When it comes to Christmas, there is a joy that comes with giving and receiving. As children we tend to revel more in the receiving than the giving, and as we grow into maturity, we learn that as Jesus said: It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).
Where does the tradition of Christmas gifts come from?
Yesterday was December 6, on which, in some parts of the world, the Feast Day of Saint Nicholas is celebrated. Nicholas was a Christian man, who was famous for his generosity to the poor and needy. Read more about him here. Yet, it was not first from Nicholas of Myra (St. Nick) that the tradition of giving Christmas gifts derives.
Some have suggested that the tradition comes from the fact that on Christmas, God gave us the greatest gift possible: Himself, the Redeemer, come to save us from our sins.
you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins – Matthew 1:21
Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! – 2 Corinthians 9:15
Yet, it seems that the tradition of giving Christmas gifts comes from the “wise men” from the east who came to Jesus and presented the child king with three gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. I’ll talk about the significance of these in my next post, but for now, I’d like to focus on this: the tradition of giving gifts goes back to people who came to give gifts to Jesus.
It would be presumptuous to think that God needs our gifts. Furthermore, the message of the Gospel is that our relationship with God is based on what He has done for us (grace), not on what we do for him.
So then, what is the place of giving gifts to God?
When you give gifts to God, whether of your finances, your time or something else, you are saying: “I have come to you not for what you can give me, but for the sake of you yourself.The joy that I seek is not the hope of you giving me things, but the joy of knowing you, and I seek to enjoy you even more by giving up things which have value to me, to express my love, devotion, thankfulness and commitment to finding my joy all the more in you and not in these things.”
As you give gifts this Christmas season, remember to give to God – not to earn his favor, but to train your heart and express with your life that He alone can satisfy your heart, not any material things.