Christmas is often characterized as the “season of giving.” We pick out an item (or gift card) that we think a person will enjoy most, wrap it in bright paper (or a brightly colored envelope), and hope that the gift will elicit a smile. Or maybe we just give out of obligation, not even expecting the gift to be more than another piece of stuff on the pile of new stuff from the Christmas-stuff stores. It’s pretty far removed from the treacherous, treasonous journey of the Magi and their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to honor the newborn King.
We should give because God first gave to us. He gave the gift of Jesus who, even from His very birth, was here to die for us. In fact, not only did Christ sacrifice by dying for us, every moment of His life was a sacrifice for us. He gave up power, physical comfort, social status, and the pride that comes with authority in order to live as a servant. When He touched lepers and had conversations with women, He rejected the cultural expectations of the day in order to deeply affirm people who were outcasts.
The gift of God was a sacrifice from the beginning. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul says that Christ “emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” He gave everything up in order to serve those who would ultimately reject and kill Him.
And yet, when Jesus told His disciples that loving people means laying down our life for them, Jesus proclaimed that keeping this command would bring them joy! In submitting our own needs and desires to those of others, we grow closer to the heart of God. Jesus emptied Himself, fully embracing the Father’s plan of salvation, and after He had suffered, God raised Him up to glory.
When we choose to give sacrificially—whether we sacrifice our time, our money, our emotional energy, our relationships, or in some other way—we imitate Christ and reflect the glory of God. As our hearts grow close to God, this kind of gift and sacrifice becomes our greatest joy because it directs people to know better the God who loves and longs for them. What kind of sacrifice might God be asking you to make this Christmas in order to understand this joy?