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.
4 thoughts on “Advent Meditations: 6 – Giving Gifts to God”
Since everyone likes to give, then i suppose i should like to receive. 🙂 The only problem is that i have had only one friend who knew me so well. 😦
i really do not enjoy Christmas, so i skip it.
You bring up a good point: some people like to give, but they don’t like to be on the receiving end. The question is: Why not?
I do believe that to be healthy and balanced is to both find joy in giving and to be able to graciously receive the gifts of others. If you don’t let others give gifts to you, then you are inhibiting them from experiencing the joy of giving.
One of the prerequisites of the Gospel is being willing to humble yourself to receive the gift of God’s grace and forgiveness to you, as well as adoption of you as His child.
I wonder if the issue with not receiving gifts is one of self-worth: finding your value in what you do for others but not believing that you have enough value to deserve anyone doing anything good for you.
The Gospel teaches us that although we are even more flawed than we realize, we are move loved and valued by God than we could have ever dreamed – i.e.: you have enormous value in God’s eyes, not for what you can do for him, but just because he loves you for who you are, in spite of your flaws and shortcomings.
I think that is why it is hard to accept the gift of salvation; it is hard for some to accept gifts. Also there is no free lunch or in this case gift. If you give me something i might think you want something.
And some of us hate surprises.
I think you’re right.
In a way, I think God does ask something in return from us: nothing short of our entire lives.
Bonhoeffer makes this point very well in the opening chapter to “The Cost of Discipleship” – that grace is free, but yet it was purchased at a high cost, and to be a recipient of grace comes with a call to discipleship, which entails one’s entire life.