Christmas is the most traditional, venerated holiday celebrated in the western world. It has been celebrated for nearly two thousand years. We celebrate it by decorating our homes, putting up Christmas trees, exchanging cards, baking special treats, eating a festive meal, wearing unique sweaters, connecting with family, attending a worship service, and watching time-honored Christmas movies. Christmas is both stressful and wonderful!
Perhaps the most common tradition of Christmas which I omitted from the above litany of traditions, is gift-giving because it falls into its own category. We give gifts to one another. Retailers including Amazon count on that. They count on the “Christmas bump” to help them meet their budget projections. Churches are in the same boat and depend heavily on monetary gifts at Christmas (as well as year-end giving).
Gift-giving can be motivated by love or obligation. Why do we give gifts anyway? When did that tradition start? Most would say we are emulating the magi (“wise men”) who travelled from the east to worship Jesus Christ. We don’t know how many magi there were nor do we know the quantities of the gifts they gave. Scripture is not specific on either of those issues but we do know they brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:11). Why did they bring gifts to the child, Jesus, living in a house in Bethlehem with His parents (Matthew 2:11)? They recognized Jesus was a king and as such were prepared to worship Him. After all, you don’t come into the presence of a king empty-handed. The bottom line is we are following the pattern of the magi by giving gifts at Christmas, the celebration of Christ’s birth.
One small difference between what the magi did and what we do. We give gifts to one another instead of Jesus. Somehow giving gifts to Jesus out of worship has morphed into giving gifts to one another. It is my opinion that Christians need to know the original purpose for gift-giving . . . as an expression of our worship of the King of Kings, Jesus Christ. “Well, that sounds all well and good, Irv, but Jesus is not physically on earth as He was when the magi saw Him. How are we supposed to give Him gifts if He’s not physically present?”
Here are some thoughts on that. Start by giving Jesus the gift of yourself. That’s what the Macedonians did. Paul writes that “they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God’ (2 Corinthians 8:5). Perhaps you’ve already done that but if you haven’t there is no greater gift you can give to Him than your life! Next give Jesus to others by telling them about Him. Just as God gave us the gift of His Son (John 3:16) so you and I can follow the Father’s example and give His Son to others that they might be saved. Jesus is the Gift! Unlike the gifts we give to one another, those two gifts will never perish, rust, or get stolen. They are the gifts Jesus desires most at Christmas and they don’t cost any money!
God wants the gift of your heart,