Celebrating and Giving

Everywhere you go there are signs that Christmas is just around the corner. Christmas lights are beginning to sparkle, decorations are starting to appear in front yards, and Christmas songs are making their way onto the airwaves. You might notice more sale flyers in the mail or your calendar filling up with Christmas parties or community events.

Even as I write this I am having to make a tough decision between two competing Christmas events. I would love to attend both but as there is only one of me that is quite impossible. Either way, my wife and I will be celebrating with many others this Christmas.

On the day Jesus was born the news of his birth was given to shepherds as they tended their flocks at night. As you can imagine, they were pretty excited about the news and headed immediately to Bethlehem to see this for themselves. Luke says that they came quickly. I think they may have even run!

The news that Jesus (Jesus means “Jehovah is salvation”) was born is cause for great celebration. The shepherds could not keep this news to themselves and they told everyone who would listen to them (and perhaps some that would not). They returned “glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen.” That’s what the first Christmas was all about.

When you think back, what was your most memorable Christmas celebration event? Let me tell you about mine.

As a teenager my parents would take the whole family to Banff, Alberta for an event called “International Christmas”. This was an annual event held during the Christmas break specifically designed for university students who had nowhere to go during the Christmas holidays. It was an opportunity to show students why we celebrate Christmas. The activities were run by volunteers who wanted to show international students that they were valued and loved.

This is where I learned how to downhill ski. Others experienced an old fashioned square dance (not me because I was young and afraid that I’d look silly). This is where I saw love demonstrated in the name of Jesus. This is where some students heard, for the first time, about who Jesus is and why we celebrate his birth. What a great idea and what a great place to serve!

What made this event so memorable for me? I could list a few things but undoubtedly the biggest impact for me was two-fold.

First, it was refreshing to see people passionate about giving. Didn’t the Father give His Son at Christmas time? Volunteers would teach skiing, entertain with song, call a square dance, offer transportation. The list could go on and on. I could see it in their faces that to give was so much more satisfying than receiving.

Second, the celebration was truly a celebration of Jesus’ birth. I’m afraid that in this day and age most Christmas parties have very little to do with Jesus.

For this Christmas may we be generous in our giving and joyful as we celebrate Jesus’ birth.