'Tis the season for giving and receiving, list making and gift wrapping, holiday shopping and merry making. 'Tis the season filled with hope, with mercy, and with joy. This season, God has been speaking to me about gift-giving, and I wanted to share a few thoughts for a special Christmas devotional this week. What does it mean to give with the heart of Christ-mas?
The Joy I Pursue
"When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy." Matthew 2:10
Gift-giving at Christmas is unequivocally Christian, but not in the way our society practices it today. In this passage in Matthew 2, the three wise men followed the star to Bethlehem, filled with "great joy" at the promise of finding the Christ. Yes, they brought him gifts - gold, frankincense, and myrrh, each significant for the Christ - but these gifts were an act of worship, an overflow of the heart and a sacrificial gift to honor the Messiah.
This year, I picked up the Advent devotional book by John Piper, "The Dawning of Indestructible Joy." It's filled with daily thoughts to challenge us with a counter-culture mindset during this Christmas season.
On December 15, Piper describes "Our Truest Treasure" and the scene of the gifts of the magi. These gifts, given in a barn surrounded by animals, were not meant to add to the Christ, to assist him or even provide pleasure or enjoyment (what is a baby going to do with these gifts?!). Piper describes these gifts as "intensifiers of desire for Christ himself," much like fasting.
"The joy that I pursue is not the hope of getting rich with things from you. I have not come to you for your things but for yourself. And this desire I now intensify and demonstrate by giving up things in the hope of enjoying you more, not the things. By giving you what you do not need and what I might enjoy, I am saying more earnestly and more authentically, 'You are my treasure, not these things.' I think that's what it means to worship God with gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh."
2015 was a year of radical change (you know, buying a store and quitting a "real" job can be pretty radical!). Gift-giving at Christmas time used to be convenient and easy, not requiring much sacrifice on my part. This year, it's very different, and I know that's why God has been speaking to me about giving. God recently reminded me of the story later in Luke about the widow's offering - the woman who gave everything she had to live on, only two small coins (Luke 21:1-4). Giving is about our hearts, not what we give or how much we spend.
Even when we have little here on this earth, we are rich in the kingdom. Following Christ means keeping our eyes on that star in the sky, it means being filled with indestructible joy, it means not being shaken by worldly worries. If gift-giving, in the biblical Christmas sense, is an outpouring of worship to the Lord, a sacrifice of material for holy, shouldn't we be giving gifts to one another that reflect God's love rather than appease insecurities or guilt? Whether you have a little or a lot this year, pray and ask God to give you wisdom about how you spend your time and money. Give with thanksgiving and joy, sharing in the blessings from our Father.
I love this final prayer on this daily reading by Piper: "Therefore, whatever opposition I may find, I joyfully ascribe authority and dignity to you and bring my gifts to say that you alone can satisfy my heart, not these."
May we seek Christ in our gift-giving this year. May we oppose the ways of this world, and give joyfully with a heart fully knowing where our satisfaction is founded - in Christ, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords.
Merry Christmas, darlings! Linnea
Next week, we will return to our Parables devotional series!