Summary: Because God gave so freely to us, in turn we give lovingly, generously, and sacrificially. A Christmas message with a stewardship emphasis.
God so Loved that He Gave
Merry Christmas! How many of you have finished your Christmas shopping? Gift-giving is probably the first thing we think about as we see Christmas coming. Some folks think its lots of fun … others, not so much.
• You have to admit that our attempt at giving gifts sometimes feels more like a chore than a joy. Some gifts are well meant … but just not wanted … and all we can think is, What in the world IS this? Or, How soon can I re-gift this one!
• Sometimes gifts are your worst nightmare … (maybe you recognize Ralphie from my favorite Christmas movie, “A Christmas Story” Show slide of Ralphie wearing a pink bunny suit given by his aunt)
• Some gifts are… just not for you! … And some gifts are just a bad idea!
But none of that is going to stop us from giving Christmas gifts. The tradition of gift-giving at Christmas has been around a LONG time. It came from the story of the Wise Men bringing gifts to the Christ Child.
But the tradition of Christian generosity isn’t based on the Wise Men. Christians give generously – all year long. The reason we give is: because our God is the Great Giver. God gave His Son --- the greatest gift the world has ever received --- so that we could become the Children of God. As Believers, we are children of the MOST generous Father that anyone can imagine.
Ephesians 5:1 instructs us to be imitators of God, as dearly loved children. One of the most predictable characteristics of children is that they will imitate their parents! So I want to talk this morning about how we can imitate our Heavenly Father and become great givers… not just at Christmas, but all year long.
It’s an undeniable fact that Christmas is expensive. The gifts we give cost money! Lots of people save up for Christmas because they know major expenses are coming. I got something in the mail suggesting that I take out a holiday loan (at high interest, of course) so I can spend even more money on Christmas presents.
1. Because He Gave … we give lovingly
But when we give gifts, we tend to cut off the price tags. Why? Because the point of the gift is not the price. It’s the LOVE behind the gift that makes any gift precious.
The same thing is true when we give our offerings to God. We may be giving money, but these gifts are precious to God because of the love for Him that is represented in our offerings.
John 3:16 starts with the astounding phrase, God so loved the world that He gave … WOW! Stop and let that sink in --- God gave BECAUSE He loved. Not that He loved a certain nation, or a select group of extra-lovable folks. God loved the world at large. And yet, He loves each individual personally. As a third century Christian, Saint Augustine, said, God loves each one of us as if there were only one of us to love.
Because we are the dearly loved children of God, we are called to love the people of the world. I John 4:19 explains, We love because He first loved us.
God’s love compelled Him to give to us. Our love compels us to give back to God. The opportunity to give is one of the greatest privileges that our Father in Heaven has given us. The scriptures have a lot to say about how our giving should come from the HEART and be done with great LOVE and JOY.
In 2 Corinthians 9, the Apostle Paul is giving specific instructions to one of the early Christian congregations on how they are to collect their offerings for God’s work. The early church established the practice of collecting offerings every Sunday. In this case, these particular offerings were going to be taken by Paul to the persecuted Christians in Jerusalem when he next traveled through Corinth.
Look at what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 9 about the way we give our offerings to our God. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9: 6-7
When Paul describes a “cheerful” giver, the Greek word he uses is hilarion --- which is related to our English word “hilarious.” I like hilarious better because cheerful comes across as so sedate. Hilarious is real FUN --- it’s not a little smile, it’s a belly laugh that goes on and on until your stomach hurts. Hilarious isn’t a chuckle; it’s rolling in the aisles.
In other words, offering time in the service should be happy time. Now, I guess we don’t really want people rolling in the aisles with hilarity during offering, but the offering time should be a worshipful celebration … a time when we can imitate the giving nature of our Heavenly Father by Giving the way He gives --- with lots of LOVE and with great GENEROSITY!