It’s that crazy time of year– people rushing around, buying gifts for everyone, and frantically wrapping all the presents in time for Christmas. It’s sheer pandemonium, trying to get it all done.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Why do we give gifts?
The tradition of giving gifts at Christmas actually stems from the Bible, when the magi came and gave gifts to Jesus:
When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:10-11)
Frankincense was used in Jewish worship, gold was associated with rulers, and myrrh was used in rituals with those who had died. These gifts were to acknowledge the birth of the King of Kings, to worship him, and to foretell of his future sacrifice for the world.
So, basically, the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas originated with worship, reverence, and awe of Jesus.
Gift giving becomes something else….
But our consumer culture has co-opted this tradition. It’s origin in Jesus has turned into a buying frenzy, in which many people actually go into debt to buy more and more things for friends and family. I’m pretty sure that this is not what the magi had in mind when they brought gifts to Jesus.
Even if we go to Christmas Eve worship, even if we sing Christmas carols, even if we talk about Jesus as the “reason for the season,” it is so easy to get swept up in the consumer culture and buy tons of stuff for people who don’t need it. We can totally bypass the origin of why we give gifts in the first place– to honor Jesus.
How can we honor Jesus through our gift giving?
The best way to give glory to God through gift giving is by first remembering that Jesus is the ultimate gift. That is what is most important.
Christmas is not about buying the best gifts for everyone on our list and spending a ridiculous amount of money. It’s about celebrating the birth of Jesus, God’s gift to us.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
God came to live among us in human flesh when Jesus was born that first Christmas day. Love came to be in our midst when that tiny bundle of joy cried out for the first time, showing us that God had come to live as we do, to show us how to love and how to be loved.
Our mighty Savior was a small baby boy, born in a hole-in-the wall stable in the tiny town of Bethlehem, to a small-town teenage mother. This tiny baby boy would grow up to be the Savior of the world, the one who takes away our sins and dies for us so that we can be free and live with God always.
How can we think about gift giving as a Christian minimalist?
As you think about giving presents this Christmas season, ask yourself:
- How is my gift giving honoring Jesus?
- How can I better use my God-given resources to the glory of God?
- Could it be by gifting less material things and more experiences, consumables, or donations to charity?
- Could it be by placing more importance on spending time with loved ones rather than spending money on them?
- How can I focus on what’s most important (Jesus) and intentionally remove everything else (accumulating material goods, etc.)?
It is said that good things come in small packages.
Well, the greatest gift of all, Jesus Christ, came in the smallest package we could imagine– a tiny infant. This Advent and Christmas, let us be reminded of how God gifted to us what is most important in our lives: Jesus.