When we celebrate Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Christ; God’s immeasurable gift to mankind: “For God so love the world, that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him will not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16) By doing this, God demonstrated His undeserved, redemptive love through Christ.His ultimate gift was he gave to mankind, that which is unmatchable and unrivalled, He gave us His own son.
Directly or indirectly the giving of gifts during Christmas is imitating God’s benevolence in offering the world such a priceless gift. In other words, for most of us, in the unconsciousness of our thinking and reasoning, we commemorate Christmas with a demonstration of love by giving gifts to others as a demonstration of faith-based-love. We demonstrate the love we have for each other with gifts and the lord be praised.
In our world today it seems gifts are more often than not given at Christmas more as status symbol than a symbol of faith. Over time, the original motivation behind offering and receiving gifts at Christmas has changed and in most cases, lost in the euphoria of expectations and demands.
Over the Years the giving of gifts at Christmas has become a mere tradition (“exchange of gifts”), which the financial world milks to increase profit. The months of “…ember” have become months of intense economic activity. During this period, under the camouflage of “giving gifts and showing love in the Christmas season”, increased profits are sought, gains are counted, loses are minimized and sales are prioritized. Advertisements for Christmas sales and invitations to be engrossed in the complexity of the “shopping craze” starts as early as September. By the following January/February, most people are in more debt than even the previous years. They are in debt due to uncontrolled, unregulated and over bloated expenditure on gifts during Christmas.
Interestingly, people are not forced into buying presents at Christmas, but there is the underlying pressure to buy and give gifts due to the tradition of “gifts exchange” at Christmas.
Every year, the “Christmas list” gets longer; not because we become more loving-(the example of Christ in us,) or have succeeded in wining more people to the lord the passing year, met and inspired other fellow spirit-filled neighbours, discovered God-fearing mates, not because we find more people that can benefit from the example of God through our giving gifts, through our generosity, but most often for the following reasons:
- I have made new friends, they need to be included or it might give the impression that they are not loved as much as the other friends within our circle of friends;
- In the case of most Africans the extended family has increased, every significant member should be included and receive gifts.
- How will they know that “we have arrived” if we don’t give gifts;
- The self-centred motivation of “well… I was kind” to them;
- “Mr. Smith gave me a gift last year”, I have to include him on my list this year” and so on and so forth
In most of the cases, Christ is completely removed as the subject behind our motives and actions. Christ is the reason for the commemoration of this day though we are gradually placing Him on the background of irrelevance.
But should the above or any other self-motivated reason be the overriding criteria for choosing who to offer gifts to at the celebration of the birth of Christ?
At Christmas, God gave us what we did not have and that is essential to us, a gift to redeem us of our sin, even the yet un-born! This spirit of sacrificial giving, the spirit of eternal motivation of love should be our bedrock of motive for giving gifts at Christmas.
On Christmas mornings, our children wake up with 10-15 boxes (in some cases even more) of presents to open and compare. They can hardly wait to wake up, some children sleep-walk to the living room to open gift boxes! Some children have grown to develop commercialized and economic tastes of going to exchange duplicated or unwanted gifts for something else (they would rather prefer or do not have). Other children check to see which aunties or uncles have not given them any presents, so that they can chase them up for the forgotten gifts.
Not only are we fast becoming more of a selfish generation but we are also training up our children in like manner. There are children in “third world” countries; the needy who do not have the basic necessities like food, clothing, shelter or education. Some mothers walk for hours to get their babies to the nearest hospital to receive basic medical attention only to find out that the hospital do have no medicines available for them. Some babies have degenerated to barely bones due to malnutrition. Yet we clamour for gifts- just for the sake of it and as status symbols. Some of us receive gifts which we do not really need but we keep them anyway just to show and prove to ourselves that we are loved. But how many of us think deeply about Christmas, its essence and the unfolding developments of the celebration of Christ at Christmas?
God expects us to be good stewards of the resources He has blessed us with and to be accountable to him.
There are UN agencies that specialize in giving to the needy and poor folks within different societies. There are gifts that we can buy, the profits of which end up giving or promoting lives of some people in rural communities rather than buying presents or gifts that only enhance temporary happiness.
On a recent holiday trip, I noticed an advertisemen
t by the airline collaborating with a well known charity organisation to bring about “change for good”/”changing children’s lives”; to bring some relief to people at the minimum cost-next to nothing. For example:
£0.35p can buy medication for 5 children suffering from diarrhoea
£0.57p buys medication to prevent a pregnant mother passing HIV to her unborn child in Haiti;
£1.70 buys 60-days ration of food for one malnourished child in Ethiopia.
Where are the neediest in our thoughts at Christmas? It is a question for us to ponder.
What is your budget for giving this Christmas – it does not matter how little. What are you willing to spend on the things that will make a real difference? Your money, time, efforts and prayers will go a long way.
How can we fairly allocate our resources for Christmas in a way that pleases God? God is not impressed by the number of gifts we buy for the greatest number of people, but that we do His will. “The spirit of man is the candle of the lord” (Proverbs 20:27).
God’s spirit enables us to know His will and ultimately please Him. Perhaps this Christmas we should consider the option of the possibility of making a real difference to someone’s life.Perhaps prayerfully consider our giving this year with a view to making a real difference, being a real blessing rather than having to worry about accumulating debt at the beginning of the New Year.
“The blessing of the lord makes one rich and He adds no sorrow with it”. (Prov.10:22)