As families worldwide prepare for their holiday celebrations, it’s no surprise that the idea of giving and receiving presents comes to mind. After all, gift-giving is a cherished tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation. It is an easy way to show the ones you love the most just how much you care.
In the context of our Christian faith, we are continually reminded through various sermons, Bible studies, and Christmas carols that the greatest gift one could ever receive is the salvation given by God through the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This example of the Messiah freely giving Himself up on the cross for all our sakes is clear, and its purpose is powerful.
In the most meaningful way, Christ showed up in the brokenness that the world was experiencing.
When Jesus came to this place of sin, He made His intentions undeniable. In the most meaningful way, Christ showed up in the brokenness that the world was experiencing. He didn’t hide, and He didn’t make excuses. Jesus’s mission was to bring healing, restoration, and reconciliation to those who needed it the most. That didn’t mean ignoring what others were going through. He stayed present in their pain, in their conflict, and in their sorrow.
If Christ tells us to live as He did, what does that practically mean for us?
In the essay “Gifts,” renowned writer Ralph Waldo Emerson delves into the many reasons behind our holiday gift-giving tradition and explores the significance of the gifts we choose and why we choose them. He writes, “Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only true gift is a portion of thyself.”
It’s a thought-provoking concept, isn’t it? But what would it look like for each of us to give a portion of ourselves to others?
John 15:13 states that the greatest love one can give is to lay down one’s life for their friends. In theory, we as followers of Christ tend to agree with the sentiments of this verse, but how many of us can say we have truly lived it out? Do we really know what this verse means?
Many of our very own family members yearn for love, attention, and genuine concern from us. They long to go through life with us.
Consumerism often overshadows the joy of the season and makes the experience transactional. Some of us are so concerned with the presents we’re giving to or receiving from others that we haven’t even taken the time to be fully present with them, to walk alongside them in their pain, and be the hands and feet of Jesus in their lives.
Many of our very own family members yearn for love, attention, and genuine concern from us. They long to go through life with us. Giving oneself demands time, patience, effort, and a willingness to embrace discomfort and vulnerability. This can look like walking with others through hard times, having hard conversations, and sorting out complex emotions.
We must purposefully seek out opportunities for selflessness and embrace sacrifice by giving up time or resources for others. We can do this by listening actively, being willing to forgive and reconcile, and practicing empathy.
This continual process of making conscious choices prioritizes the well-being and happiness of others, fostering a spirit of love, compassion, and service in our everyday interactions.
This year, let us commit to being a true gift to those around us.
This year, let us commit to being a true gift to those around us. Let us resist being consumed by material things and instead focus on being fully present with others. This work is not easy, but it is worth it in the end.
May we continue to let the healing, restoring, and reconciling love of Christ pour out into our love for each other.
Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays from all of us here at the Southern California Conference.