Try something extravagant
Ace Collins has written more than 60 books, including many on the music and traditions of Christmas. In his book, Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas, Collins devotes a chapter to the giving of gifts. As we might expect, Matthew’s reference to the Magi from the East bringing gifts to Jesus is the launching point for our modern Christmas tradition of giving.
One of the Magi gave the gift of gold. Collins reminds us, "To give gold to a baby would have been all but unheard of, unless, of course, that child was a king." The extravagance of that gift was certainly appropriate.
But, is it appropriate for us to give each other such gifts while we celebrate the birth of the Savior? Is Christmas a celebration of Jesus, or is it a celebration of us? I believe the answer is pretty obvious when we look at American giving patterns.
Christmas is the biggest commercial holiday of the year, characterized by spending, spending and more spending. I heard one retailer say that 70 percent of their annual sales happen in December.
I gathered the following information from several sources:
♦ This year $6.5 billion will be spent on Christmas cards.
♦ This year $6 billion will be spent on Christmas decorations.
♦ Americans will spend an average of $800 per person for Christmas presents.
♦ Given the population of 314 million people in U.S., we will spend $251.2 billion on each other.
Is there a gift for the King of Kings?
We should give gifts that define the reason for the coming of the babe in Bethlehem. The reason, according to His own words, is this: "for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10, NKJV). I should ask, "Does my gift define the reason for the Savior’s coming?"
What would be an appropriate gift of extravagance for the Savior? Let’s start with the amount we will give each other, approximately $800. There are 16 million Southern Baptists. Since we can’t find half of them, let’s just assume there are at least eight million of us. If eight million Baptists gave $800 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, the International Mission Board would receive a gift of $6.4 billion this year. That is 36 times greater than the 2013 goal of $175 million.
We can do that. Some can do more; others will give less. But we should try extravagant giving for His glory. It will change us. But more significantly, it will change the world.
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