In this season of giving, we should all consider the kinds of gifts we give and hope to receive. This isn’t some slam on celebrating Christmas or a bash on the commercialism of what should be the celebration of the birth of our Savior—well, maybe in part, but I’m sure most of us have heard those kinds of arguments or rants before. First and foremost, my thoughts right now are centered around seeking things that benefit us in the Kingdom. When it comes to celebrating Christmas by both giving and receiving gifts, how might our priorities shift when our focus transitions from the earthly to the spiritual?
Giving Good Gifts to Our Children
As a parent, I always feel like I want to do more for my children. They always have what they need, and I’m fortunate that I can also give them some of what they want. When Christmas time comes around though, I had a tendency to become overwhelmed with the “need” to give them a lot of toys, and I’ve never been able to go very far with it. Though it’s good to see bright-eyed smiles on Christmas morning, and I plan to give my children a few things this year, I cannot help but wonder if I’m giving them “good” gifts that will help them grow in the things of God.
Sometimes I think Christian parents can go a bit overboard when it comes to indoctrinating their children, and I’ve seen how too much pressure in that regard can backfire. Even so, I do want to raise my children up knowing what I believe—and most importantly—provide an environment where they see me living out my faith. I want to set a good example for them so they might be instilled with Christian values of love, kindness, patience, and the like so that whether they grow to follow the faith or not, those values will hopefully be a part of their character. I want them to experience the goodness of giving rather than receiving, and as they grow old enough to understand more complicated matters, I want them to learn the importance of reaching out to those in need.
I do no think I will ever shower my children with tons of gifts on Christmas, and there are a few reasons for that. For one, I think too much of that dampens the real reason for celebrating Christmas in the first place. Secondly, I cannot in good conscience choose to ignore all the impoverished children out there who are lucky to have a descent dinner on Christmas, much less get a few toys while my own children wallow in excess.
Sure, there will always be people in need, but if everyone just took some time to do one small thing for those who are without, every child would have something for Christmas, and I’m a big believer that one small act of kindness can make a big difference. The mentality that says, “I’m just one person, what can I do?” is one of the biggest complacency and apathy causing problems in this world.
Giving Good Gifts to Jesus
Christmas is a time when we celebrate the birth of Jesus, of course. What are we doing to really honor that? There can be some goodness in our Christmas traditions. It’s good to gather with loved ones and consider the wonderful gift we were given when Jesus was born into this world. I’m glad we still live in a world where we can, though we do see how Christmas is shifting towards a worldly holiday more and more.
As the world degrades Christmas, we should take care not to fall into that degradation ourselves. What would please Jesus most on his birthday, giving to those who already have everything they need, or reaching out to a poor family who has nothing? We are told that when we make a feast we should call in the hungry, right? From my perspective, this is about balance – and it’s a balance we each need to sort out for ourselves. What is on your heart this Christmas? Do you know someone who will be hungry, lacking necessary clothing or warmth, or a child who will do without? I think most of us can sacrifice giving one gift to those who have an abundance (and we can certainly sacrifice receiving) in order to reach out to others. In doing so, we are loving the poor as Jesus commands, and that is what he really wants for Christmas.
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. – Matthew 25:50
Receiving Good Gifts from God
As we grow older, most of us are probably less concerned with what others are getting us for Christmas – or at least I would hope so. Especially if we’re a Christian. There are some gifts though that we should be seeking with all our hearts: gifts of the Spirit of God.
We are told in Luke Chapter 11 that God desires to give good gifts to those who ask Him and how those who seek will find. How much more when the things we seek from God are pleasing to Him? There is so much available to us as Christians that allows us to live a more fulfilling life that’s aligned with the blessings of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whether we are new believers or old, we always have room for growth. Growth towards the things of God and His righteousness should be our primary focus in this life—and when “our eye is single” we become full of the Light of Jesus Christ!
What gifts are you hoping to give and receive this year?