What is it about this time of year that causes us to feel a little more generous? We naturally think about helping families in need by providing Christmas presents or a meal, we visit soup kitchens, donate clothes, or drop food off at the local food pantry. Studies show we give more money and clothing to charity in December than any other time. But why? In the Gospel of John, we find a part of the Christmas story that doesn’t always make it into the nativity scene. Long before Mary and Joseph made it to Bethlehem. Long before there were choirs of angels visiting shepherd or wise men making their way from the East, Christmas began with a single decision made on our behalf. A decision God made to give. That simple but monumental decision has shaped this season ever since. And when we begin to understand all God has given to us, we can’t help but bring that tradition that began with His generosity into our present.
Session One: Bell-Ringers
Bottom Line: God doesn’t just ask for our generosity. He demonstrates His.
This time of year, there are opportunities to be generous on nearly every corner. Enter the Bell-ringers. You know who I’m talking about. They stand in front of the mall, Walmart, and most grocery stores—sometimes dressed as Santa—and ring their bell in hopes that someone will drop some spare change in their bucket to benefit the charity they represent. There’s a part of us that loves the bell-ringers. There is something inside us that feels like part of Christmas is jumping in to help our fellow human. But as much as we love the idea of giving, there is also a part of us that cringes when the subject comes up. It’s not that we hate helping people. It’s just that the whole idea of giving comes with a lot of guilt. We feel guilty when we don’t give, don’t want to give, or don’t have much to give. In his Gospel, John describes God’s choice to be generous to us by sending His son. When we take a closer look at the very first Christmas and God’s gift to us, we find that He doesn’t just ask for our generosity. He demonstrates His.
Session Two: Christmas Lights
Bottom Line: Being generous should be continuous.
The only downside to Christmas is when it’s over. One day, every house is decorated and every street has twinkling lights. Then, all of a sudden, it’s gone. Lights go back in the box. Decorations are packed in the garage, and it’s almost as if the Christmas Spirit was never there. But there is more to the Christmas Spirit than just Santa suits and strands of lights. For many of us, Christmas is a time of giving, celebrating the ultimate gift God gave us. But around the same time that the tree comes down, it seems our generous Christmas spirit goes back in the box as well. The needs around us haven’t disappeared. It’s just that our motivation, our natural inclination to help others, gets shelved after the holidays. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, according John, Jesus modeled a generosity that was just the opposite and following His example means we take our generosity off the shelf and put it into practice during this month and all of the ones that follow.