Time 4

Hebrews 13:15-16

When our church took time on a Sunday morning to serve breakfast at a local soup kitchen we did more than share food. Members of the church were asked to sit down with the needy families we were serving and eat with them. In that way we shared our time and ourselves with others.

This was the gift we shared. The food we prepared had been provided by the soup kitchen. What we gave was our time and effort in preparing and serving the food. Then we gave of ourselves by talking with others and sharing time together. Finally, we worshiped together – the church members and the people who had come to get breakfast.

Christmas is a time of giving and sharing. It is a time of giving gifts to one another. These gifts can be considered a sacrifice from us, and the author of Hebrews has something to say about sacrifices.

What type of sacrifice should we offer to God? How is that done? What other sacrifices are encouraged?

It seems that most people get caught up in the materialism of the holidays. We fall prey to the trend of spending excess amounts of money and rushing through crowded stores grabbing up something we think others might like or need.

But at the center of Christmas is the gift of Jesus. That gift is a gift of sacrifice, a sacrifice God made of Himself for our benefit. The true celebration of Christmas is the reflection of such an attitude of giving.

Rather than focusing on the cost and size of the gifts we give each other, we should focus on the gift we can give to God. We should be praising God this holiday, offering thanks for the love expressed through Jesus. And that praise should be continuous with us, not just something we do once a year.

But we can’t stop with praising God. We are encouraged to do good for others. We are encouraged to share with others. These are the sacrifices that please God.

As we do our shopping this year, as we consider what this person wants and that person needs, let us remember the needy people is our society. Perhaps we can give the gift of our time in helping out others. Perhaps we can share some of our comforts with those less fortunate.

These may be the gifts that please our God and fill our holiday with joy.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Can you help someone less fortunate this Christmas?

Time 3

Hosea 6:6

We have a wide variety of ornaments on our family Christmas tree. Many are gifts from other people. Some are antiques from my childhood. Still others are ornaments our children created when they were very young.

All of them are important to us. They carry with them the memories of years past, the memories of family and friends, and the recollection of the time and effort our children put in to making the ornaments they created.

The celebration of Christmas can be summed up with this attitude. Christmas is a reminder of the love God has for us. It is a reminder of the love we should have for each other, and it is an opportunity to share the gift of time with others.

The greatest gift of Christmas is the gift from God of Jesus. It is a gift of mercy, for Jesus came to offer peace and salvation to all people.

This passage from Hosea encapsulates the idea of Christmas and is referenced by Jesus himself in Matthew 9:13. What does God desire?

It is not important to God how much money we invest in our churches or in our lives. It is not important how much we spend on one another or what we possess. What is important to God is mercy. And the “sacrifice” referred to in Hosea and Matthew is the sacrifice of animals and grain (and, therefore, money) by faithful believers. The sacrifice God desires is the sacrifice of our time and emotions.

The same is true at Christmas. It doesn’t take a great deal of money to make for a happy holiday. The cost of the gifts exchanged at Christmas does not make the gifts more valuable. What is important is that we sacrifice time at Christmas.

We need to give time to one another. We should give time to those in need, and give time to loved ones. We should also give of our time to God.

This Christmas we can give a gift back to God by giving the gift of our time and mercy. If we are willing to sacrifice part of our busy schedules to give some time in being in the presence of God, we will be presenting God with a very precious gift.

Let this holiday be a time for you to share mercy and a time for you to acknowledge God. This type of gift is far more valuable than any amount of money you might spend.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you give mercy as a gift this year?

Time 2

Luke 2:4-7

Thinking back on all the many Christmas celebrations of my life I can’t recall more than one or two special gifts that I received over the years. While I know that the presents I received were all very nice, with time they have faded from my memory. What I remember most from all the years of celebrations are the times I was together with family and friends during the holiday.

That seems to be the greatest gifts I ever received – the time I spent with people I cared about and people who cared for me.

Christmas is the celebration of the tremendous gift of Jesus Christ. It is a time to honor and remember the fact that God gave of Himself, giving all of us the gift of His love.

This passage from Luke is at the core of the Christmas story. Where did Joseph take his wife? Why did he go? What happened there?

The story of Joseph and Mary may show us the first gift of Christmas. The gift Joseph gave was the journey he and Mary had to make to fulfill Scripture. He needed to go to Bethlehem for tax reasons – he was of the house and line of David and so had to go to David’s city. But he was also living out the prophecy of the expected Messiah. Bethlehem was to be the place where the Savior would be born.

