“‘Tis better to give than to receive.” We hear it all the time and especially during this time of the year. The phrase is a helpful reminder to guard against excessive consumerism and self-centeredness. And it really is better to give than to receive. We all should be generous and self-sacrificing and postured to serve others, as that makes for a fulfilled and enriched life and a productive and industrious society.
This is a difficult thing to teach my two children: ages six and four. My daughter, the six-year-old, is frenzied with excitement for Christmas morning and all the toys that she hopes to get: American Girl dolls, American Girl accessories, Disney everything, My Little Pony everything, Shopkins everything, everything everything, and anything else she sees leading up to Christmas. My wife and I are trying to teach her about the joy of giving, but she’s consumed with the joy of receiving. She only knows how to focus on what she wants, as most other 6-year-old girls are as well. So, we frame our response to this teachable moment by using the foundation of Christmas. The purpose for why we celebrate it and why we give and get presents around this time of year. We give because we’ve received the greatest gift already, a gift with eternal implications.
As a pastor, it’s clear that it’s not only my children that need to be reminded and taught this truth. I need to be reminded. Our church needs to be reminded. We need to be reminded. The primary emphasis of Christmas, from a Christian worldview perspective, is what WAS given and what the world HAS ALREADY received. One-third of the world’s seven billion people are celebrating this week something they received: the gift of God taking on flesh and dwelling among us.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life,” (John 3:16). This is the message of Christmas and that is what 31% of the world is celebrating today. So, Christians are to give because they have received. They have received life in full, and therefore are to be generous because they have already been given everything in Christ.
So, we can enjoy lights, eggnog, presents, Christmas trees, Hallmark Movie Channel cheesy Christmas movies, time with family and friends, and everything else. But may we not forget God’s grace, compassion, and generosity in Jesus Christ. That is the original purpose of this holiday and knowing the background and aim can help bring the clarity and focus needed this time of year with all the noise and distractions around us.
My assignment was to write a brief Monday morning email on Christmas. I’m not sure if I accomplished the objective or not, but my hope is that you would know why we celebrate this holiday and this reminder/knowledge would cause some to reflect with gratitude and respond with generous action. Therefore, give in this holiday season and in every season of life, not because you will get something in return, or it will make you look good, or because that’s what you’re supposed to do, but because the greatest gift has already been given. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
“I am The Way, the truth and the life” ~ Jesus (John 14:6 ~ The Bible)