A wealthy Easterner wanted to outdo his Texas cousin in sending a gift to their grandmother. He purchased a zirkah bird that could speak five languages and sing three operatic arias. He forked over $25,000 for that unique bird and sent it to his grandmother. He just knew his Texas cousin would never come up with a gift so unique. He was on pins and needles all day on Christmas. Every time the phone rang he just knew it had to be grandma thanking him for his gift. She never called. So on the day after Christmas, when he could stand it no longer, he called her. "Grandma," he asked, "how did you like the zirkah bird?"
"It was delicious!" she responded.
Tis the season to be giving. But giving in this season too easily gets out of hand. For far too many, Christmas gift giving has become little more than an annual materialistic orgy. Lists a mile long. Debt a mile high. Greed a mile deep. Some of us will spend a fortune giving gifts to people who don't need anything because they already have everything. Others of us will run up charge card bills so high that we'll still be paying off this Christmas next Christmas. And we have the nerve to attach the name of Christ to this pagan spirit by calling our giving—Christ-mas giving. I fear that the giving more often than not gets in the way of Christ.
Some blame the wise men from the East for this tradition of Christmas. Gold, frankincense, and myrrh were elaborate gifts in those days. Of course, the recipient was the birthday boy rather than all his friends. The wise men gave wise gifts that many speculate were used to finance the holy family’s hasty trip and brief exile in Egypt when an angel sent word that Herod wanted to run a sword through their baby boy. Wise gifts indeed.
Perhaps our best gifts at Christmas would be gifts from the heart: gifts that come with no receipt, gifts that no one will want to return, gifts that are always the perfect size. Gifts like these …
Call, write, or visit someone who really wants to hear from you.
Play games or do something with your kids
just because you know they want to be with you for a while.
Show up at a nursing home with a checkerboard
and challenge all comers to a game.
Choose someone from the church’s homebound list, drop by, and say, “I’ve seen your name on the list for a long time, and I thought I’d drop by and meet you personally.” If you’ve got kids, take them with you and
maybe even do a little family caroling while you’re there.
Rake leaves for a neighbor who, for whatever reason,
is unable to get to it this year.
Take the time to encourage a co-worker who appears lonely or down.
Let someone else have the last word for a change.
Give a New Testament to some unchurched neighbors and ask them
how you can pray for them in the Christmas season.
Say something nice to someone you like,
and say something nice to someone you don’t like.
Take time to thank the people who serve you regularly:
like the cashier at the store or the donut shop
or the waitress at a restaurant you frequent.
Talk to someone who has hurt you and say,
“Here’s the present I want to give you: I forgive you.”
Give generously to Angel Tree or the Salvation Army or Toys for Tots
so that those who have no gifts will have something for Christmas—
and then make this kind of generosity a year-long habit
rather than an annual event.
In my Southern Baptist tradition, we like to give a generous offering
to the Lottie Moon Offering for International Missions
so more people in the world can hear the gospel.
Instead of buying someone a tie they don’t need, a sweater they won’t wear, or a trinket that will get tossed in a drawer and forgotten, why don’t you make a donation to that person’s favorite charity in that person’s name and honor.
That’s a way of multiplying the impact and effect of your giving
and bringing joy to the one in whose name you give.
And then once in a while, set places at your table for those
who would otherwise be alone at theirs.
Do you know anyone who could be blessed by these gifts of the heart? And wasn’t Christmas a gift from God’s heart to ours?
A five-year-old girl was all caught up in the excitement of Christmas. She couldn't wait to see what was in all the presents. But after yet another round of inspecting each gift under the tree, she noticed something troubling and asked her mom about it: "Mommy, if Christmas is Jesus' birthday, how come there are no presents for Jesus under the tree?" Her mother tried to explain it, and the little girl seemed satisfied enough.
But on Christmas Eve, just before bedtime, the girl put a package under the tree. Her mom, knowing nothing about it, asked who the present was for. "It's for Jesus," said the girl. "I'm sure He'll like it a lot."
After the girl was snugly asleep in her bed … while visions of sugarplums danced in her head … the mother decided to investigate this gift for Jesus. She didn't want her daughter to be disappointed, so she opened the clumsily wrapped package. Do you know what was in it? Nothing. Not one thing was in that box. "Hmm …" thought the mother to herself.
Soon it was Christmas morning. The little girl looked first for her package for Jesus. She was thrilled that it was open and the gift gone. "Honey, what was in that package anyway?" asked the confused mother. Said the little girl, "It was a box full of love!"
A box full of love. Tis the season to be giving. And heart-gifts like that are what real Christmas giving is all about.