Do you know the origin of giving gifts at Christmas?
No, not Santa Claus.
The correct answer is the Magi or wise men that traveled hundreds of miles to pay their respect to the baby Jesus. When they found Jesus, the Bible says, “they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” ~Matthew 2:11
The first Christmas demonstrated the very first gifts given were those given to Jesus the Christ.
Now, fast forward to today …
Between gifts, holiday parties, cookie exchanges, Secret Santa and all the holiday decorations, Christmas in America is nothing short of an extravagant affair. The National Retail Federation estimates that the average American will spend approximately $700 on holidays gifts this year, totaling more than $465 billion (with $16 billion being spent on unwanted gifts!)
Out of all that spending, I wonder just how much of it is in keeping with that very first Christmas?
Oh, how we have entirely missed the mark on the essence of the season.
We give to everyone else but, Christ.
We give to those that are already rich and dismiss those that are poor.
Our priorities have become warped, and our celebration has become nothing more than materialism.
If you know the story, The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry it speaks to the selfless giving of a poor husband and wife who sell their most prized possessions to exchange Christmas gifts. The wife sells her hair to buy a chain for her husband's watch, and the husband sells his watch to buy hair combs for his wife. For many, the favorite part of the story is the realization that the gifts they purchased are no longer needed because they sacrificed for each other. For me, I love the ending because it brings the story back around to the original intention of gift giving:
“The magi, as you know, were wise men—wonderfully wise men—who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.”
Magi gifts are those that are rooted in love;
not in excess, greed, or obligation- just pure love.
So, how can we shift our philosophy of Christmas back to its intended foundation?
First- Remember it’s about Jesus- worship and honor Him. Our first and best gift should be given to Him- done just like the Magi out of reverence.
Second- Inspect your hearts and your motivations. Are you giving just to give because it is expected or because it is out of love?
Third- Spend less on things that don’t matter and give more to those that do!
Giving to the least and the lost, the poor, those in crisis- to widows and orphans – that is what Jesus calls us to do.
Jesus specifically tells us in Luke 14:13-14- “But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
We also see in James 1:27- “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
Lastly, Matthew 25:31-46 foretells that Jesus will judge all people on the following criteria:
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
“Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
When we care for the poor, the sick, the homeless, those lost and alone- those in genuine need -we care for Christ.
I challenge you this year, what does your giving at Christmas reflect- a heart of consumerism or a Magi heart for Christ?
Your gift list tells it all. Is Jesus even on it?
Thank you Father for the glorious gift of Christ. Thank you that He came as a baby so that we may approach Him without fear, shame or trepidation. Help us to reclaim the original intention of Christmas- to celebrate Christ and put aside any unnecessary distractions. May we find Christ at the heart of this season and honor Him with our gifts and celebrations.
"Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you." ~ Deuteronomy 16:17