Summary: Part of a Christmas series that focuses on making Christ more a part of His season.
“SEASONING OUR GIVING”
TEXT: 2 Corinthians 9: 6-15
Sunday, December 8, 2002
In 1983, 5,000 people nearly staged a riot at a Hill’s Department store in Chesterton, WV. Displays were knocked over, people were pushed, shoved and grabbed, and it was an ugly scene. The same year in Wilkes Barre, PA, a woman’s leg was broken in a crowd of 1,000 people who turned violent after waiting eight hours in the cold outside a Sear’s Department store. During the same year in Milwaukee, two DJ’s joked over the airways that a B-29 would be flying over the county stadium, dropping a certain cargo to people who, if they held up catcher’s mitts and American Express cards, would receive this cargo. Several dozen people faced sub-zero temperatures watching longingly at the sky with catcher’s mitts and American Express cards raised heavenward.
What was the cause for all this? Can you remember 1983? Cabbage Patch Kids. Time teaches us that all these fads come and go. They are cyclical and what is hot one year is cold the next year. I know my children wanted Furby so bad when it came out. It was cute, no doubt about it, but it was expensive. After you’ve been here long enough on this earth, you know that things come and things go. Now, at Toys R Us Furby sells for $4.99.
Even knowing that, many of us still fall into the same old trap of this kind of crass commercialism. We behave sometimes unseemly. It is these incidences and behaviors while people are shopping that have caused many people to discard, or believe they should discard, what is the oldest Christmas tradition–that of gift giving. I know some Christian groups advocate getting rid of gift-giving.
I had the opportunity to ring the bell as part of our Christmas offering outside the mall. It happened to be the area where all the shopkeepers went to have a smoke during their break. While they came out for a smoke, they liked to talk to the bell ringer. I asked them how things were going in the stores and what were people really like. They told me some incredible stories. There are a lot of nice people, but there are a lot of people who are just nasty, Scrooge-y, irritable. Is that us? What are we like when we are out shopping?
This tradition of giving is in response to what Christ has given to us. Are we giving in such a way that it reflects him, or have we fallen into this trap of materialism. Is our gift-giving really just gift-swapping? Should we get rid of this tradition which has for many become a materialistic binge. For some, the answer is yes, but I would advocate no. All we really need to do is season things up a little bit so that the flavor of Christ comes out.
How do we do that as Christian people? My best text is 2 Corinthians 9. We are going to look at verses 6 and 7 because this is enough to transform giving at Christmastime so that it is a meaningful, spiritually uplifting experience.
In this short text I see five principles of giving at Christmastime. The first is obvious: Give generously. The text tells us that the one who sows sparingly reaps sparingly, and the one who sows generously reaps generously. For instance, who receives the most Christmas cards? The one who sends the most. The more you send, the more you get back. Who receives more presents? The person who is Scrooge, or the person who is generous? How about birthday gifts? If you have just a family celebration, the family gives the gifts. How do you get more? Throw a party. It’s a form of giving and everyone knows it. Throw a party and you get more gifts. The same thing is true of friendships. Who has more friends? The person who befriends many and gives of himself.
You might think this is a dangerous direction in which to go, but it is very scriptural. It is not materialistic in that as Christians we give from a motive that we have already received. As a response to God’s generosity to us, we give. Hasn’t God been generous to us? So be generous as a result of his generosity. In our scripture passage, Paul is encouraging people to give generously to those in need.
In Portland, OR, a lady stops in a coffee shop and buys a java mocha. She told the shopkeeper that she would pay for her own as well as for her friend behind her. The person who came to the counter next didn’t know the woman. He was so touched by the fact that someone else bought him a coffee, he told the shopkeeper that he would buy a coffee for the person behind him. For two solid hours that scenario continued. Twenty-seven customers did the same thing as the result of the generosity of one person.