I am writing this in mid-December but thinking about January directs my thoughts for the new year. The excitement of Christmas is starting to wane. Many have already taken down their Christmas tree. We are getting ready to go back to business as usual.
However, the twelve days of Christmas go into January and end on Epiphany, which is January 6. Epiphany is when we celebrate the coming of the Wisemen to visit Jesus and present him with gifts. The writer, Adam Hamilton in his book The Incarnation, suggests that the gifts were used by Joseph and his family to escape to Egypt and flee from the persecution of Herod. That was most likely not the intent of the Wisemen in giving the gifts. They were simply honoring the very significant birth of a King. However, without those gifts Joseph would probably not have had the means to travel and live in Egypt.
It works that way today. There may be times when gifts are given, and they have been put to a different use than what was first envisioned. We of the church often feel we know what God’s purpose is when giving a gift and that makes us less flexible to “allow the Spirit to move” use the gift in a different way. For example, money donated for the music ministry with the expectation that it would be used to purchase new music or new handbells. And then being disappointed because it was used to start a children’s music program at the local homeless shelter. We must always utilize Kingdom thinking – understanding God’s ways and then carrying out God’s purpose.
Another aspect of gift giving is that you never know who will be impacted or how much. One of the greatest gifts is the gift of time. I have experienced that time has a way of having a greater impact than it seems on the surface. I remember a story of someone from the church who regularly visited an elderly person in her neighborhood who was not a member of the church. She started visiting as an outreach from the church into the community but continued after the outreach campaign was done. The woman passed away after a time and left a substantial gift to the church because of those visits. It had meant that much to her. I share this not because of the monetary gift that was left to the church but because it is an indicator of the significance of the gift of time.
Then there are gifts that we receive. It gives me such joy to watch my grandchildren open gifts at Christmas or for birthdays. I like to see the look on their faces when they receive something that they are excited about. But it gives me even more joy when I watch them share the gift with one of their siblings as they play together. I get to see how my one gift had blessed the child who received the gift and one or more of the siblings. (To be fair, there is not always sharing going on.)
I think it is that way when we receive. When we share what we receive from God, whether it is money, time, or a special talent, I believe we give God joy. God wants us to enjoy the gifts God gives us, but God wants us to share them too. And when we do share them, we may inspire those we share them with to do the same.