With Christmas fast approaching, my thoughts have turned to what my husband and I can do to make the celebration of our Lord’s birthday a special joy for our children and grandchildren.
Every year we say, “We aren’t doing much this year.” But for me, the biggest joy of the season — apart from the birth of our Savior — is in giving. God not only understands my desire to give but he put it there, for he is the original “giver of every good and perfect gift.”
Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.—2 Corinthians 9:7 (NASB)
By the time Christmas morning arrives, the space beneath the tree is filled with brightly wrapped packages. It wouldn’t bother me a bit if none of those packages had my name on them, but it would be hard if I did not have a gift to give the people I love so dearly.
But as I make my shopping list this year, I can’t help but wonder what the “birthday boy” would ask for if he were sitting on Santa’s knee. I can see a 12-year-old Jesus presenting a list to a shocked Saint Nicholas that is long enough to wrap around this hurting world and reach the throne of heaven — the name of every hungry child, every refugee driven from their homeland, and every martyr suffering for the sake of the gospel would be on that list. And so would the name of every soul in danger of dying without ever hearing that Jesus was born and died so they might have eternal life.
To be honest, that image leaves me feeling teary-eyed and personally overwhelmed. Like the Little Drummer Boy, I feel inadequate to the occasion and the need.
But the one thing I cannot do — the one thing I will not do — is nothing.
I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God which cost me nothing.—David, 2 Samuel 24:24 (NIV)
So this year, my husband, Bob, and I have “purposed in our hearts” to match what we give to our immediate family with gifts to those on God’s Christmas list. As seniors on a limited income, it won’t be easy to double our budget, but as we look at all we have been blessed with, we feel excited and privileged to make this humble offering. And somehow, the fact that this commitment will be a stretch makes it all the more meaningful.
As a child, I often heard my father speak about what it means to give sacrificially. He would use a story out of 2 Samuel 24 as a scriptural reference point.
King David was directed to build an altar to the Lord on a piece of land owned by a man named Araunah. Out of respect for the king, Araunah offers not only to donate the land but also the oxen and the wood for a sacrifice. But David refuses the offer, saying, “ … ‘I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God which cost me nothing’” (2 Samuel 24:24, NASB).
David’s passionate declaration has often motivated me to reach for the $20 bill instead of the $5 bill in my wallet when I have an opportunity to give. And my prayer this Christmas is that the Lord will help us all to “purpose in our hearts” to honor the Christ Child with gifts that cost us something.
Marilee Pierce Dunker travels the world as an ambassador for World Vision, the organization her father, Bob Pierce, founded in 1950. Like he did, she shares stories, pictures, and personal reflections, bearing witness to the extraordinary ways God is using his people to share the gospel and care for the poor.
Visit World Vision’s Speakers Bureau site to request Marilee or another World Vision speaker to present at your upcoming event.