God’s suggestions for gift givingPublished 10:27am Thursday, December 12, 2013
By Rev. Jonathan Yarboro
Greetings from the corner of Bridge and Bridge! Only 13 shopping days until Christmas! Have you found the perfect gift for everyone on your list yet?
There are as many approaches to Christmas shopping as there are options for Christmas gifts. Some folks plan incessantly. Others scour the sales circulars in search of the absolute best deal.
Some procrastinate. Others are completely finished with their shopping before the first decoration gets put up. All of this happens in the name of making ourselves and others happy.
The worlds of the sacred and the secular are often at odds during the season of Advent. Religious leaders bemoan the continued encroachment of our consumer economy into the preparation for and celebration of the birth of Christ.
The rhetoric at times becomes hostile and judgmental. Finding the peace of Christ can be challenging this time of year.
As a pastor, I can understand why this happens. The season of Advent is one of the busiest in the life of the church, as it should be. Most congregations participate in special ministries in December, and finding the time to prepare and implement those ministries is a challenge. Funding these ministries in trying economic times is an additional challenge.
Have you ever wondered if the Bible has anything to say that might help navigate the confusion? Is it appropriate to even bother God with the limits of our understanding? You might be surprised at what you find if you are willing to look.
First, we have impeccable wisdom regarding the spirit of the giver. In giving humanity the gift of grace, God freely gives without reservation or condition. The gift of grace is freely given to all, with no expectation of anything in return.
Second, God knows our every need. God’s gifts of blessing address those needs. They are not concerned with our wants. God is wise enough to leave the satisfaction of human want to us. God regularly provides everything we need, not just to survive, but to thrive.
Third, by addressing needs rather than wants, God empowers us to be the people God created us to be. God’s gifts are not intended for us alone. They are always given in abundance so there is always enough blessing to share.
Finally, God’s giving is seldom what we expect. As a result, we always have reason to be surprised. I don’t care what anyone says to the contrary, surprises always make the best gifts.
As you navigate the holiday season, take a moment to think about God’s model for giving. God so loved the world that God came into the world in human form to show us what the life of faith makes possible. Jesus Christ, God’s gift of example to all, encouraged everyone he encountered to love others as we are loved by God.
Jesus led by example. Jesus greeted everyone God placed in his path with the love and compassion God has for the whole of humanity. In doing so, Jesus witnessed to that love, no matter what he was doing. What an incredible gift.
The things we do for others are important, as is the motivation behind our actions. However, our efforts will always pale in comparison to what God does, and that is OK.
Do the things that make you happy during Advent and Christmas. Know the things God does offer much more than happiness. God’s giving redeems, restores and relocates the lost. Think about it.
The Rev. Jonathan Yarboro is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Wetumpka.