What do you want for Christmas? Have you written to Santa, or made a list? Or have you just given hints around the house about what you want?
Receiving presents is the bit about Christmas that we all like. Don’t you just love opening the presents on Christmas Day and discovering that someone has given you something that you really want? And even the socks and undies are OK because you know that someone has thought about you.
But I think you’ll agree that giving presents is what really gives you a buzz. When I was a kid I used to spend a lot of time disguising and wrapping presents in such a way that the person receiving it wouldn’t have any idea what they were getting. Bits of cardboard, oversized boxes and other disguises would change the size and shape and weight of the present so they’d never guess what was inside.
I know that in spending time with the gift like that I found myself thinking about the person who was receiving it, and the surprise they would have when they got through all the wrapping paper and other bits of disguise.
Jesus said, it’s more blessed to give than to receive, and he’s right you know. Receiving presents is great, but there’s real joy in giving. The process itself is important … thinking about the person you intend to give a present to … making a decision about what they would really like and what would give them joy … wrapping the present … thinking about how and when you are going to give it to them.
In all of these things you are thinking about that person, instead of yourself. You see our natural inclination is to think about ourselves. Thinking about other people ahead of ourselves actually takes a little bit of work. It requires an act of the will, and that’s most effective when it’s motivated by love.
The story of Christmas is a story of love and giving. It’s about God looking on this world that he has made and being overwhelmed with sadness at the way in which people had messed up the earth, damaged relationships and generally turned away from him.
And rather than waiting for people to turn back to him, God was proactive – he took the first step – he exercised his love through giving. In the greatest act of giving you could imagine, God became a human being. He came as a little baby, born in a humble middle-eastern village.
And as he grew up, Jesus taught us how to live. He taught us what it means to live in a right relationship with God. And he gave his life for us. The story of Easter is tightly linked with the story of Christmas, because it’s about Jesus giving his life for all of humanity. For God loved the world so much that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him may not be separated from God but everlasting life.
I’d encourage you to spend a little bit more time this year on the presents you’re giving away. Think about the person you’re giving it to and what’s special about them. Think about what you can do that will be a contribution to their life.
But most of all think about the greatest gift of all, the gift of life that God has offered to you in Jesus. And don’t knock it back as though it’s not important. You wouldn’t do that on Christmas morning when you pull the presents out from under the tree. Receive that gift – the gift of Jesus – in the spirit in which it was given – as God’s gracious act of love for you.
You can hear this message live on Sonshine fm radio 98.5