A young mother stands in a long line at Wal-mart around four p.m. on Christmas Eve. Her basket bears a number of small toys and gifts obviously for toddlers and small children. In addition, she has loaded in a few luxury items like a quart of eggnog and Christmas cookies, but as she waits she appears to be counting her cash against her purchases to make sure she has enough.
At one point, she reaches into the basket and takes out a small toy and places it on the rack of magazines and candy. There just isn’t enough money to go around. As she counts her currency again to finalize her count, and older gentleman steps up and smiles. He leans over and whispers, “I hope this helps your family have a merry Christmas” while he slips a one-hundred dollar bill into her hand. As quickly as he appeared he disappears into the crowded store.
The young mother stands there speechless. A tear creases her cheek as she looks around to say thank you, but her “Christmas angel” is gone. Her lips turn up with a smile and she reaches out and takes the “lost” toy back from the magazine rack and places it back in the basket. Christmas came early, even before Santa Claus had time to make it from the North Pole to her apartment.
God, our Father in heaven, gave the first and best Christmas gift of all wrapped up in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. The wise men traveled from afar and after worshipping at the feet of the toddler Jesus opened their treasures of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Who knows maybe the little drummer boy really did play a concert for the infant king? Christmas equals giving.
In the book of Acts, Paul shares his heart with his dear friends in Ephesus before his departure for Jerusalem. He sensed deep down in his soul that this would probably be his last time to talk to his companions.
Interestingly, his final comments revolved around a statement of Jesus uttered only from the lips of Paul and not found in the four gospels. Paul declared:
“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” (Acts 20:35 NIV)
Jesus nailed it. Giving beats getting any day of the week, and twice on Tuesday! Several years ago I overheard a press conference with Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Community Church in Orange County California. He spoke about the addiction of “greed” in our American culture. At that point, Warren pointed out to the secular media that the only antidote for greed is “generosity.”
Let me encourage you to be generous this Christmas. Generosity appears at Christmas in all kinds of shapes and sizes. For some of us who have far more than we need, we need to give freely and widely. For others of us who struggle to make ends meet, our gift may be time, a listening ear, a hug, a smile, or a whispered prayer. All of us can give this Christmas, so let’s get caught up in the spirit of Christmas by giving just like our Heavenly Father does.
Giving will cost you something of value, but what you will receive in return will be priceless. Merry Christmas!