During Christmas time, we often focus on giving. We teach our children that it’s better to give than to receive. You may have helped them create a Christmas gift budget. Or you may have encouraged them to give by serving others. We must remember that we as children of God are able to give in love because we were first loved. In this season of giving, let each gift shine with the love of God.
In 1858, Francis Ridley Havergal visited a museum in Dusseldorf, Germany, and viewed a painting depicting the crucifixion. Next to the painting was this caption: “I did this for thee; what hast thou done for Me?” That question inspired her to write the poem that became the text of the hymn “I Gave My Life for Thee.”1
All four stanzas of this hymn text often come to my mind during the Christmas season because Christmas involves so much giving. We give gifts to family members and friends. We give toys to underprivileged children. We give money to help families suffering from a natural disaster or devastating diagnosis. The list goes on and on.
But sometimes, even in the midst of all this giving, we lose track of the Person who gave the most. Instead, we get caught up in the shopping, the parties, and even the gifts themselves. We hurriedly call a friend to celebrate the amazing shopping deal we just got, but we pass right by the sales clerk without even thinking about taking the time to give her a gospel tract. At this time of year, we need to be reminded of the precious gift of salvation that we possess. We need to be reminded of the immense price that Christ paid to accomplish our redemption.
Francis Havergal’s hymn text reminds us of what Christ left behind when He came to earth. He left the glories of heaven (Philippians 2:7). This is not just a story about a prince becoming a pauper—Christ’s humiliation was far greater. We read in John 3:17 that “God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”
That salvation came with a price. The price was incomprehensible suffering and death on a cross. The Gospel of Luke takes several chapters to tell how Jesus endured beatings, mocking, betrayal, desertion, false accusations, physical agony, and even separation from God the Father. He did it all out of love for us, His lost creation.
Thankfully, Christ’s suffering and death aren’t the end of the gospel story. After three days in the tomb, Christ rose from the dead. God’s redemptive plan was complete.
Francis Havergal’s hymn text also encourages us to think about our response to the gift of the gospel. We can’t just say “thank you” and move on like we would after receiving a sweater or a box of homemade cookies. Doing so would cheapen the gift. Instead, our gratitude should transform us.
This Christmas season, take time to share the gift of the gospel. Talk to your neighbors about what Christ did for them. Hand out tracts when you’re out shopping. Invite an unsaved relative over and share how Christ has transformed your life. People need the gospel more than anything else you can give them.
1. Francis R. Havergal, “I Gave My Life for Thee,” Majesty Hymns (Greenville, SC: Majesty Music, Inc., 1997), 546.
Christmas is almost here! Can you remember the excitement shivering up and down your spine and bursting energetically out through gleeful screams of joy? Or maybe you sheepishly remember the pouting whines of disappointment after you unwrapped yet another present that you didn’t ask for or want. Being thankful for the generosity of others wasn’t the first thing on your mind. Neither was being generous to others. Because of our own experiences as immature children, we know the importance of teaching our children to be generous rather than selfish.
The focus of Christmastime should be on the Savior, who was born to die as the substitute for our sins. Though peripheral to the main point of Christ’s substitutionary death (which was far more than simply an example of generosity for us to mimic), a fitting application of this event is to recognize the generosity of God’s gift to us and in turn to demonstrate generosity by giving gifts to others. But how can we instill a generous spirit in our children?
Example: The Good Samaritan
Generosity is evidence of true faith. This presupposes that generosity isn’t going to be easy. It will take faith because giving usually demands sacrifice. What kills generosity? Selfishness. What compels it? Compassion. Giving a Christmas present to a friend or classmate may seem insignificant. It’s usually a small token that’s ancillary to that person’s survival or livelihood. But it may be revealing. How generous are you toward others even in little things?
So how can you naturally weave this biblical precept into your classroom teaching? If you’re teaching geography, you can open up students’ eyes to the other parts of the world where people are in great need. Then ask them about their own community. If you’re teaching math, you could teach them (in regard to finances) that a good use of their material gain is helping to provide for others’ needs (Eph. 4:28; 1 Tim. 5:8; James 1:27). Generosity is also giving of oneself even in nonmaterial ways. Helping each other with their classroom chores or explaining a hard-to-grasp concept are ways that your students can be generous with their time.
We all know the old saying that actions speak louder than words. It may hurt to ask ourselves the tough question, but are we modeling materialism or generosity? Classroom teaching is important, but so is our deportment outside the classroom. Social influences from friends and teachers can powerfully affect students’ lives so that they conform to that acceptable social standard. If the majority of the normal conversations are geared toward getting the latest gadgets or designer clothes for our own Christmas presents rather than focused on reaching out to those in need, then that’s the spirit children will catch. Most likely it’s already the spirit they’ve seen modeled elsewhere and have conformed to. We don’t want to be curmudgeons, but we can steer the conversation toward others’ needs when there are opportunities for them to get involved in helping others.
What needs can students actually see and meet in real life? Is there a class activity or field trip that involves them in a community project? Is there something that they have learned in school that gives them a skill that they can use for others? For example, an art class or family and consumer science class could participate in a project to make something for lonely people in a nursing home. An English class could write notes of encouragement along with a book giveaway to a children’s shelter. A music class, choir, or band could proclaim the good news of the gospel by performing in the community. Every opportunity should be used as an avenue to communicate human value for those made in the image of God (Creation) and give hope to the hopeless (Fall) because of Christ’s gift (Redemption).
Behavior must be rooted in beliefs (foundation), but it is formed through examples (reinforcement) and practice (opportunities).
How do you help ground your students’ beliefs and form their behaviors?
When we consider the greatness of the gifts God has given us in Christ, any offering we could make in return seems rather paltry. But in looking at the men and women of the Christmas story, we find models of gift-giving that any believer can imitate. Though simple, their gifts were given out of hearts of love, gratitude, and joy.