Give it Away
“If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.” ~I Corinthians 13: 2b-3
We all have Christmas traditions that we hold on to. Whether it is putting up the lights on a certain day every year, or getting family and friends together. When my wife was little she lived in Missouri. Her parents were both pastors and had to lead worship until late into the night on Christmas Eve. They had a tradition that between the two services her parents led, they would open one present, which was usually pajamas. They would put them on and go to bed, and then Christmas morning they would get up, load their presents in the car and drive to Kansas to spend Christmas with her grandfather. Because of this tradition, after the Christmas Eve service my children get to go home and unwrap one present, pajamas, and wear them to bed. As a parent, I think this tradition is more for us than our kids so we aren’t forcing them to put on clothes in the morning before opening presents so we can take pictures.
My family always attended the late service. So before the service, we would go out to dinner and spend Christmas Eve dinner together - just my parents and my sister and me. Afterwards, we would spend an hour or so driving around looking at Christmas lights before heading to worship. While not on Christmas Eve but a few days before Christmas, we still do this with our family to help us get into the Christmas spirit.
Three years ago, just after Jude turned one, Becca and I found ourselves in a Christmas rut. With three kids under 5 the world was starting to take over Christmas. Every time a commercial would come on it was, “I want that.” When we went to the store it was, “buy me this”, “I want that.” It got to the point that we didn’t want to go anywhere or watch anything on TV because we didn’t want to battle with our kids. The real reason to celebrate Christmas had lost its meaning to busyness and commercialism.
A few years earlier, Becca and I had a friend who died suddenly at the age of 26. For some reason that year, in the midst of everything that was going on, Andrew and his family were put on Becca’s heart. As we sat at dinner one night with three kids under the age of 5, we started talking about Andrew and his family and how hard it would be to lose a child. One thing lead to another and Becca said, “What if this Christmas we do something different? What if we did something in honor of Andrew that was more about helping others than about ourselves? What if instead of waking up first thing in the morning and opening all of our presents, which we had done the previous 4 years and was a nightmare, we started our morning off doing something for someone else?”
We told our kids about our great idea and they weren’t super excited about it, but they went along. So that Christmas morning, after we looked in our stockings to see what Santa gave us, we loaded into our car, still in our Christmas pajamas, and bought 12 sausage egg McMuffin meals to pass out to people in need. We bought 12 partly because it was the number that Andrew wore in high school sports, and partly because that was all we could afford. When we set out we had no idea how long the kids would last or how long it would take us to find people, homeless or not, who wanted a hot warm meal. Any hesitation we had, again this was Becca’s idea and I was just a long for the ride, went out the window with the first bag of food that we passed out. Who knew that love could come in the form of a hot meal?
That first Christmas it took us just over an hour and a half to pass out those 12 meals and afterwards we went home and started our Christmas. What started as 12 meals has quickly grown into 40 hot meals on Christmas morning. For our kids, Christmas doesn’t start when we get home from delivering food, delivering food is part of Christmas. In Michael W. Smith’s song “Give it Away” he sings, “We can entertain compassion for a world in need of care, but the road of good intentions doesn't lead to anywhere. ‘Cause love isn't love ‘till you give it away. You gotta give it away.”
We can get caught up in things like Happy Holidays vs. Merry Christmas or why Starbucks is bad, not really, for only having red cups with no Christmas design, but in the end that doesn’t really matter. We live in a world of hurt and pain that now, maybe more than ever, needs to experience the love of God first hand. This Advent season, as we prepare to celebrate God’s love for us in the birth of Jesus, I encourage you to find some way or someone that you or your family can help experience God’s love first hand by giving it away.
We would love to hear how you experienced God’s love this Christmas, simply by giving it away.