Silence: Take a moment to get still and ask God to center your heart on him.
Scripture: We want you to know, brothers,[a] about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor[b] of taking part in the relief of the saints— 5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. (2 Corinthians 8:1-5).
Devotional: A few years ago I stumbled across a website called “Advent Conspiracy”. It’s a movement started by 5 pastors that wanted to reimagine how they practiced Christmas in their communities. Advent Conspiracy was born out of their conversation and dreaming.
Advent Conspiracy is built around 4 tenets and we’ve covered two so far:
- Worship Fully
- Spend Less
The third tenet is “Give More”.
I know “give more” seems contradictory to “spend less”, but listen to how the Advent Conspiracy crew articulates it:
“We know what you’re thinking. “Wait, didn’t they just say I should spend less, and yet here they are telling me to give more? What gives?” The most powerful, memorable gift you can give to someone else is yourself. And nobody modeled this more than Jesus. So what does this look like for you? Tickets to a ball game or the theater? A movie night? The main point is simple: When it comes to spending time with those you love, it’s all about quality, not quantity.”
It’s true that the most powerful, memorable gift you can give to someone else is yourself. Sure, stuff can be fun, but giving the gift of yourself, an experience and a memory is way more fun.
As some of you know my mom passed away from her 3 year battle with cancer in August of 2015. She was an incredible woman.
My mom also loved to give gifts. Let’s be real, I functionally lived as an only child and was spoiled rotten (I’m still trying to recover from that, but that’s a different blog post!).
However, here are two truths that I will never forget in regards to my mom. First, the best gifts she gave me were the gifts where we got to spend time together. I may not have appreciated them as much at the time, but looking back those truly the most life enriching gifts. Second, I would give every physical gift back that she ever gave me if I could have more time with her. To me, this drives home the fact that in the long run, time with those you love is exponentially more important than most things in this world.
That’s why I love the passage above. Paul is not only encouraged by the money that the churches in Macedonia had given away, but he was also encouraged that they were giving themselves away! They gave themselves first to the Lord (they worshipped fully) and then they gave the gift of themselves, their presence to Paul.
What if we gave more? What if we gave money away to incredible non-profits? What if we gave gifts and experiences to our friends and family that had to do with time together?
This Christmas, let us imitate Jesus. The best gift he ever gave us was the gift of himself. Let’s give the gift of our presence. As missionary Amy Carmicheal said, “You can always give without loving, but you can never love without giving.” Let us lovingly give ourselves away this Christmas.
Question: How could you give more away this Christmas than you did last year?
Action: Find a non-profit to donate to, serve at or give the gift of time and yourself to someone you love this year.
Prayer: God, we can be generous because you were first generous to us. You lavished us with generosity when you sent your son Jesus to rescue us. You lavished us with your generosity when you sent the Holy Spirit to help guide us. You pour your generosity out on us daily in a million ways we can’t see. I pray that I can imitate your generosity to a world that needs it this Christmas. Amen.