Either way, I'm back.
Since it's Christmastime (yep, it's one word), one thing on my mind is gift-giving. Maybe your Christmas gift experiences are full of fulfilling joy and glorify God by exemplifying Him as the giver of every good and perfect gift. But what I see in our culture is far from that.
Giving gifts at Christmas is part of the tradition. And it is the same as any tradition linked to Christianity in that in our sin nature we will always tend to strip the heart from the tradition and reduce it to an empty self-serving ritual.
1Sa 15:22 And Samuel said, "Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.
Ecc 5:1 Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil.
But God instituted the sacrificial system. If it is better to listen and obey than to make burnt offerings, did God mess something up? Or what about commands regarding the Sabbath? The Pharisees provide a prime example of neglecting the spirit of the law, as they condemned Jesus for healing people on the Sabbath. So was the law itself bad? No, but our fallen sinful tendency fouls it.
It is particularly sad when we mess up a tradition like gift-giving that wasn't even instituted by God but is man-made. In this aspect we can see how it is like legalism: you can't keep the law and feel guilty about it, so you make up your own rules that you are able to keep so you can feel good about yourself. We made up the tradition of Christmas gift giving, and we still don't do it with the right spirit, but we pat ourselves on the back for it.
Too much negativity, not enough cheesy nativity? Okay. We don't need to stop the tradition. I hope this Christmastime you make every effort to give in the right spirit, without any expectation of receiving anything in return. And thank God for the gifts He has given you, all of which flow through the greatest gift of Jesus.
2 Peter 1:3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.