Start a Tradition of Giving This Year

Now that the wreckage of Christmas morning is now settled into piles of colored paper, with loose scraps skulking in the corners and under the couch, and the food-induced coma from a hefty lunch is beginning to wane, the children—ever energetic—are beginning to come down off their dopamine high from the frenzy of gift opening this morning. The widget that seemed so enticing at 8AM is now, perhaps, stuck in a couch cushion and the thrill of the hunt—the search for the last present under the tree—has faded.

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Before the boredom of the day sets in and the squabbling over taking turns with the gifts of another, consider taking the time to reinforce the power of giving on Christmas.

Of course, in all likelihood, this was planned before hand with kids picking out trinkets for loved ones in the store or helping to wrap the presents for Mom and Dad. But so many of our gifts are from people with much to people that have much. Though there are certainly exceptions, Christmas tends to be a day of excess, where some of that excess flows over in generosity for those with little real need.

To help combat this, several years ago we started a tradition in our family. It certainly isn’t earth shattering or worthy of high esteem, but it is a method to help all of us, and especially the kids, remember that our abundance is far from universal and, within the broader history of humanity, is an extreme rarity.

Our tradition is to assign a certain amount of money to each child for the purpose of giving through a charitable organization. For consistency and because I believe in their mission, we use the Compassion gift catalog.

For those of you who aren’t already on their mailing list, consider clicking here to go to their online gift catalog. Pass the tablet to your children or bring them alongside you as you look through the options.

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Given that the average American household who gives any gifts on Christmas planned on spending $962 this year, another $50 or even $300  that will help those with legitimate needs is not an overly large gift. One practice that I’ve heard commended is giving the amount of the largest single gift for a person or group to some missions or aid organization.

More significant than the actual gift, however, is the act of giving. I think there is power even in clicking on one’s choice of gift for someone really in need, even while the aroma of ham, turkey, and mashed potatoes permeates the space of you abundance.

NOTE: Images on this page are courtesy of the International Mission Board: https://www.imb.org/photo-library/

Christmas - It's Going to Be Alright

It’s going to be alright.

That’s the message of Christmas.

It isn’t toys, tinsel, and turkey.

It’s going to be alright.

Whether it happened in December or not, God came down to earth and took on human flesh. He was born in poverty, worked with his hands, and lived a perfect life. He did this to repeal the curse laid on all creation due to Adam’s sin. He did this to reconcile all things to himself and restore all things on our behalf and for his own glory.

Used by CC License. Photo Credit:  http://ow.ly/Docz307pVri

Used by CC License. Photo Credit: http://ow.ly/Docz307pVri

It’s going to be alright.

We take this celebration and make it about stuff. We ratchet up the anxiety by trying to make it perfect and make sure our house becomes paradise for our kids and our families for a day. We get together with people we rarely see and who we may not like. We make it about so much that isn’t the point.

It’s going to be alright.

God knew. He knew what Pontius Pilate would do to his son. He knew what would happen to Christians in Rome. He knew what we would do to one another, sometimes in his name. He knew what we would do even though we know it dishonors him. But he sent his son anyway.

It’s going to be alright.

Jesus knew that for a moment it would feel as if he were separated from the the Father and the Spirit. He knew that as the righteous wrath of God was poured out on him on our behalf that the earth would tremble and the sun would go dark. He knew that the world would stand on a knife’s edge of existence as he who knew no sin became sin so that we could become the righteousness of God.

It’s going to be alright.

Jesus knew that though he had paved the path for sinners to be redeemed, many would hear the gospel and ignore it. He knew that many would find the pearl of great price and yet not tell anyone about their joy. He knew that he was giving a mission to unworthy servants bound to fail him. He came. He died. He did it anyway.

It’s going to be alright.

He knew you. He knew me. Even in our mother’s wombs, he knit us together. It was for our sake that he was slain before the foundation of the world. He knew exactly what you need. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness. He prepared good works in advance that we should walk in them.

