There is a bit of chaos around Christmas time.
Having been a professional driver for several years, I’ve seen the craziness of Christmas manifested on the roads. People just don’t think as clearly or drive as sanely around the holidays. Maybe it’s the higher volume of traffic. Or perhaps some drivers are mulling over their longer than usual to-do list. It may be the holiday blues are to blame.
There is so much to do.
Family members to visit,
Spending money we have, or God forbid, spending money we don’t have,
Christmas memories dancing in the halls of our mind, some we cherish, others we’d rather forget.
Whatever the case, people are less focused on their immediate surroundings, including the other vehicles around them.
Still, I like Christmas. It is good to reflect on Christ’s birth. Though scholars debate the actual date of Jesus’ birth, it doesn’t change the truth of his birth: Christ is the greatest gift ever given.
I like the opportunity to be with family…and give gifts. Giving helps us appreciate others. The tradition of giving encourages us to reflect on someone besides our self. It’s a chance to consider our values and interests. Are we more concerned about where we will spend our holiday vacation, what we will get, or how we might be “inconvenienced” … or are we interested, and even excited, to give others our time, our hard-earned money, and even ourselves? Gift exchange is also a good opportunity to teach children about giving. The simplest traditions can establish values that will last a lifetime.
I think there will always be tension. How much should we give? How much should we spend? Can we dodge the materialism and excess of the holidays without being chintzy or uber–idealist? Can we enjoy giving someone a gift that actually cost us something? Jesus is not opposed to gifts. Gift giving is a repeated theme in the New Testament.
We celebrate Jesus every day. Every prayer, every Bible study, every church gathering, every time we give to others is a celebration of Christ! So, to answer the earlier question, can we spend and give without getting caught up in the excesses of the season? Most certainly. Our giving is most authentic when it is anchored in the ultimate gift. It is a joy to give when we realize just how much we have been given.
Why do some have no joy at Christmas? How can some have no inkling whatever for gift giving? Is it really an avoidance of American consumerism, or something deeper? Perhaps some have forgotten the gift of God. Or may have never had it.
“I remind you that you stir up the gift of God.” (2 Tim 1:6)
Until we know the peace and joy that come from a relationship with Christ, there will always be angst about us. There is no material gift that can make us feel “complete,” nor anything we can give to others that will truly satisfy. Our gifts are mere tokens. Only the gift of God is eternal; only it can touch the eternal in each of our hearts.
Our gifts are dependent on our sentimentality, and our budget. Sentimentality rises and falls (so does our budget). God’s gift is unconditional; it never changes. “For God so loved the world that he gave…” The word “so loved” is agapaó meaning to prefer, to love – from the Greek agape which refers to divine love.
Love seeks the ultimate good of an-other. God gave, for our ultimate good. He wrapped himself in the baby born at Bethlehem, love incarnate. There, in a manger, in swaddling clothes, he presented his gift in the humblest fashion—and so should we.
“Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift! (2 Cor 9:15)
At Pentecost, he gave us his indescribable gift—“his gift too wonderful for words“—the Holy Ghost.
It’s not just about what God gave us at the birth of Christ, at Pentecost, and throughout our life with him. It’s also about what he takes from us. He takes our burdens, our fears, our failures, and our sins. He takes away the loneliness and regret.
It may seem like an unfair exchange for God. He says, “Give me your hurting, your broken, your lonely, your outcast; give me the sins, the shame, the sorrow, the grief of this life. And I will give you my peace, my joy, my gladness, my life, my love, and I will heal you.
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights…” (James 1:17)
In Acts 8 the apostles Peter and John went up to pray with the Samaritans who had believed the gospel and been baptized in Jesus name. Their role was precise. These who had received the truth of Christ also needed to receive the gift of God. There must have been quite a demonstration of the Spirit that day as the apostles laid hands on them.
Do you think your children are ecstatic when they receive your gifts at Christmas? Have you ever seen someone who just received the gift of the Holy Ghost? Simon the sorcerer offered the apostles money, if only he could have this power to give to others the Holy Spirit.
“But Peter said unto him, Your money perish with you, because you have thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.” (Acts 8:20)
The gift of God is just that—the gift of (or from) God. No man, not a pastor or an apostle, can give anyone the Holy Spirit. There is no amount of money that can purchase this gift. Is that old cliché really true? “The best things in life are free.”
The Apostle Peter believed so:
“Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38)
God gave himself, robed in flesh, that we might see him.
God gave his only begotten Son, that we might believe on him.
God gave us the Holy Ghost—the gift of God—that we might know him.
What greater gift could we receive? There is none. As much as we could write about it, sing about it, and preach about it, it will forever be “his indescribable gift.”