I had the honor of speaking to the congregation at Bible study last night and I talked about this season being one of giving. During the Christmas season we typically come across well meaning preachers who like to make us feel as if we’ve lost the meaning of Christmas because we’re oh so focused on buying gifts for others. They ask why on earth we’d give gifts to others if it’s supposed to be Jesus’ birthday that we’re celebrating. The answer, I think, is simple: Christmas has always been about giving.
Now at its base Christmas is about the Incarnation. It marks the period in history when the eternal Son of God became flesh. Last night I spoke mainly from the early chapters of John’s Gospel and I started in chapter 3. We went through the first 15 verses before coming to that amazing statement that most people—Christian or non-Christian—know by heart: “For God so loved the world that he GAVE his only begotten Son so that all those who believe shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
In reading this wonderful statement about salvation we’re brought right back to the Incarnation spoken of in John 1; the Incarnation that Jesus speaks of just a moment earlier when he says that no one has ascended to heaven accept the Son of Man who has descended from heaven (John 3:13). So there’s a link between Incarnation and Atonement, which seems obvious, but isn’t always so. But when we return to John 1 we find something interesting in vs. 12, which tells us that all who receive the Incarnate Son and believe on his name have been GIVEN the right to become children of God!
So the Father GIVES his Son for his Son to in turn GIVE us the right to become children of God. The giving doesn’t stop there, of course, since Jesus will go on to speak at length about the Father and the Son GIVING the Spirit (see John 14-17), and the Spirit is, of course, spoken of as a GIFT elsewhere in Scripture (cf. Acts 2:38). But the Spirit is not only a GIFT, he is also a GIVER; as the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed accurately states, he is the GIVER of life. In addition he is the GIVER of spiritual GIFTS that are meant to edify the body of Christ (see 1 Cor. 12).
One could continue on this track ad infinitum but I think the point is clear: Our God is a GIVING God! And Christmas is a time to reflect upon God’s giving of gifts through our own gift giving. Does this mean that we don’t give Jesus anything on the day we commemorate his birth? Of course not! We give him our love and obedience; our attention and worship. But showing our love for friends and family (and in some cases even strangers) through supplying them with things that will satisfy both their needs and desires is perfectly in keeping with the season.