This is the first week of Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas when we prepare to celebrate God’s gift to us in Jesus and prepare ourselves to receive that gift. It can also be a good time for us to think about what we can give God in return – not because we’re trying to win God’s approval or buy our way into heaven (we know that’s not how it works), but because we’re hopefully trying to follow God and be a little more like Jesus every day.
Looking at it from that perspective, here are six real-world gifts we can consider giving to God this Christmas.
A = Attention
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:5 NIV)
Somewhere in the middle of all the shopping, wrapping, cooking and running around, God wants us to still focus our attention on Him. He’s a jealous God and wants our attention – just like we want the attention of our own families and friends.
D = Dollars
The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives (Psalm 37: 21 ESV)
God wants us to take some of our money and things, and use them to help other people. There are always opportunities for us to give, but sometimes we tend to think about them the most at Christmas. Whether it’s big or small, it’s still making a difference in someone’s life.
V = Very full calendars
This day belongs to the Lord! Let’s celebrate and be glad today. (Psalm 118:24 CEV)
It can be hard to focus on God or on the reason for the season when our calendars are bursting at the seams. I think this is a challenge for many of us – I know it is for me. We might not be pulled in quite as many directions this year because of COVID, but in a “normal” year we’re dealing with school activities, work parties, family get-togethers, shopping, cooking, decorating … and on and on and on.
It’s got to stop somewhere, or we’ll miss Christmas itself. That’s easier said than done and I must say it’s nice to have things looking like they’ll be a little slower than usual this year.
E = Energy (or lack thereof!)
And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. (Mark 6:31 ESV)
Advent should be one of the times when we feel closest to God and have the most appreciation for the gift He gave us in Jesus. But some years I find that it can turn out to be one of my most distant times from Him because I’m so busy with – or tired from – other things that my devotional time can get lost in the shuffle. I need to be more intentional than ever about carving out quiet time or I’ll soon be running on empty.
N = New eyes and ears
I assure you: Whoever does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. (Mark 10:15 HCSB)
Jesus told His disciples that people needed to come to Him as a child, with open minds and hearts. I think the same is true for us during Advent and Christmas – we need to get back in touch with the excitement and the miracle of it all.
It’s like when we went to Disneyworld years ago and our daughter (who was almost 4) saw Cinderella. I would give anything to have a picture of her face when that carriage stopped right in front of us during the parade and Cinderella blew a kiss. Our daughter was so excited – she was completely beside herself because she was convinced that the kiss was for her. It was probably the biggest highlight of her life at that point, just like Christmas should be a highlight of every year for us.
No, I’m not trying to put seeing Cinderella in the same category as Jesus being born, but you get my point. Seeing her so happy made the rest of us happy, too. Getting back to that childlike excitement at Christmas can help us enjoy it in a new way, too.
T = Thanks
She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21 NIV)
We were taught to thank people for the gifts they gave us, even if the gift was something we already had or didn’t really want. As cheesy as it might sound, Jesus is the best gift we’ve ever been given. There would be no need for Christmas if Jesus hadn’t been born, so the least we can do is thank God for sending Him to us.
But our thanks don’t need to end when we pack away the lights and decorations. These things I’ve highlighted (which spell Advent, by the way – I do love an acrostic) are ways we can give to God all year, not just when the calendar turns to December.
Do I do very well with it myself? Some days yes, many days no. But the beautiful thing is that just like Jesus is God’s gift to us all year long, every day is a new chance for us to give our own gifts to Him.
Let’s be intentional about finding ways to do that during Advent and beyond. I’d love to know how you’ll try to do that.