nature. In fact, the antidote to materialism is generosity. Rather than allowing money and things to control our lives, we can enjoy the freedom of giving it away.
Giving also demonstrates our trust in God. If I commit a portion of my income to Kingdom causes, I trust that God will provide for all of my needs. That provision might be increased income or shoes that last for 40 years (Deuteronomy 29:5).
How do you trust God through your giving this Christmas? How are you celebrating this year and remembering why we celebrate?
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