It's that time of year again, when visions of sugarplums begin to dance in our heads (Target has their Christmas cards out already, so don't blame me for bringing it up!). And with Christmas and the celebration of the greatest gift God has ever given us, we begin to plan for the gifts we will give and the donations we will make during the upcoming Advent season.
But have you ever stopped to think about why we give presents at Christmas?
We give because He gave.
God has been generous from the very beginning.
Adam and Eve blatantly disobeyed Him, ate from the tree of good and evil, then tried to talk their way out of it. God, of course, doled out a punishment, as any good father would, but He also fashioned them clothes out of animal skins and put into motion a chain of events that would redeem us all, saying to the serpent:
And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel. (Genesis 3:15)
Time and time again throughout the Bible, humans anger and disappoint God, but every time, He forgives them and reminds them of this plan He has started and will see through to the end. Jesus' contemporaries had a hard time seeing the big picture, after all, God's vision is much big than our own, and it isn't until Jesus finally explains it all on the road to Emmaus that the puzzle pieces start to come together (Luke 24:25-27).
Finally, with the birth of Christ, and His eventual death and resurrection, God's plan comes to fruition. He can finally give us the greatest gift we could ever ask for: a Savior and the promise of eternal life spent in His presence. Imagine the joy and excitement it gave Him to give us this gift. Though we don't have to try to imagine it, Luke 2:13-14 says that at Jesus' birth: "there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!'"
God's excitement spilled over onto those shepherds in the field outside of Bethlehem.
If we are, now, to be Christ's hands and feet on earth, generosity, and the joy that comes with it, should be part of everything we do, not just on December 25th, but every day. And we do this not to get anything in return, but because it was God has called us to do.
We give because He gave.
And since we can't give people a relationship with Jesus and the corresponding eternal life, only the work of the Holy Spirit can do that, the next best thing is to open the doors for others to see and hear the truth we have been given through the Bible. In our case, we open doors to Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians to not only hear about the love and generosity of God but to also see it in action through our daily work.
As you make your way through Halloween and Thanksgiving, I pray that this message stays with you. And whether you make a Christmas-time gift to Lutheran Indian Ministries or some other organization, that you do it with a grateful and joy-filled heart, remembering the amazing gift you have been given through our Savior, Jesus Christ.