At Christmas, I believe an epic battle is taking place.
Theologically, Christians correctly find themselves on one side of the battle field. Yet, functionally and pragmatically, we may act as if we are in the enemy’s camp.
The battle is this: Is Christmas more about giving or receiving?
How about we move one step further and ask, “Is life more about giving or receiving?”
Any good little Christian boy or girl knows the answer.
Jesus said, it is indeed more blessed to give than receive.
But, do we live the right answer?
Don’t we also get caught up in the temptation to give priority and preference to me, myself, and I?
The Christmas List Example
Some families have the custom of creating lists to help each other know what to buy. Some of us even keep well maintained ‘wish lists’ at our favorite online retailer.
But Christmas lists help feed that selfish desire I feel. It forces me to focus on my needs, wants, and desires. Yet, I sanction it because I’m doing it for the sake of others. (I love how the mind can rationalize things!)
I’m not saying a Christmas list is evil, but lists are temptations that give us excuses to feed our materialistic hunger.
What would a Christmas list look like if I truly believed Christmas was more about giving? What would Jesus’ Christmas list look like?
I suspect such a list would have more or as many items for others as it does for ones own self. I’ve never really done that with lists – focused as much on others as I have on myself. But what if I did? Wouldn’t it teach me to find joy when others are blessed? I would nurture my ability to feel more blessed when others receive something instead of myself.
Fortunately, I’ve started noticing that trend in my own family. Charities and organizations we trust are being listed as viable gift options. Kudos to my siblings and parents for their example.
Still, I feel awkward not giving to someone because it feels like they don’t get a gift.
The Jesus Birth Example
I grew up being taught that Jesus wasn’t born on Christmas, and so we downplayed Jesus’ role in Christmas. (If that’s a new teaching to you, I’m sure it seems really strange). I still don’t think the baby was born in a manger on December 25th, but I’m fine celebrating Jesus birth on December 25th. I know someone who was adopted and they don’t know his real birthday, so his mom just randomly picked a day.
On that day, so long ago, we were blessed with the greatest gift of all.
The angels rejoiced. The shepherds celebrated. The wise men worshiped.
We received the gift of a Savior.
I’ve found in my own life when I focus on what I have and what I’ve received, I feel like blessing others more. When I focus on what I’m missing and what I lack, I focus on myself more.
So, it seems that during the holiday season, if we reflect on the birth of Christ, we’ll be reminded of the greatest gift of all. That should spur us on to focus on giving and not just receiving.
I pray that in the holiday season we can learn the art of giving. To really have joy when others receive. To promote it. To pursue it. Then, I pray that by God’s power, it can stick with us for the rest of our lives.
What do you do to help keep Christmas focused on giving instead of receiving?