Today: Thursday, November 21, 2019

Christmas - a time of giving    (12/9/2012 )

It’s present time again! The shops here in the UK and on the internet are bursting with gift ideas for all your loved ones! The shopping days are fast running out! 

Even if your friends and family have plenty already, some company, somewhere, has a new gadget they shouldn’t be without.  And so many of us join in the panic, scouring the shops or the web for new ideas for things to give.

We do all that buying and wrapping and delivering, of course, in the spirit of Father Christmas, because it’s the tradition at this time of year, to give children (of every age) a treat and, maybe, just for the sheer joy of giving.

But there are at least three deeper reasons why this is a giving time:

  • At its highest and best, our giving echoes God’s gift of his Son, Jesus. He gave of himself by coming to earth to bring us the priceless gifts of love and hope and life.  We receive that gift with thankfulness. But it is also a challenge to us to make our own giving sacrificial and selfless.
  • Featured as part of the Christmas story are the wise men from the east who brought their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (Matthew 2, verse 11), offering them in worship to the infant Jesus. Our gifts can be an echo of that - offered to Christ and to those we love.
  • Many of the customs of Christmas have their origin in legend and pagan customs.  One story tells of St Nicholas - the inspiration for Santa Claus - who secretly delivered bags of gold to three sisters who were about to be trafficked by their own father to cover his debts, so rescuing them from a dire fate.

Thinking of the nativity story, have you ever wondered what happened to the gifts of the Wise Men?  At least the gold might have been useful in paying the inn-keeper’s bill, and - even more - covering the costs of the family’s time as refugees in Egypt.

If these Christmas stories have been inspiration for our tradition of giving presents at Christmas, it is worth noting the theme which runs through them all - the giving is all from the rich to the poor and its purpose is to bring desperately needed help and relief.

Perhaps that now needs to become more of the motivation and direction of our own giving at Christmas.  There are still desperate needs where war and famine and hurricane have deprived so many people of home, security and basic provisions.  Some of us will be more  aware because our countries are suffering the effects of austerity measures, so there may been even more people in need right on our own doorsteps.

Our own generosity and giving this Christmas should perhaps be directed less towards those (even including children!) who have plenty, and more towards those who hardly have enough to survive.  Maybe too there will be even more joy and thankfulness in that kind of giving - and in the receiving.

There’s still time before Christmas comes!

Pray: Give thanks for the gift of Jesus - God’s love expressed through the Child born in Bethlehem.  Lord, thank you for that priceless gift.  As I receive your gift help me to be more ready and glad in my giving. Amen.

Think about: If present-giving is in danger of getting out of hand, can we do anything to reverse the trend?

Challenge: Give something to someone who really, really needs it this Christmas.

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