Christmas and Thanksgiving are rapidly on the rise. It is taking over all media and promotions. But despite all this emphasis on buying buying buying- have you ever sat down and wondered about the motivation behind the giving? In the USA at least, when we buy people gifts, is it out of love or out of obligation? I think a common issue these days is that Christmas has become such a mass shopping event that many only see it as that. Now, obviously I believe that Christmas was the birth of Jesus Christ. But this aside for a moment, let’s consider the giving part of the holiday. In order to properly address this topic, I think the best thing to do is to just share with you an experience I had this summer on a mission trip in Costa Rica where I encountered true love, its power, and the art of selfless giving:
I worked at a place called “The Hope Center”, where around 200 kids living in poverty each day came to escape their home lives through engaging in fun outdoor activities and craft workshops. On the third day of service, there was this one really incredible and endearing moment I had with the kids. I was actually in charge of the craft workshop that day. I admit it- it was pretty overwhelming. What seemed like 50 kids were flying about all around me with markers, paper and crayons- all speaking in super fast spanish. I tried my best to translate and answer questions. Spanish started to come before english in my head and I was becoming an insane craft enthusiast. I probably had a crazed look in my eye as I whizzed about- passing out supplies and then hoarding the ones not in use to keep them from disappearing (the previous day we lost a lot of markers to children taking them home). However, there came a moment of peace in that hot and sweaty cafeteria. When the crowds began to die down and the sounds of laughter and soccer balls became simply a faint echo from outside, a small group of kids remained. About 8 or 9 kids surrounded me. With less chaos, it gave me a chance to just look into their faces and take it all in. I could sense the brokenness that they would soon be returning home to. I don’t know why, but I blurted out “Te quiero- todos las personas” (basically said “I love you- all of you”) and pointed at them all. The following moment was one of the best of my life. Their eyes, previously a little down trodden at their imminent departure, immediately lit up in response. This spoken “love” that I gave them caused a reaction I never intended to get. All of a sudden they were smiling a lot and they started making ME the crafts as gifts! They started pouring them into my hands..I didn’t understand how something so simple could make such a difference. Even when they had nothing, they still wanted to GIVE me something…out of pure love and kindness. It’s not like anyone told them to. For example, in the US, many kids are told to give their friends and family gifts, but don’t really do it because they want to, but because they feel they have to. Even when we have everything, giving away the smallest things can be seen as a disadvantage to us. We get selfish and needy- including myself. But what is often forgotten is that all we need is God…and God is love. So why do we get so stingy? If those with little can give freely without hesitation, then why can’t we even though we have everything? The truth is that our society is largely based on status and wealth in the form of possessions. How much “stuff” we have is used as a mechanism to improve our standing in the world. This is why giving things away can feel hard and unnatural. We sometimes get so caught up with just the wellbeing of ourselves and how we are perceived that we forget how blessed we are to have the things we have. We can change this. If we thank God for what we have and see all that He has blessed us with- starting with life itself- then things get put into perspective. You woke up this morning. That is a blessing. There is a roof over your head. Food in the pantry. Clean clothes. Focus on these things…not on what you don’t have and what don’t want to give away. Give freely because you LOVE others this season, not because you feel you HAVE to. Those children of all people gave me those gifts despite their circumstances. They taught me what true selfless giving and love looks like. Isn’t that what the holidays are really about? Sure, commercials and billboards tend to muddle this concept. But it isn’t about that. In truth, the holidays are about love. And using the children’s reactions as an example, love goes a lot farther than gifts ever will. Love involves sacrifice and Jesus showed us the ultimate sacrifice out of love on the cross. Let us sacrifice the greed in our hearts to supply other people with love this season- the love of Jesus that He demonstrated.