This time of year, most of us have cultural, familial, and guilt-induced obligations to bestow gifts on various ones near and (to one degree or another) dear to us. For the Hammons family, thankfully, our holiday shopping is just about concluded. (I deceive. Apologies. Tracie’s holiday shopping is just about concluded.)
But I keep hearing talk about Jesus being “the reason for the season.” I like Kylie’s response to that saying — “That’s ridiculous,” she says. “Jesus is the reason for everything.” (They do make you proud, don’t they?) What people mean by that saying, of course, is that the Christmas season began as a celebration of the birth of Christ — a superstition-based tradition with which I have dealt in another context. Still, surely there can’t be any harm in taking a few moments during the holiday hustle and bustle to consider the wonder that is the Jesus story. Surely we are blessed beyond measure that God saw fit to send His Son to earth one night more than 2,000 years ago.
That said, perhaps it is appropriate to put the Son of God on our gift list. But what to give Him, what to give Him …
I’m quite sure He would love some time. Our loved ones always say that, right? That more than anything, they want some of our time? So if Jesus loves us (Romans 8:35), He would like some time. And if we love Him as we should, we should not find that to be much of a hardship. So instead of remaining satisfied with an hour or two per week, we should seek out opportunities throughout the week to be in His presence. Prayer, Bible study, personal worship — there is no need to wait until next Sunday morning to do such things.
Even more than time, though, I think He would like attention. Time itself is an insult when our mind is elsewhere. Granted, smart phones make it easy to engage and disengage from carnal things to the point that we think we are not really putting Jesus out of our minds for long; in fact, it may be more accurate that it shows He is not on our minds at all. If we are to truly set our minds on heavenly things (Colossians 3:2), we may have to deliberately separate ourselves from earthly things. Mental multitasking is mostly mythological (pardon the alliteration). Trying to lease out space in our conscious minds to multiple objects only assures us we cannot properly focus on anything. Catching a coin tossed in the air is easy; toss three coins and it becomes practically impossible to catch any of them, let alone all of them. If we want to focus on Jesus, we may have to do some weeding, to borrow from Jesus’ story in Matthew 13:22.
Money always makes a popular gift — perhaps not very romantic, but very practical. But offering money to the Owner and Proprietor of the universe is a bit of an odd concept. We practice stewardship rather than ownership. The riches among us only use His things for, at a maximum, a few decades, and then we return it to Him. “For we have brought nothing into this world, so we cannot take anything out of it either” (1 Timothy 6:7). For some, that compels them to get the most out of their limited supply of goods for the limited amount of time they have. For disciples, who live for heaven, it should be easy to find ways to utilize our “unrighteous wealth” (Luke 16:10-13) — particularly considering the “treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20) we receive in return.
Would it be too hopelessly and nauseatingly obvious to say He wants our heart most of all? Well, what the sentiment lacks in originality it more than makes up for in Biblical foundation. Jesus said the first commandment was to love God from the heart, soul and mind (Matthew 22:37-38) — completely, unreservedly, unhesitatingly, unceasingly. Strangely, though, the principle most basic to our lives as Christians is also the easiest for us to fake, at least in our own minds. Since “love” is abstract, it becomes easy for us to convince ourselves that our love is genuine. Perhaps that is why the New Testament goes to so much trouble to practicalize love. Love is found in keeping Jesus’ commandments (John 14:15). This is not intended to be a burden to us (1 John 5:3); rather, it demonstrates to us how far we have come, and how far we have to go. To convince ourselves that we have checked the heart box while giving little more than lip service to other, more practical considerations is to deceive ourselves.
Or, we could just give Him whatever we have lying around unused, whatever we have no use for, whatever helps us sleep better at night, whatever doesn’t make us look bad in comparison with other disciples. Read Malachi 1:7-9 to see God’s attitude toward such “gifts.” Surely given what He has done for us in the past 12 months, to say nothing of the rest of our lives, we can dig a little deeper than that.