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From the Pastor’s Heart

Continue the tradition of sacrificially and generously loving others like Christ.

In this month of special celebration, I’d like to ask you a question: What is your attitude toward gift giving? Are you someone who delights in selecting just the right present, and waiting with anticipation as the recipient unwraps it? Or has the materialism often seen in this season left you wondering whether the practice has any spiritual merit at all?

Christmas offers a wonderful opportunity to show love and appreciation for others.

Although commercialism has corrupted the tradition of gift giving to some degree, that’s not a good reason to abandon the practice and miss out on bringing others joy.

There’s no better time of year to demonstrate goodwill to the people around us—the first Christmas was characterized by giving. Let’s look together at some of the amazing gifts that marked our Savior’s birth:

Mary gave her physical body and reputation (Luke 1:26-38).

She willingly carried Christ in her womb, surrendering her life to God’s plan. And because she wasn’t married, she gave her reputation. Although her engagement to Joseph was as binding as marriage, to be found pregnant before the actual ceremony would have been proof of great sin in other people’s eyes and devastating for a young girl.

Joseph gave provision and protection (Matt. 1:18-25).

When he discovered Mary was pregnant, he decided to send her away secretly so she wouldn’t be disgraced. But an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, explained that the Child was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and told him to take Mary as his wife. He obeyed and provided protection and support for them.

Caesar Augustus gave a decree (Luke 2:1-7).

The Roman emperor called for a census to accomplish his plan of taxing all the people. Although he thought it was his idea, God was using him to accomplish His divine purpose. Prophecy foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2), but Mary and Joseph were in Nazareth. Caesar’s proclamation brought them to Bethlehem at just the right time for Christ’s birth so Scripture would be fulfilled.

The angel of the Lord gave an announcement (Luke 2:8-14).  

The first report of Christ’s birth was delivered by a glorious angel to a group of shepherds. He told them the Messiah had been born and explained where to find the baby. Then, a multitude of heavenly angels appeared in the sky, giving praise and glory to God. What a sight that must have been!

The shepherds gave a testimony (Luke 2:15-20).

Upon hearing the angelic announcement, the men hurried off and found Mary, Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in a manger. After seeing the Messiah, they couldn’t keep the news to themselves, but told everyone what they had heard and seen. And all those who heard their report were amazed.

The magi gave gifts and worship (Matt. 2:1-11).

They were probably astrologers or scientific advisors from Persia. When a brilliant star in the East signaled the birth of royalty, they set off on a long journey to find the newborn King of the Jews. When they found the Child, they fell down to worship Him and gave Him precious gifts—gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

God gave His only begotten Son (John 3:16). 

Most of the world at that time viewed this as the birth of an ordinary child, but Mary, Joseph, and a few others knew the truth. He was the Son of God who’d come from heaven to be our Savior and Messiah.

Jesus gave His life (Matt. 20:28). 

The greatest giver was the baby in the manger. Christ gave up the glories of heaven and came to earth in human form to give His life as a ransom for many.  

Our lives, too, should be characterized by generosity—not just at Christmas, but all year-round. It’s part of our identity in Christ and should be our natural response to God’s blessings and provision. Generosity continually reminds us that He is the source of all we have. 

This Christmas season, would you like to think about ways to extend your giving? 

How can you show love and appreciation to friends, co-workers, and neighbors? A specially chosen present or handmade item can be a delightful gift. There are also countless ways to give that don’t cost money, such as offering a listening ear, compassionate comfort, or a helping hand to someone in need.

Finally, of all the gifts we’ve ever received, God’s gift of eternal life through His Son is by far the most valuable.

We must be willing to tell others what Jesus has done in our lives. At Christmastime, we like to  sing “Go Tell It on the Mountain.” Try asking the Holy Spirit where “the mountain” is for you—it might be your neighborhood or workplace. The people around you need to know salvation is available through Jesus Christ. The gospel is the best gift you could possibly give them this Christmas.

Prayerfully yours,

Charles F. Stanley

P.S. Christmas is a great time to thank the Lord for His work in your life during the past year. Here at In Touch, we’re reflecting on all He’s done through our ministry since its founding 45 years ago. It’s amazing what God in His grace has accomplished. We’re rejoicing in His past faithfulness and looking  forward  to  what  He  has  in  store  for  us  in  the  next  45  years. Merry Christmas to you!