When I think about this Christmas season and it’s meaning to me, there are many thoughts all collected from seasons past and from experiences that have led me to this day in my life. One of the most prominent traditions we celebrate at Christmas time is the giving of gifts. I’m reminded during this season of the Christmas story and Christ’s birth, and how wise men, shepherds and even the little drummer boy came to “worship” the King of Kings and offered Him what they had. To truly “worship”, we have to sacrifice something. To really bring an offering, it has to “cost” us something. Gifts we give to family, friends, and business associates at Christmas time are nice. But they are usually not always offerings of sacrifice. Yes, sometimes we sacrifice our hard earned money, or even time, but do they really “cost” us something? Have we really made a sacrifice?
I wonder what kind of worship went on at the manger scene. The Bible tells us that they “worshipped Him” and gave Him gifts. When we worship God, whether that be in a church worship service singing songs, or what I would like to consider worship – living a daily lifestyle of worship in everything that we do – simply singing or even lifting our hands isn’t always a “sacrifice” for us. Our whole heart, soul, and physical being has to be engaged. We need to bring a “sacrifice of praise”. I’ve gotten to the point in my “musical aspect” of worship that those actions have become “comfortable” to me. Now I have to go past that, not just with my heart engaged. Because of my humanity, sometimes I don’t come to worship really wanting to be there or don’t quite feel up to it. This becomes a sacrifice to me at times because I have to give up what I want to give God what He deserves. He deserves my worship whether I feel like it or am in a good frame of mind at that time, or not. Worship goes beyond music, or singing, or gathering together corporately. It goes beyond giving our gifts, our time, our resources or living out our calling. It is how we live our every day life to honor Christ in all that we do. I’ll be honest and confess, I still need to learn to sacrifice in many different areas of my life. I need to sacrifice my pride, my ego, my desires and wants to allow someone else to benefit. It is easy for me to give things to people, but when it comes to what really counts, I still have a long way to go. And don’t we all?
One of the biggest things that we are last to surrender is our pride. Pride is the biggest offender in many of us. We are not too eager to come to someone we’ve hurt or offended and truly feel remorse and repent of what we’ve done to them or against them. Even if we feel that our actions were justified. Even if we feel that they got bent out of shape over something silly. Our pride keeps us from reconciling; from giving someone another chance; from admitting when we were wrong; from admitting when we were self-seeking and used our influence or position to gain something for ourselves when we could have given someone else an opportunity. It happens in many different forms, but when we do these things, we are stealing from God. We are taking something from Him that He intended us to “give” as an offering of worship towards Him, for someone else’s life. It was an opportunity God gave us to truly “sacrifice”, but we missed the mark. We took it for ourselves. Then we go as far as trying to make up for it with our good deeds. “See what I’m doing for you God? This should make up for it.” But it doesn’t. We still didn’t make the “sacrifice” God originally wanted us to make. We offered Him nothing that He didn’t already have. Our gift was just that…a gift, not something that was an “offering of sacrifice that costs us something.”
I honestly do not like the obligations we place on ourselves to give gifts at Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE to give gifts! Probably more than receiving them now. But many times more than not, we are simply giving out of expectation, obligation, tradition, and not from the depths of our hearts towards others. And a lot of times, people will never truly appreciate or be thankful for what we’ve given them anyway. Where’s the return receipt!??! I’m not saying to stop giving gifts, whether tangibly or in your spirit towards others. It’s a good practice and sometimes, just like when we come to worship and don’t feel like it, we still have to start singing, lifting our hands, jumping and dancing to get us back on track and into the motion of worship. We eventually catch up with our hearts. And that’s when the sacrifice becomes real.
I’ve taken a gift giving inventory in my life of the people I should have sacrificed a little more for to honor God. I’m disappointed with myself, but still working on it. The biggest gift of all is what’s coming to me and you if we do what we’re really supposed to do. The gift of “Peace, Goodwill, Comfort and Joy” and all that other good stuff we talk about at Christmas. Where is your gift-o-meter pointing in your life? Just a gift? Or has it cost you something?