The Christmas Gift

The Christmas gift

The tradition of giving Christmas gifts

Some do not agree with celebrating Christmas, and if that is you, you might not want to take your time reading this. For others, however, please read on. Over the fifty Christmases I have been in church, I have heard many messages that addressed the giving of Christmas gifts. What I have heard about Christmas gift-giving is usually not talked about with enthusiasm. Instead, it is with a warning of materialism.

The warning of being materialistic.

When it comes to giving Christmas gifts, it seems there is a hint of Gnosticism. What I mean is that there is always a warning against materialism. It is as if material things are evil. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that is the complete view. But the idea is in there because you will hear a warning against materialism. 

The warning against tradition.

This topic goes far beyond giving Christmas gifts, so let me address this succinctly. Jesus spoke against tradition many times, which caused many to develop a wrong idea about traditions. A closer look will reveal that Jesus was concerned with tradition getting in the way of doing the right thing. The right thing is what God commanded us to do.

Let’s understand legalism.

Because Jesus spoke against tradition and Paul spoke about being free from the law, many have wrongly concluded that any standard of conduct or dress is legalism. Legalism is not a church having standards of conduct! Legalism lets those standards get in the way of following God’s will. Legalism is not having rules or traditions that go against your desires.

God is one hundred percent for traditions.

Read the Mosaic law, and you will see hundreds of rules, including dress, cleanliness, sacrifice, etc. God was not trying to see how miserable He could make the Jewish people’s lives. God knows we live in a material world; He created us as material beings. Therefore, we need tangible, physical things to remind ourselves of spiritual things. Why are we commanded to eat a physical piece of bread and drink the fruit of the vine?

Let me bring these thoughts together.

We need tradition to help us remember things. Thoughts that are not put into practice are often forgotten. Traditions are not bad as long as they do not override truth and goodness. We are only free from the Old Testament laws because it would be impossible to keep them without a temple and in countries that do not practice them. How could a Roman slave rest on the Sabbath if his master forbade it?

The church without tradition is lost.

Because it is impractical to keep all the practices Moses gave, it does not mean a church should not have their own traditions. A church will be ineffective and dead if it does not adopt certain acceptable behavior standards.

“Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.”

2 Thessalonians 3:6

The tradition of giving Christmas gifts should be celebrated.

Instead of the continual warnings against Christmas gift-giving as a covetous topic, why don’t we celebrate it? Sure, there is commercialization of Christmas, and we need to be careful about that. It could be that we have spent so much time trying to stop the evil that we have failed to see the joy of it. Maybe people will get the proper perspective if we spend more time talking positively about giving Christmas gifts.

Here is my understanding of the giving of Christmas gifts.

Christmas celebrates God sending His Son, Jesus Christ, into our world. We have access to eternal life in His future kingdom through that gift.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

John 3:16

Giving Christmas gifts is a tradition and a physical thing we do to remind ourselves of God’s blessing. Just as the Jews offer sacrifices to remind them that the wages of sin are death, the Christmas gift reminds us that the grace of God is life. God’s gift came at a great price, not only for God but even for Joseph and Mary. We should never think of giving a Christmas gift as a hassle or an expense. Sure, we do not need to go into debt for this tradition, but on the other hand, if it costs you nothing, the power of symbolic gesture has little wait. 

“All these things did Araunah, as a king, give unto the king. And Araunah said unto the king, The Lord thy God accept thee. 24 And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.”

2 Samuel 24:23–24

When we give a Christmas gift, it should be an offering to God. We cannot give anything to God except to His people in His name. So please see the wonder and joy in giving Christmas gifts. Do not let the hassle of finding or making the right gift get in the way of giving. Let it remind you of how precious God’s gift to you is. Let this Christmas and every Christmas until we meet our Lord be a joyous occasion. 

The Christmas gift is given out of grace.

When my children were growing up, I never threatened to hold back their gifts based on their behavior. If giving a Christmas gift is symbolic of God’s gift to us, then it must be given unconditionally by grace. It makes the gift of works like the Satan (oops! Santa) thing where you are on a naughty and nice list. That is how the world sees salvation. As the average person, if they are going to heaven, they will most likely say I think I have been a good person. Don’t think for a moment that their understanding hasn’t been influenced by the tale of Santa Claus.

You can listen to my podcast episode here.

Life is won or lost in the mind!