December is a season of giving as gifts are exchanged at gatherings in homes like mine and probably yours. But the big kickoff — Black Friday — has become a tradition side by side with Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Refreshingly, we met a woman who uses Black Friday to purchase poinsettias which she delivers all through her community.
She gathers her troops — her mom and two daughters. Then she heads to the local hardware store where poinsettias are only $1. The limit is 10 per customer, so they buy 10 each. And then they have a blast delivering cheery holiday plants to their circle of friends, family and neighbors.
This selfless, annual expression of love is shared by a friend we identify as uninterested in the Christian faith or missional living.
So if she’s being intentional about giving gifts as a way of loving her neighbors, how can we do likewise? And what do our neighbors really need to receive from us?
Your gift is worth a thousand words
People all around us yearn for authentic expressions of love.
What’s going on in the life of the young barista you see every day, your kids’ overworked teachers, the dog-walking neighbors, or the moms you see out on their morning run?
What do you see in their faces?
Sometimes I look in their faces and see despair. Sometimes I sense their resignation. Other times it’s their longing, and I wonder how I can connect them to the love I’ve experienced with Jesus. Thinking in terms of love holds the key to understanding the gift you need to give someone.
This is Christmas after all, the celebration of the greatest gift ever given — Jesus Christ. Giving that is motivated by love is profound, relational and life-changing. Jesus is living proof of that.
Author Gary Chapman wrote a book called “The Five Love Languages.” In the book he talks about how people receive love through touch, service, words, time and gifts. He stresses that not everyone wants to receive gifts in the way you might prefer to give them.
People receive love in different ways. In this season, the word “gift” brings to mind a wrapped present.
And yet a gift given with careful thought for the person receiving it is also a powerful mode of communication.
In our world today, people who seem well-connected on social media are in truth becoming lonelier in their everyday relationships. Any effort to learn about what they enjoy or how they receive love stands out.
Our middle son attempted to buck this trend by using social media to learn something new about us. He initiated an online survey asking each of us to answer questions including:
- What is your favorite scent?
- Who is your favorite movie or book character?
- What do you do to relax?
This communicated his heartfelt desire to give us gifts that show his deep care for each of us.
Here’s a link to a survey you can adapt or copy for the same purpose: https://goo.gl/images/NNrkuv
Giving gifts can be a step of faith
Think of the people you’ve identified in MissionHub as those you want to focus on. Maybe you can look at your Christmas card list and find more people to add to the app. Once you’ve entered their names in MissionHub, why not create steps of faith relating to the gift you give them this Christmas?
Then you can think of your gift as a step of faith, as an expression of your desire to take that relationship deeper.
Jesus — the great Christmas gift himself — showed us the way to express love to people as they need to receive it. He demonstrated every love language for us.
Think about these scenes for a moment:
- Jesus affirming Zacchaeus by taking time aside with him, even though crowds were demanding Jesus’ attention.
- Jesus serving the disciples by humbly washing their feet.
- Jesus touching lepers — making them well in order to bring them back into community.
- Jesus feeding the hungry — over 5,000 on one famous occasion.
- Jesus speaking words of acceptance to the woman at the well who was soaked in shame.
Jesus did not just go to a wish list and hit the “Buy” button. He met the deeper desire of each person he encountered. For us, that means taking time to understand what the people in our lives are really yearning for.
Think about the people you’ve identified in MissionHub and ask God what kind of gift they need right now. Yes, you might bring them a wrapped present. But here are some other gifts you could offer:
- Spending uninterrupted time together — at the busiest time of the year.
- Serving them in some practical way — like shoveling their snow.
- Writing them a Christmas card — explaining why they are important to you.
When you take a step of faith like this, you bring someone a gift the way Jesus did.
Demonstrate the gospel as you choose to give
Do you love math? If you’re like me, the answer is no. It’s still possible to love math, though, as it relates to relationships.
Your individual acts of love — whether in service, time, gifts, touch or words — they add up. They accumulate in the hearts and minds of the people you focus your time and energy on.
Steps of faith that communicate genuine love and concern for those you live, work, learn and play alongside are contagious. So consider writing steps of faith using MissionHub that focus on giving something to someone in your life. As Christmas approaches, you might even form a plan for showering someone with a range of gifts: time, service and encouragement.
Maybe this involves doing something with a neighbor, rather than for them.
So if you want to make the most of this Christmas in the way you’re building relationships, maybe it’s time to think differently about what kind of gift you’re giving.
Let MissionHub help you demonstrate the gospel as a gift-giver. Then watch to see how God is working, and how you’re a part of it.
Photo by Dakota Corbin