I find my mailbox stuffed full of shiny catalogs. The sign at Walmart carefully documents exactly how few days are left until the big holiday. My email inbox blinks every morning with a dizzying array of emails from all my favorite companies, wanting to make sure that I don’t forget. Christmas is coming! Whatever we sell is certainly exactly what everyone on your gift list needs!! It’s a sale you can’t beat!!! Finish you gift list with us!!! Hurry, hurry, before it’s too late!!!!
And they’re right about one thing.
Christmas is coming! But do you get as weary of all the anticipation being linked to the use of your pocket book as I do?
I’m all about a good sale. I also really enjoy putting thought and care into shopping for just the right gifts for the people on my list, envisioning their pleasure upon receiving them. I feel like thoughtful gift giving can be a truly unselfish and beautiful way to commemorate the giving of the greatest Gift the world has ever known.
If that’s really why you’re doing it.
Because sometimes, between the long lines at check out, neon doorbuster signs, the giant displays of cheap plastic stocking stuffers and the mailboxes overflowing with ads, we can lose sight of why we’re even engaging in this cultural practice. It becomes simply tradition for tradition’s sake, because “that’s just what you do at Christmas”. It becomes a burden, because “that’s what everyone expects”. It becomes a ploy, because “if I give something, I’ll probably get something back”. It becomes an annoyance, because “they have everything” or “I hate shopping”. It becomes a show, because “people will be impressed by my generosity, my cleverness and my gift wrapping skills”. It becomes a contest, because “my gift is better than your gift” (or isn’t). It can even become depressing, because “people are so ungrateful” or “my gift isn’t as nice as I would like it to be”.
But the fact is, if our “giving” has become any of these things, it has lost it’s meaning and it’s not even giving anymore. It has become some other self-centered practice, and in that case, the world would be better off if you just quit.
Not quit giving. Quit giving for the wrong reasons.
Because giving isn’t the problem. The pure act of true giving has never been anything but good. It’s in the motive and heart of the giver where the trouble can lie.
I believe that the best way to keep the motive of our giving pure is to simply seek to give as Christ gave. Jesus put Himself in a manger, knowingly beginning the path to the cross, and gave the greatest gift anyone could possibly give—Himself. What’s more, He gave that gift to everyone in the entire history of the world, past, present and future.
He gave to people who He knew would take His gift for granted, without comprehending the infinite value of what He had done.
He gave to people who would eventually turn the greatest event in the history of the world into just one more rote tradition—“a nice story to read in December and perhaps attend church to commemorate”.
He gave to a world that just expected Him to give—“no big deal, that’s what God does, and I deserve it”.
He gave fully knowing that He would receive absolutely nothing in return from the recipients—and that they had nothing to give back even if they wanted to.
He gave knowing that His gift would be met by ungratefulness, scorn and even hatred.
He gave to needy people who had nothing but thought they were rich and had everything.
He gave even though it was unthinkably inconvenient for Him to leave His throne in the heavens and confine the Eternal God of the universe to the limits of a frail human body. He gave even though it would eventually mean excruciating pain of soul and body before the giving of His gift was finished.
He gave expecting to impress no one, but only to please His Father.
No, contrary to what the retail world might like us to think, Christmas isn’t about presents. But the celebration of Christ’s birth is absolutely about giving.
“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!“ (2 Corinthians 9:15)
“But just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness, and in…love…see that you also excel in this grace of giving…For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:7, 9)
“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)
“Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35)