Advent Conspiracy, Day 19
Throughout Advent we’ve looked at one of the primary focal points of American Christmas traditions: gift giving. Think about the kind of effort and time that goes into gift buying each year (assuming you aren’t a serial gift card giver). At this point in the month you’ve maybe had your fill of sleuthing out the best gift, reading Amazon reviews, or trying to find a parking spot at the mall. Meanwhile, massive market forces are compelling us to buy everything imaginable. Maybe you’ve stopped in the middle of the holiday rush and asked yourself: what’s the point of all this?
Originally, gifts were given at Christmas in imitation of the gifts given by the wise men in Matthew 2. They were shared among believers in remembrance and celebration of Jesus’ birth. These days we typically give gifts to communicate our love or appreciation for someone else. Or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, we give gifts out of obligation, looking for a gift that fulfills expectations or keeps us from feeling guilty. In both cases this makes the tradition far more about the individual than Immanuel.
To this we can stop and ask ourselves another question: is this really the best way to celebrate Christmas?
Today’s text is Philippians 2:1-11, which is an excellent passage to examine Christmas giving because it discusses Jesus’ sacrificial disposition towards us. It explains that Jesus’ birth as a human child was “taking the form of a servant.” (Phil. 2:7) When Jesus came to be with us, he came not to be served but to serve and give his life to us. (Mark 10:45) From the beginning of time God Almighty has been incredibly generous with us, giving us countless good gifts from his creativity and provision. But above all this, God gave us himself.
Paul urged the Philippians to “count others more significant than yourselves” in direct imitation of how Jesus treated us. (Phil. 2:3) This Christmas, as you count others as more significant than yourself, think of all the ways you can be a blessing to others. Of course, gift giving is an excellent way to do this; all the market forces in the world can’t co-opt your ability to give a gift in Jesus’ name. Also, think of the gift of your presence, your kindness, and your service. Today’s activity, taking the time to write a meaningful letter to someone you know, is an exercise in this kind of giving. Maybe you’re wondering, “How is this ‘Give More’ if I’m not spending money?” For many of us, the gift of our time and attention is far more costly than picking something off a wish list.