by: Anna Nash
“Christmas, a time for giving.”
What does that phrase do to you? Messages like that, for me, can seem burdensome. They put me under pressure. For years, to me it meant, “Now go and get that giving spirit on!” You should. It’s what everybody is doing. Get in the Christmas spirit! If ever we should give to others and show acts of kindness, it is now.
Drop a few coins in the red metal bucket by the store entrance.
Take a loaf of bread to the neighbors I don’t see the rest of the year.
As I think back, honestly, its quite humbling to admit. I gave for two reasons. The first reason I gave was because I should. I saw it as a rule to follow at Christmas to make myself feel better about me. I could clean myself up and look good to others by giving. That was a quick fix of pharisee type steroids. I was so kind and good, wasn’t I? Obey the Christmas “rules” of giving. There, I did it! Check it off my list and move on.
Give that person the closest parking place.
Rally my family to take gifts to the “needy”.
The second reason I gave was because people like you more if you give them gifts. I needed other people to like me and think I was wonderful. Gift giving was a way of getting what I needed from them. Crazy and backwards I know! Read that again, “Gift giving was a way of getting what I needed from them.”
Wrap a gift for a family member that is hard to love.
Participate in opportunities at church to creatively give.
The strange thing is, I didn’t even realize how off base I was.
Isaiah 9:2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.
That was me! I was the one walking in darkness. I believed that the people walking in darkness were the ones I was seeking to save and serve with my Christmas giving. I didn’t realized that I needed a great light. I needed rescue from Christmas self-giving. I had no idea that I was the “needy”.
Now that I’ve aired my Christmas dirty laundry in front of you…let me go on.
In recent months I’ve discovered a new way to experience Christmas. What a relief! The old way was very tiring and weighty. I was constantly decorating not just the tree but myself as well.
Worn out and spent each year, I began to be convinced that there had to be another way. By the the time Christmas day arrived I was secretly thinking, “Okay, we need to do this so I can go take a nap!”
Was there a Christmas secret? Yes there was.
John 10:10 "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly."
It was time. Time for God to reveal to me that the story of Christmas would solve my Christmas messiness. He showed me that I had it all backwards. I thought that I was doing God and others a favor with my showers of “blessings.”
Here’s how He did it.
John 1:9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.
He revealed to me new understanding about my holiday image. The giving of His Son was to bring me freedom…the freedom of not having to muster up kindness and generosity. I don’t have to make myself look like I thought others wanted to see me. You see, He took care of that. He sent me Jesus to clothe me with His goodness and not have to depend on my own. All I had to do was believe that.
Galatians 1:5 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
I didn’t have to check the box of serving and giving on my list of “self-righteous check boxes.” He not only checked that box for me, He removed the list altogether the day He rose from the dead.
Oh my word! Revelation! He loves me, in spite of me! When He looks at me, as His daughter, He sees beauty, He sees His Son Jesus. He adores me. Tears. Tears of joy and gratitude.
Romans 8:1 With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved.
It’s a crazy thing. When I start to feel loved and accepted by Him, my heart is full. It is so full that it runs over with provision. It spills over onto people all around. It’s His goodness and grace, not my own. It’s natural. It’s the way He intended it to be all along. Now there’s some comfort and joy!
I John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.
Formerly I read this passage as, “Since He loves you, you should go and love others.” Oh goodness, did I have that one backwards! He took care of that guilt and shame thing on the cross as well. No guilt in life…
How amazing that this is not just Christmastime perspective but year round good news! The life and gifts He has given me on earth are for His kingdom and His glory. Giving of myself to others, driven by the gospel, truly is the richest life I have found on earth.
So, I will keep being pulled to the old way of giving. Even this morning I found myself consumed with wanting to impress others. My Christmas secret? Revisit the story. Hear God telling you of His love for you, feel it. Accept it. Let it have its effect on you as you spend time with others this glorious season. Every time you see a manger let it be a reminder of His open, loving arms. The natural response is grace and gratitude and giving!
“And at the center of the Story, there is a baby. The Child upon whom everything would depend.” Sally Lloyd-Jones
Shhhh, listen. He is telling you a story. It’s His story. It’s your story. It’s a love story. This baby was His way of telling you of His deep, compassionate love for you. Baby Jesus is the “word” I love you.