Writer, Church leader, Eccentric Nut, Marketer

I'm Church Leader, Writer, Speaker, Marketer, Kindness Project Founder, Broadcaster and Superhero. But most important I'm a Husband, Father and a worshiper of Jesus.

3 December 2011

Why we shouldn't stop giving gifts at Christmas

As seen in The Brant Advocate

"Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we're here for something else besides ourselves." ~Eric Sevareid

I'm sure you've heard, said, or at least thought this during the Christmas chaos:

“We all already have everything we need. I don't need your gift and you don't need mine. Let's stop giving gifts."

It's hard not to be tempted to think this sometimes because of the cultural rut we've gotten ourselves into. But I don't believe that stopping giving is the remedy to the ailment. It's merely a visceral reaction. Dig deeper. Giving... is integrally woven into Christmas.

THE verse in the Bible that almost everyone can recite is John 3:16. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Giving. But not JUST giving. Giving extravagantly , intentionally and sacrificially to a culture of people who thought they already had everything and didn't need this gift. This gift was so good and was so confrontational to man’s perceived self-sufficiency and pride that culture has never been fully able to process it. This season is ALL about giving and it's always come with the temptation to treat gifts incorrectly.

Even The Magi came to celebrate the birth of a peasant baby into a cows food trough by bringing expensive, impractical gifts. Illogical, but the beauty of their story continues to be passed down and still opens hearts. Years ago, U2's Bono was coming back from a very long tour. On Christmas Eve, he went to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Belfast. He recalls the revelation he that day about the value of the Christmas gift.

"It had dawned on me before, but it really sank in: the Christmas story. The idea that God, if there is a force of Love and Logic in the universe, that it would seek to explain itself is amazing enough. That it would seek to explain itself and describe itself by becoming a child born in straw poverty, in shit and straw... a child, I just thought: “Wow!” Just the poetry. Unknowable love, unknowable power, describes itself as the most vulnerable. There it was. I was just sitting there, and it's not that it hadn't struck me before, but tears came down my face, and I saw the genius of this, utter genius of picking a particular point in time and deciding to turn on this. It’s actually logical. Essence has to manifest itself. It’s inevitable. Love has to become an action or something concrete. It would have to happen. There must be an incarnation. Love must be made flesh."

Incarnation. An ethereal feeling or belief... being express as a THING. Hope coming alive. Here are a few ways I think we make gift giving and receiving a little more effective this Christmas:

1) WANT to give: In our culture we spend too much time ignoring and disregarding each other to let a season of GIVING go by and not let it change our hearts. Don't think of people as lists. Think of them as they really are. An important person in need of an incarnation of love. It's not about rich or poor. A human is a human is a human.

2) Think about your gift: It does the soul wrong to just pick out some random, insignificant piece in a store and give it because you have to. Really think about what would tickle someones fancy. Something that would really communicate your feelings for them. It doesn't have to be expensive. It could be words that you've never spoken. It could be time. OR it could be a Macbook. The thing doesn't matter... the spirit of it does.

3) Humble yourself to really receive: You're likely going to be getting a gift this year from someone who can't afford to give you something... but they will because they love you. Don't say, "Oh you didn't have to" and feel guilty. They have intentionally given you a gift that cost them something. Humble yourself and receive it. Acknowledge the warm feeling you get as divine and let it inspire you.

4) Give to someone who doesn't "deserve it": This one is powerful. Think about how The Grinch warms your heart and makes you tear up a little. The Who’s were totally robbed blind on Christmas Eve. But they heaped love on someone who didn't deserve it. It broke The Grinch's heart and cause it to grow. THIS is what a Christmas gift can do.

It's not about what we deserve. It's about what we don't. Culturally... we're out of whack with how we function in giving. Minuscule percentages of people give more than 10% annually while people go hungry around the world and we go into debt at Christmas mindlessly. This is no good. But the answer is not to STOP giving. The answer is MORE giving. The answer is giving more of yourself. Time, Talent AND Treasure. The answer is being intentionally and extravagantly generous on all occasions!

I’d like to invite you to The Living Nativity, two show nightly December 16-18th in Harmony Square. Come and see for yourself the greatest example of generosity our world has ever experienced and let it inspire you to fully participate in the spirit of the season.


rickcarrol said...

Great thoughts.

I think the biggest jump for Western culture needs to be that gifts don't always need to be material. Time, and thought can make a gift so much more meaningful. We limited giving to "what can I buy when what can I do for a person or share with a person can really mean a lot more.

Families that spend a day cooking a meal together to give to another family is win win
Or create an experience for friends by taking them tobboggoning and then a tour of the neighbourhood to look at lights.

Time spent together for the family on both sides teaches so much about what true sacrifice and giving is

Stuart said...


You've said a lot of good stuff here. This time of year is great opportunity to focus on others and give.

Still, I struggle with the world's richest people (comparitively to the rest of the world) giving each other gifts that we don't need. (Talking about myself here too.)

Jesus said, "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbours; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 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." (Luke 14:12-14)

I know you aren't talking about dinners specifically, but when we give to someone in need, who can't pay us back, I think this is the kind of gift that God gave us when he sent his son Jesus to die for our sins. There is no way we can ever pay Him back. I think this is God's kind of gift exchange.

So if we want to follow His example of giving, we would be wise to seek out those who can't pay us back and give a gift that meets a real need.

I think the World Vision and Samaritan's Purse gift catalogues are awesome. Why not give a gift in honour of that person who has everything, and give them the satisfaction and joy of making a difference in the life of a family that is truly in need, on the other side of the world. Or give to an organizaton that makes a difference on the other side of your street.

I have had this joy myself, both in giving and receiving such a gift. But still it's isolated to a few occasions and I feel more and more that we need to take it to another level.

But how do we go about doing that? Do we tell our family and friends, "Please, God has blessed us with so much, and we have everything we need. Please find a family in need and bless them this Christmas."

I'm still working through this myself and also have to keep putting to death the part of me that starts thinking about things that I want, instead of remembering that God supplies everything I need. I know it is so much better to store up treasures in heaven. (If we ever need a reminder of how much this stuff on earth weighs us down, just try moving. It's surprising how much stuff we accumulate. ;)

And like Rick was saying, it's not necessarily about something wrapped up in a bow or slipped inside a card. You can meet someone in their place of need on your street, in the office, in the mall parking lot, or even a family member who needs a helping hand.

I guess my point is that the best gifts meet a need. Whether that is a family member, friend, neighbour, complete stranger or even those we don't get along with or like. And if we really want to do God's kind of gift exchange, the receiver won't have any way of paying you back.

Hey. Who's blog is this anyway? I think I've said enough.


Adam said...

"The answer is being intentionally and extravagantly generous on all occasions!"

I was thinking this as I was reading your blog...and then you said it.
I thought, "Yes, that's what it's all about." I think it's important for us to remember that, yes, we should give at Christmas time, but we should see Christmas time as a reminder of how we need to practice generosity year round!

I've been following your blog. Good thoughts. I don't comment much, but I am reading!

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