It’s going to be alright.

He gave us this ministry of reconciliation. He gave us the gospel. He gave us testimony of his humanity. He lived a human life just like ours, tempted in every way we are but without sin. He gave us faith, hope, and love. He called us to be holy as he is holy.

It’s going to be alright.

It’s Christmas. It’s a day to celebrate the alrightness from God. It’s a day to rejoice in his goodness and mercy. It’s a day to celebrate the future hope we have in our redemption, the redemption that all creation eagerly longs for. It’s a day to celebrate the majesty of undeserved, unconditional, irresistible, hallelujah inspiring grace.

It’s going to be alright.

The Gospel of Christmas

Christmas is not about presents. It isn’t about family gatherings, trees, human love, happiness, or world peace.

Christmas is about the incarnation of God himself. It is, therefore, about the renewal of all of creation.

Used unaltered by creative commons license: http://ow.ly/Whq4d 

Used unaltered by creative commons license: http://ow.ly/Whq4d 

There is nothing wrong with celebrating with family, having a tree, showing love, being happy, or striving toward peace. In many ways these things point toward the renewal of all creation.

However, Christmas is not merely about these things, but about the rich abundance that lies behind these things.

Christmas is about the gospel. The gospel made real, physical, tangible, and complete.

The Christmas Gospel

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth through his spoken word. He made everything from nothing and at the end of his flurry of creative acts, he declared it all very good.

He even made two humans to be like him, and to represent him in miniature on the earth. They were made in his very image.

However, that didn’t last very long because the first humans, Adam and Eve, messed it up by disobeying the one rule that God had given them. They didn’t take God at his word; instead they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

As a result, God sent death into the world. Adam and Eve would surely die. So would all of their children and their children’s children.

God also cursed the ground to remind all humans that things aren’t the way they were supposed to be. Thorns, thistles, and other weeds make the process of making a living from the earth harder. They remind us of what is wrong with the world. They keep us hoping for something better that is to come.

The world got a glimpse of that better something a few thousand years ago in the form of a human child born in unlikely circumstances. That child was Jesus, God’s anointed one, and the Word of God himself.

The one who had created all things and who holds all things together stepped down into creation to become part of it and bear the curse of the whole creation to set it free from the penalty of sin.

According to Athanasius,


He, the Mighty One, the Artificer of all, Himself prepared this body in the virgin as a temple for Himself, and took it for His very own, as the instrument through which He was known and in which He dwelt. Thus, taking a body like our own, because all our bodies were liable to the corruption of death, He surrendered His body to death in place of all, and offered it to the Father. This He did out of sheer love for us, so that in His death all might die, and the law of death thereby be abolished because, when He had fulfilled in His body that for which it was appointed, it was thereafter voided of its power for men. This He did that He might turn again to incorruption men who had turned back to corruption, and make them alive through death by the appropriation of His body and by the grace of His resurrection. Thus He would make death to disappear from them as utterly as straw from fire.


And in wiping away the effects of the curse from humans, Jesus also loosed the creation from the effects of sin.

Thus, “the renewal of creation has been wrought by the Self-same Word Who made it in the beginning.”

This hasn’t yet taken effect in full.

Romans 8:19-23 tells us:

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

The Christmas story is a historical account of how God made possible the redemption of all things from the effects of human sin. Both Luke and Matthew tell us what happened in a dusty Middle Eastern town two millennia ago, but their accounts also point beyond the details of the story to the hope that should invigorate our celebration.

Conclusion

Enjoy this Christmas. Enjoy the cookies, candy canes, ugly sweaters, and weird relatives. Enjoy the toys, the tinsel, and the many cultural accretions that have accumulated around the day.

Enjoy these things all the more because they point toward the greater hope we have in the coming renewal of all creation because Christ’s incarnation made possible the redemption of all things from the effects of sin.