by Terra Koch
“What to get for the person who has everything?”
“This year’s must-have gift for kids!”
“65 DIY Christmas crafts for your friends and family!”
Type “Christmas gifts” in your search engine, and you start to see a picture emerge of what Christmas is about in our current culture. Click over to the News tab in the same search and you see this in a different light.
“Is the Supply Chain Grinch going to steal Christmas?”
“Supply chain issues: What are they and how will shortages impact the holiday shopping season?”
Do these headlines get you excited about the Christmas season, or do they make you start to envision long lines, traffic jams, and the pressure to make everything “perfect” for Christmas?
Do we ever stop to really think about why we give Christmas gifts at all? What are the different customs around the world? And what does the Bible say about it? Much of what we think of as “traditional” ways of celebrating Christmas were, in large part, developed in the nineteenth century. Across different sources, these influences can include industrialization, urbanization, and commercialization of goods.
When you really take a step back and look at some of our Christmas traditions, they might even begin to seem a little bizarre! Chopping down an evergreen tree and dragging it into your living room and decorating it? Hanging big socks from your mantel and putting candy in them (which would be even more gross if they were used socks!) We’re not even going to start on a strange man in a red suit spying on kids all year, then breaking into your house, and eating your cookies! Or that elf on the shelf who makes messes in your kitchen!
All that aside, how, where, and why it all started, it’s where we find ourselves today, isn’t it? So, what should our approach to it be? When money is tight or supply chains are broken, how will we celebrate? When we’ve already got everything we need and most of what we want, how do we make something special? What will give our hearts the most joy this time of the year?
Giving and Receiving
In Acts 20, we read Luke’s account of Paul’s farewell to the elders at the church of Ephesus (a city whose ruins are located in Turkey today).
“Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’
When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship” (Acts 20:32-38, NIV).
In Paul’s message to the Ephesian leaders, he recalls Jesus’ words and leaves them with his final statement to them: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” So what are we to take from this in our lives today? If the focus of our hearts and by extension our resources (or sometimes the other way around), is looking for those in need, we can experience joy through sharing out of the abundance we have been given. In Matthew 25:40, Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (NIV).
Sharing the Love
We give out of our abundance because everything we have comes from God, and we are called to take care of those are in need. Those gifts can come through money, time, or any number of resources and talents. What gifts can we give one another, when we have much or we have little, when the receiver has much or little, when we can’t get the newest gadget or toy because of supply chain issues or financial problems?
Know someone who has difficulty getting out of their home? Make the time to go and sit and talk, or read a book aloud—even if they can’t respond. If you play an instrument, contact a retirement home or another organization and ask if you can come and play for some residents there. Call someone who’s been on your heart and just listen to what’s on their mind. Babysit for a mom of young children so she can rest, read, or get some things done that have been put on the back burner.
Gather your friends or family together, and instead of a party and a gift exchange, pool your resources and donate to a charity or go shopping together for organizations like Hope’s Closet, Little Angels, or Joshua’s Place. Decide to serve together at a local mission or charity. Fill Operation Christmas Child boxes and pack them together. Deliver meals for Feast for Friends in November. If you want to know more about some of the generosity initiatives our church is involved with, check out these links:
Love baking? When you’re baking cookies, make an extra dozen or two for “Cookies for Christmas Eve.” Don’t bake? Come and bag cookies with us at our church on December 22.
Blessed to Be a Blessing
If you don’t feel like you can come up with any ideas of your own, pray that God would open your eyes to what gifts you have to share, and what abundance you have that can be a blessing to someone else.
In John 14:27, Jesus promises his followers, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (NIV).
If you have a great gift picked out for your friend, or you’re thrilled for your grandkids to tear open gifts on Christmas morning, that’s great, too! It’s not about tearing those things down, but about building each other up and focusing on what can truly be a blessing to yourself and others.
Don’t worry about giving as the world gives. Supply chains in our nation will continue to ebb and flow. But perhaps the best way we can celebrate the birth of Christ—in times of plenty or in times of hardship—is to listen to his message to us, and then follow his example.
Terra Koch is a mom of four boys on a small farm. She serves on the Moms’ Group facilitator team and the women’s leadership team at Christ’s Church.