It happens every year: the gift that no one else wants finds its way under my Christmas tree. One year it was an electric hot dog cooker. The contraption had twelve metal prongs that sent electricity through the meat—I felt like Dr. Frankenstein every time I plugged it in. Another year I received a box of homemade cookies regifted to me because the original recipient thought the treats “tasted like smoke.” They did. And who hasn’t received a perfect candidate for an ugly sweater contest? Confession: I’m sure I’ve given a few poorly chosen sweaters, too.
These experiences, along with the commercialization of Christmas, sometimes make me want to give up gift giving altogether. I wonder how all this madness celebrates Christ. It’s so easy to forget the real reason for the season in the rush to get the best bargain online or at the mall. Is it possible to find the Savior somewhere in the mix of shopping, wrapping, and exchanging presents? Would it be better to eliminate the tradition in order to focus on Jesus? In my search for answers, I decided to turn to the Christmas story for insight. I was surprised to discover how much gifting occurs there.
First, God gives Mary the gift of serving as the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:26-31). Second, the angel Gabriel tells Mary that God will give Jesus the throne of his ancestor, David (Luke 1:32-33). Third, Mary gives God the gift of her obedience (Luke 1:38). Fourth, Elizabeth gives Mary a blessing (Luke 1:39-45). Fifth, Mary gives God a song of praise (Luke 1:46-55). Sixth, an angel of the Lord tells the shepherds that a Savior, Jesus, has been born to them (Luke 2:8-14). And seventh, people from far away bring gifts to Jesus (Matt. 2:1-12).
As the story of Jesus continues, John tells us that God gives Jesus the Spirit without limit (John 3:34), he gives disciples to Jesus (John 6:37), and he gives the gift of the Holy Spirit to Jesus’ disciples (John 14:16, 26; 20:22; Acts 2:1-4). We also learn that God gives Jesus to the world because he loves us, and that Jesus gives the gift of eternal life to those who trust in him for their salvation (John 3:16, 36; Eph. 2:8-9).
Furthermore, Scripture tells us that God gives each of his children a spiritual gift (1 Cor. 12:1-11), he gives gifted people to the church (Eph. 4:11-13), and he gives believers the gift of his presence (Matt. 28:20; Heb. 13:5). Finally, in his second letter to the Corinthian church, Paul speaks of the grace God gave to the Macedonian churches that enabled them to give generously to others. He encourages the Corinthian church to “excel in this grace of giving” to meet the needs of others (2 Cor. 8:1-15).
So, through my reading, I discovered that gift giving permeates the story of Jesus and the lives of his disciples. It also reflects the character of God from whom “every good and perfect gift” comes (James 1:17). God gives both spiritual and material gifts to believers throughout their journey with him. And he always knows—and supplies—what his children need. His generosity is unmatched.
These passages suggest that, rather than rejecting gift giving, I can choose to follow God’s example and give gifts with a specific purpose in mind. Though I still have no control over what ends up under my Christmas tree, I can provide gifts that delight others. Like God, I can generously give gifts that meet the needs of others. And, if I practice the grace of giving wisely, it won’t diminish the Savior, but will draw others to him.
Pass the gift-wrap please! Fresh cookies anyone?
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:11 (KJV)
Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
2 Corinthians 9:15 (NIV)