I’ve almost completed my Christmas shopping two weeks before the big day. That’s a record. I credit the anxious push of the pandemic and my new Amazon Prime membership. Buying gifts has never been easier. Generosity has never been more accessible … and without excuse. What does the Christmas story teach us about generosity?
The Christmas characters that most personify the giving spirit are the Magi who came to southern Palestine in search of a king worthy of worship.
They were most likely from Mesopotamia, the ancient land of the Chaldeans and the land that produced Abraham. They were students of the stars, which would most likely make them followers of Zoroaster, a 6th-century “prophet,” whose teachings formed the foundation for Zoroastrianism.
We know very little about them – only that there was more than one (Magi is in its plural form), they came from the East, and they brought gifts. That’s the most important thing to remember – they brought gifts.
Three Things Generosity Gives Us
Here’s what the Magi teach us about the spirit of generosity …
1. You realize that life is not all about you.
On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him” (Matt. 2:11).
The Magi were looking for something to invest in; and in Jesus, they found someone who was worthy of their investment.
I was at Target with my six-year-old granddaughter. She was going through the toy aisles pointing out everything she wanted for Christmas. After she pointed to about a dozen different toys, I told her that she had to choose just one. She looked at me like I was crazy and then continued on her list – “I want this, and this, and this …”
That’s cute when you’re six – not so much when you’re sixty.
At some point, most learn that “life isn’t all about me.” That’s the moment that the Spirit of Generosity takes root.
2. You desire to make a difference in the world.
When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel” (Matt. 1:4-6).
There is a stark contrast in the story between Herod and the Magi.
Herod was a paranoid, narcissistic, tyrannical leader. When the Magi arrived at his palace asking for directions, Herod had already killed his favored wife, and three of his sons because he thought they were out to get him. In other words, Herod was completely self-consumed.
The Magi arrived in Jerusalem at the end of a long, perilous journey that required great personal and financial sacrifice. Herod was a tiny, petty, soulless human being, fat from his over-indulgences.
It’s a telling comparison. The Gospel writer wants you to see the contrast.
What was the difference?
Herod couldn’t imagine anything bigger than himself. He couldn’t imagine anything more important than his own needs.
The Magi wanted to be a part of something bigger than themselves – something more important than their own temporal needs.
They understood that their possessions were simply a stewardship given to them by God. Your material possessions are a test of your faith. What you do with what God has given you is a reflection of your values and faith.
3. You give sacrificially and joyfully.
When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh” (Matt. 1:10-11).
The Magi were overjoyed to find the baby. They were hungry to deliver their sacrificial gifts. In the baby, they saw something that was worth their significant investment.
There is an amazing intersection of sacrifice and joy.
Admittedly, it is not always easy to find. The very nature of sacrifice involves pain. Pain is seldom something we enjoy. There is, however, a great and joyful reward in giving to something that is greater and bigger than your solitary life.
The sacrifice comes first. The joy follows.
Here is an emotional and compelling example of the power of joy and sacrificial giving. A group of kids from low-income families in the inner city of Atlanta were brought into the Boys and Girls Club and given a choice for Christmas. Their response is priceless and worth 3-minutes of your time to watch!
Blessings on your Christmas journey to Generosity!!