We celebrate Christmas by giving gifts to one another. Christians do this to commemorate the greatest gift that the world has ever received, the coming of the Christ Child. Giving gifts is not a new idea that began with Christmas though. A review of the bible shows us a similar custom that began in the time of Esther, the heroine who saved her people from extermination by a foreign king. To commemorate their deliverance from death, the Jews gave gifts to one another and to the poor, as part of their feasting and celebration (Esther 9:20-22).
I love giving gifts! I don’t love shopping, especially during the crazy, crowded Christmas rush (thank the Lord for Amazon!), but I love seeking out needs of those that I love and then finding the perfect gift for them, and buying it and taking it home and hiding it, and then surprising them with it at just the perfect time. I get a thrill from the giving. I get a thrill from seeing the pleasure that they get from receiving it. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” and I say Amen! Now don’t get me wrong, I like getting gifts too! Have you ever thought about why we like receiving gifts? Is it the actual stuff that we want? Maybe a little, but for me not so much really. For me it’s the realization that someone spent their time thinking about me… thinking about what I wanted and needed and then spent their money, or their talent to buy it for me, or make it for me. The gift is really just a token isn’t it? The gift is a token of their love and affection for us. That’s why I like receiving gifts, because I want to receive love, and I like giving gifts for exactly the same reason. I enjoy giving love. Where do you suppose this need to give and to receive gifts comes from, this need to give and to receive love?
The Word of God provides the answer to this question. In 1John 4:19 we read, “We love because he first loved us.” We love because God made us to love. We love because he created us to love. “God is love” (1John 4:8), and we are created in his own image. The Apostle Paul tells us that as Christians, we are created for good works… we are created to love. Ephesians 4:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works”. When we are born again in Christ, we are re-created thru the Holy Spirit, in order to spread the love of Christ in the world, to give gifts. That’s what he made us for!
I began writing this piece a few days before the Sandy Hook school shooting. I have spent these days since the shooting in grief and pain and in prayer. How can we go on talking about giving gifts after something like this has happened? How can we go on with Christmas? How can we go on with our lives? How can we send our kids to school again? The answer comes again from his Word. Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). This is exactly the time to go on living in Christ, to go on loving through him. This is exactly the right time to go out into the world and shine the light of the Messiah in the world! This is exactly the time to give gifts of love to those around us, to everyone. Jesus is speaking those words to us. As his disciples we are called to carry the love of Christ to those around us. We are called to give gifts of love to our family, to our neighbors, to everyone. We are called to shine our lights in the darkness of this evil world. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).
Give the gift of love… now more than ever. Let your light shine. Jesus has brought light into this dark world with his coming. He lives. He loves. He shines. His light shines through us.
“The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned” (Matthew 4:16, Isaiah 9:2).
Give the gift of Jesus Christ… now more than ever. God gave us the ultimate gift. He gave us his Son, who saves us from sin, thru his birth and death and resurrection.
Now is the time to give and give abundantly, because He has given to us abundantly! Now is the time to live and live abundantly, because He lives!
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)