Giving gifts seems an essential part of our Christmas celebrations today. However, because of the commercialism and materialism that often accompany this tradition, some Christians are wondering if this practice has any scriptural basis. Are believers free to enjoy Christmas trees and all the brightly colored packages waiting to be opened early Christmas morning? Although it’s true many of our traditions have been corrupted, I don’t believe this alone is a good reason to eliminate the opportunity Christmas offers for generosity. There’s no other time of year that allows us to so openly demonstrate our appreciation and love for others in both tangible and intangible ways.
Since some practices associated with gift giving at Christmas are obviously contrary to biblical principles, we must be careful. For example, you should never fill your credit cards with purchases you really can’t afford. Trying to keep up with what the world considers the perfect Christmas gifts will only lead to financial heartache. Furthermore, your motive for giving must be right. Are you giving simply because you feel obligated, or are you demonstrating genuine love and appreciation? God wants us to be joyful givers who delight in blessing others.
As we contemplate how the Lord would have us celebrate Christ’s birth, let’s consider what Scripture teaches. Although the Bible doesn’t directly address our practice of giving gifts to one another, the Christmas story offers us an interesting perspective: Everyone involved in Christ’s birth gave something.
First of all, Mary gave her body to bear God's Son (Luke 1:26-38). As a young woman engaged to Joseph, she probably had her own hopes and dreams. But when the angel Gabriel brought news of God’s plans for her life, she laid down her own plans and submitted to His. In yielding her life to the Lord’s will, she also gave her reputation. In those days, an engagement was as binding as a marriage, even though the couple’s union was not yet consummated. To be found pregnant during this time was a shameful thing. Whispers undoubtedly flew around town and could very well have been accompanied by open condemnation. As Christians, we should follow Mary’s example and give ourselves fully to the Lord—even if doing so results in being misunderstood by others.
Second, the shepherds gave their testimony about the newborn Messiah (Luke 2:8-18). Upon hearing the birth announcement from an angel and seeing a heavenly host praising God, they left their sheep and hurried to find the baby. However, they didn’t keep the good news to themselves; they let everyone know about the angelic message and the birth of the promised Messiah.
Christmas is the perfect time for us to give others the gift of truth by telling them about Christ and what He’s done in our lives. I remember, when I was 12 years old, a pastor visited my home to encourage me to become a Christian. At the time, I really didn’t understand all that he said. But God would later use his words and a revival meeting to open my heart to Jesus. That pastor planted a seed in my life that is still bearing fruit in my service to God today.
Third, the wise men gave gifts to Jesus (Matt. 2:1-12). These men were more than likely astrologers or philosophers who traveled all the way from Persia (modern day Iran). They arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him” (v. 2). Isn’t it amazing that these distant Gentiles were more aware of what God was doing in Israel than the Jews were? They must have caused quite a stir with their arrival and unusual question. Upon finding the Child, Scripture tells us the wise men first fell down and worshipped Him; then they offered Him presents of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. In all of our Christmas celebrations, we too should first offer Jesus our worship. When we begin by focusing on Christmas as a time to adore Him, all of the traditions we enjoy take on deeper significance.
And most importantly, God gave His Son on Christmas (John 3:16). As a result of the Father’s gift to us, everyone who believes in Jesus receives complete forgiveness of sins and eternal life. If God demonstrated His love by giving us the gift of His Son, I believe we too have the privilege of showing our love to others by giving them gifts (1 John 4:10-11).
So what are you going to give others this Christmas? Remember, gifts don’t have to cost money or be wrapped in a box. How about giving your time? Maybe someone you know would appreciate a call or visit. Rather than spending all your money on gifts for family and friends, why not help someone who’s in financial need? Instead of merely singing “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” how about going next door to tell your neighbor about Jesus Christ? Ask the Lord to make you sensitive to His leading and to give you courage to walk through the doors He has opened. As you reach out to others and broaden your giving this Christmas, I know for certain your joy will increase.
Charles F. Stanley
P.S. I’d like to wish each of you a very merry Christmas as you celebrate Christ’s birth. May God’s gift of His Son enrich your spirit during this joyous season and throughout the coming year. Thank you for partnering with In Touch Ministries as we seek to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to a lost world.