More Than A Season of Giving
After attending a candlelight service at church this evening, I finally feel like I can start my end of the year reflections.
The Christmas Season, loosely defined as the weeks of advent in between Thanksgiving and December 25th, is said to be a season of giving, and I have been immensely impressed with the amount of giving that I have seen in all of the communities around me in the past few weeks. Serving at a community services agency has taught me more about how many people are in need, and how many generous people there are. At the same time, I don’t understand why giving is limited to this season. There is need all year round, and just because our society makes a bigger issue out of it at this time where our culture places a greater emphasis on large meals, giving gifts, and spending time with family, the fact remains that we should give and live generous lives the whole year.
I think that my motivations for giving are a little less selfish this year, which I think are good. Before, me giving gifts was a lot about exchanging and following expectations about reciprocity, but now I am giving because I see things that I think other people will like, so I’ll give it to them, or make it for them. My gifts now are a lot more personal, and generally a lot less expensive. My father told me this year that he did not want any presents, and I’m taking him up on that. Instead, I will bake him some banana nut bread. Pretty much everyone else in the family is getting books (big surprise, I know), and friends got various cards and gifts that hopefully feel somewhat personalized.
At church tonight, there was one verse from our pastor’s sermon that stood out to me. In reading the Christmas story, we often focus on the birth of the baby Jesus, covered in hay and surrounded by animals, bringing hope to earth in a humble manger. What is glossed over are the shepherds who abandoned their flocks to come see this child. The sheep are their livelihoods, and they abandoned them because an angel came to them and is reflected in Luke 2:14 said, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Implied in this statement is the idea that God’s favor rests on Mary and Joseph, even for what must have been a very difficult night. Peace comes also to the shepherds who are the first non-related people to visit an individual who would change the course of history. This peace came to them as they waited in the fields at night. I doubt that they had expected the night to be any different than any others. I believe that Christ was not born on Christmas, and the “2000” years ago reference is an approximation, but that it is the idea of God-in-man that is so crucial to all of this.
I remember singing a song as a young child, “The best present of all is the one God gave to me”, and while I believe this, I think that there is much more to the significance of Christmas than a special gift given to man. There is so much hope, promise, life and love that is all wrapped up in this celebration, albeit a commercialized one, that extends beyond the birth of a baby. It’s not about the manger, and it’s not about Mary and Joseph. It’s about the fact that with the arrival of Christ on earth, the theological foundations of the earth changed. Not for one day that shows up once every December, but for every day, every month, every year.
And so I will give every day, every month, every year. I will give gifts, I will give cards, I will give encouragement, I will give listening ears, I will give rides, I will give food, I will give myself, and I will give glory to God.
Merry Christmas, Friends.