And we can allow our imagination to work with the story we are given. This newlywed couple have left their home n Nazareth and gone to a different place. And in this different place their baby boy is born.

What did they do there? They likely spent a few months together as a small family, drawing close together in a gathering of love – two parents and a child sharing the first few weeks of a life together.

Since Joseph had his heritage in Bethlehem it is also possible that this small family was surrounded by a larger family. They may have been staying with relatives – aunts and uncles and cousins. The larger family would have gathered to celebrate with the young couple and surround them with love.

Now, just as it was then, Christmas is a time of family. It is a time to gather together and share a very precious gift – not a present that can be purchased at a store or wrapped in shiny paper. The gift we can all share is our time together, sharing love for each other and reflecting the love that God has for each of us.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Who will you spend time with this holiday?

Time 5

Romans 12:1

Last year several of us from church went caroling in area nursing homes. We weren’t the best of singers, but we sang with heart. It was wonderful to see the faces of so many people in these care facilities delighted to hear the familiar carols of the season.

We could have sent cards to these nursing homes. We could have purchased small gifts to be passed out to some of the residents. But instead we offered ourselves and our time and our efforts. We felt that this was in line with what Paul has to say in Romans.

What does Paul say we should do? Why should we do this? What are we doing when we offer ourselves as living sacrifices?

Our time of caroling was more than just a time of fellowship. It was more than a time of singing. It was more than a time of sharing the spirit of Christmas. By offering ourselves in this way we were worshiping God. We were living out what Paul spoke of.

This seems to be at the heart of the Christmas holiday. Many incorrectly believe the tradition of presents at Christmas comes from the fact that the Magi brought gifts to the baby Jesus. But really, the idea of giving gifts is based on the gift that God gave us.

Christmas celebrates the gift of Jesus, the baby born in Bethlehem who would grow to be a man. As a man Jesus offered his body as a living sacrifice for our salvation.

Just as we should reflect the selfless giving that God demonstrated with the birth of the Christ child, we should also reflect the whole purpose of Christmas. We should reflect the idea of the living sacrifice. This should be how we worship God.

As we celebrate Christmas we should be sure that our celebration is more than just the exchanging of expensive gifts. We should take time this holiday to give of ourselves. We can be living gifts, living sacrifices. And as we offer our time and efforts to benefit others we are worshiping God.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you give the gift of sacrifice this holiday?

Time 1

Matthew 1:20-21

“What’s in a name?” The quote is a famous line from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and it is said as Juliet considers the animosity between the two families. Their feud was a fight between groups with two different last names.

For most of us our names have little meaning aside from simply identifying who we are. As we look at our faith and the celebration of Christmas we must see the importance of certain names. The very title “Christmas” comes from the fact that we are celebrating the birth of Christ. And the word “Christ” actually is a Greek word which means “Messiah.”

But we can also see that the name the Messiah was given had special meaning. As we celebrate the birth of the baby we must also recall the reason for this wonderful gift. The angel who visited Joseph explained it all. What assurance does the angel give Joseph? What name is to be given the child? What does the name mean?

Joseph was understandably concerned when he discovered that the young woman he was pledged to marry was with child. His first decision was that he would divorce her, end the agreement between the two, but he would do it in such a way that he would not bring disgrace to her. But an angel came to Joseph to explain to him what he was supposed to do.

Joseph should go through with the marriage. He had to understand that the child Mary carried was a gift from God. And he and Mary would give the child a special name – Jesus.

The name “Jesus” is the Greek version of the Hebrew name “Yeshua,” which translates into English as “Joshua.” The name carries its own meaning, however. More than just an identifying label the name means “the Lord saves.” With his very name Joseph was announcing to the world that the baby born would save the world.

This is part of the celebration of Christmas. It is more than just a holiday to remember the birth of a child. It is a celebration that God loved us so much He sent His one and only Son to save us from sin. His gift to us was a gift of salvation, of being reconciled back to a loving God, a gift of inner peace in knowing we are deeply loved.

Part of our observance of Christmas should be a living out of this precious gift. We should be willing to give love this Christmas, not just costly items wrapped in nice paper. We should celebrate the very name of Jesus.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you share a gift of love this year?