WHY DO WE GIVE GIFTS AT CHRISTMAS?
Gift giving was not a solid part of the American Christmas tradition until the later half of the 1800s.
It is often said that the tradition of giving of Christmas gifts stems from the story in Matthew’s gospel of the three Magi who offered Jesus gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
We have to ask ourselves, though, does that make any sense at all?
Those three particular gifts—gold, frankincense, and myrrh—are not your typical baby gifts. They were a declaration that Jesus is king.
The Magi spelled it out explicitly in their question to King Herod: “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?”
No metal has ever been more associated with kings and crowns than gold. Famous tales were told of Alexander the Great, the prototypical king of the ancient world, entering cities where streets were lined with silver altars heaped high with frankincense. Myrrh had even more ancient royal roots dating back to its use in the embalming rituals of Egyptian kings.
Clearly, the gifts if the Magi were intended to declare that Jesus the Christ is king.
But do our gifts declare that Jesus is king?
Those gifts we give out of nothing more than a sense of Christmas obligation—that gift card bought because we ran out of ideas, or that candle bought because, hey, who hates candles?—it’s hard to make the case that they declare that Jesus Christ is king, but when we give relationally, that’s a different story.
Relational giving is a participation in God’s Christmas gift to us—a relationship with him, through the person of Jesus.
The real reason we give gifts at Christmas is because a gift given in the true spirit of Christmas is an opportunity to remind each other of the gift that was given for our sake.
This year, may your Christmas gifts—the ones you give, and the ones you receive—be reminders of the gift God gave us in Jesus.