- they've been enculturated to give during this time of year
- they're already spending a lot of money on friends & family so giving a little extra to a church or charity doesn't seem like a big deal
- they're already spending a lot of money on friends & family so they feel guilty and give to assuage their guilt
- they're more likely to receive a generous end-of-the-year bonus and therefore feel more comfortable with being generous themselves
But I want to suggest that there may be another reason for our willingness to give. The central stories of the season, both in the Jewish & Christian traditions, are about a generous God.
I'm probably not the best person to explain Hanukkah (heck, I even had to look up how to spell it correctly), but here goes nothing. Hanukkah is the "Festival of Lights", which celebrates God's gracious provision to the Jewish people of a lamp that burned in the newly rededicated temple (following the Maccaben revolt) - it was a symbol, along with the victory over Antiochus, of God caring for His people. (1 Macabees 4) (The dreidel wasn't a part of the early celebrations - no more likely than Mary & Joseph hanging stockings next to the fireplace in their home in Nazareth.)
Christmas marks a time in which God gave his only son in the form of a baby (John 3:16) ... who grew up to die on the cross as a ransom for our sins (Mark 10:45) . Essentially, he gave us Himself.
This generous God went one step further:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)
If we are created in the image of God... and we assume that doesn't mean we have His nose & His white hair... then that means we bear His image in a deeper & more meaningful way. We are built to act like He does.
And that means we are... well, we can be, generous. During a season of the year in which generosity is honored not only in religious traditions but also in popular culture...
- the conversion of Ebenezer Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol"
- the compassionate hero, George Bailey, from "It's A Wonderful Life"
- and, of course, the jolly old elf who gives children toys, Santa Claus
This Christmas season, I encourage you to find ways to express the generosity that echoes the heart of the One who created you. Give richly from your time, your talents & your treasure in order to touch hearts & lives.
Please note, however, what John Ortberg said at a conference I attended a few years back: we have a tendency in church circles to talk about generosity in general terms, leading to "superficial agreement and unchallenged apathy." Your mission, if you should choose to accept it, (why, yes, I did watch too many re-runs of Mission: Impossible as a kid), is to get specific:
- how are you going to be generous this Christmas season?
- when are you going to do it?
- how much?