December 13, 2013


When our son Andre was 6 or 7 years old, he discovered thatcelebrating Christ’s birth is as much about giving as it is about receiving. So before we headed to the mall to buy presents, he announced that he was going to buy presents for everyone in our family—everyone.

We had told him and Erica, our daughter, that we’d give them each $10 to buy gifts for whomever they wanted. After he made up his list, which included two sets of grandparents, four uncles, four aunts, six cousins, a sister, and Mom and Dad, Andre would have about 50 cents to spend on each gift.

We watched him as he went undeterred into store after store, zeroing in on what cost 50 cents or less. I didn’t think he could do it, but by the time we went home he had gifts for everyone on his list. That year everybody in the family got something from Andre. Granted, they weren’t the types of gifts you’d keep in a safe place and hand down to the next generation, but they were given in a spirit of generosity rarely found these days.

As the years go by, we discover that gift giving is not at all as simple and uncomplicated as it should be. We don’t give gifts simply because we love someone and want to express that with an act of bigheartedness. Too often we give gifts to make a statement about our generosity, or to masquerade a lack of interest or involvement during the rest of the year.

Thankfully, we don’t have to worry that the gifts we receive from God come from anything less than pure motives. In fact, the challenge is not in believing He has our best interests at heart; the challenge is recognizing His love, mercy, and justice in the people and events that surround us day by day.

The world is a dark and increasingly violent place. The gap between the haves and the have-nots grows wider every year. Evil seems to prosper, and virtue often seems to go unnoticed.

Yet the message of this season—indeed, the message of the everlasting gospel—is that God’s Spirit is always at work, silently, stealthily accomplishing God’s purposes. Just because we don’t always recognize His activity, that doesn’t mean it isn’t always there.

Simple gifts have been known to change the world: a baby born in a manger; a few fish and a few loaves of bread; a widow’s two coins; several dozen people gathered in one place.

We should never disparage small gifts or bemoan the fact that they have no great, apparent value or that they often go unnoticed. A handwritten note; a phone call; an impromptu hallway conversation; helping someone with groceries; these are the building blocks God uses to demonstrate His character. His generosity is revealed in the way we embrace heavenly values and put them into practice every day.

When people ask about the Spirit of the season, tell them—no, show them—that it’s the same Spirit who moves in each of our lives throughout the year. When we give, serve, and speak in the Spirit of Christ, that’s the gift that keeps on giving!