Remember what it was like as a kid anticipating Christmas morning and opening all the neat presents?
As I mentioned Sunday, working in retail for many years started ruining my enjoyment of Christmas. Customers were shown a caring, family-focused, friendly barrage of hospitality (so we could get them to open up their wallets) while we employees were often berated, treated rudely, and yelled at by those same customers. Then, to make things worse, our employer nickeled and dimed over and over again in our commissions while treating us as if we were purposely sabotaging our employer by not generating enough sales. When Christmas was over, we all felt a huge sigh of relief. Yet, this was never the experience and feeling that I wanted to have all season, nor was it the one I remember growing up with.
Then I got married and started having kids. Christmas became fun again as I worked hard to give them too many presents, too much candy, and a lot of joy. I know of people who celebrate the gift-giving part in different ways, but there is really nothing wrong with parents lavishing their love onto their children once in a while. Even Jesus noted in both Matthew 7:11 and Luke 11:13 that parents give good gifts to their children.
But, the Christian life is more than giving good gifts to our kids:
- Acts 20:35 “In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
Now, here’s a complicated one. When did Jesus ever say this? You don’t find it in the four Gospels, the beginning of Acts, or in Revelation where He is directly quoted.
Well, remembering that every word of the Bible is inspired, inerrant, and infallible, that means Paul was given information that the Holy Spirit wanted written down. He was also a companion of Luke who wrote most of the New Testament (volume-wise) by writing the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. Luke had already advised that he had done quite a bit of research for His Gospel account:
- Luke 1:1-4 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.
In the Book of Acts he again was writing to Theophilus, and was also accompanying Paul. It is safe to say that while Paul may have heard it from the other apostles, he could have also heard this quote from Luke himself. Nevertheless, the main point of the matter is Jesus said this and it is the truth of His Word.
Now look at the verse and see what Paul says: “help the weak”. We, as Christians, need to selflessly help those who cannot help themselves. That is a testimony of our Lord pouring out of us. Orphans, widows, those affected by sex trafficking, the poor, the mentally incapacitated, the physically disabled, the elderly, shut-ins, and the list goes on. We are to serve, serve, serve! Remember the words of Jesus:
- Mark 10:45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
And, after saying we should “help the weak”, Paul then quotes Jesus saying that it is more blessed to give than to receive. More blessed means what? It means to be happy. We are happy when we are giving. We are fulfilled.
Isaiah 9 (our passage Sunday) tells us that “a son will be given to us”. Isn’t this Messianic prophecy the same thing as John 3:16? (God loved the world and gave His Son). And, back to Mark 10:45 we see that Jesus gave Himself as well. God loves to lavish gifts on His children, but it started before we were His by Him giving us the gift of salvation!
Christmas for the Christian should be about twofold giving: Giving of ourselves in service to others, and giving of the Gospel to the lost and dying world. Jesus was our great example, and to be a “Christ-follower” (the popular term used by many today), it would behoove us to actually follow His example. We will be happier for it, and those we’ve blessed will be as well.
- In what ways can you give of yourself this Christmas season? (hint- Jimean needs bell ringers for the Salvation Army) ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Do you find great joy in giving to others? _______________________
- If you’re a Scrooge, then this is a heart issue that you need to deal with on your knees.
- While there is nothing wrong with giving great gifts to others, think about some worthwhile, important gifts you could give to people (think in terms of things that will affect their spiritual lives): ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- And, don’t forget that the gift of the Gospel is important most of all. For our Dec 22 Christmas Friend Day invite, who are some of the people you can be inviting to hear the Gospel this month? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________