We really have such a knack for focusing on ourselves this time of year, don’t we? We are excited to be out of school, home to relax, and receive some Christmas gifts. As Christians, how can we keep the focus on Jesus during Christmas? Furthermore, what can we do to really keep the focus the One who came to save past December 25th?
Matthew chapter two starts the story of the Magi, or wise men, who were searching for this newly born, foretold King of the Jews. They travelled thousands of miles from the east and tracked Jesus down by “his star.” Normally we think of these guys as the three amigos, traveling silently in the night, but our nativity scenes may be slightly off… These were men of higher-status, wise, and maybe even kings in their own countries - wealthy enough to bring very expensive gifts to offer Jesus. Men like this would not have travelled by themselves, there likely would have been guards, servants, etc. So these men may have been traveling in more of a parade, rather than just three lone guys.
When they finally reached Jesus after their travels, picking up the story in Matthew 2:11, it says,
On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Men of higher status, wealthy enough to bring these precious gifts, bowing down to a baby - what a picture of humility… They did a lot to worship Jesus - they travelled very far, left the comforts of their home lands, tracked Jesus down by starlight, and they brought gifts that was a sacrifice for them. I would say these guys were focused on Jesus. So how can we keep the focus on Jesus during Christmas? Give Jesus your treasures! If we sacrifice something that we value to Jesus, (our treasures), we will be sure to focus on Him all the more. Giving Jesus your treasures is truly a personal sacrifice, but is an act of worship, obedience, and thankfulness.
As students, many young people may not have proper jobs to work and earn a paycheck. So many students may think that tithing, or giving money to the church, is not for them. But many students do earn allowances at home, receive money from birthdays and Christmas, so there are opportunities to give. This is an act of obedience towards God, not to hoard money for ourselves, but to give back to Him because He has given us so much! Even if you don’t have much to give, that does not matter to Jesus - it’s all about the heart. Mark 12 has an amazing story that uncovers how Jesus views the difference between the amount of money someone gives vs. the heart of the giver. There were many rich people giving tons of money to the church - but that was easy for them. However, there was a widow that gave pennies to the church - and pennies was all that she had to live off of. Jesus commended her in Mark 12:44
“Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything — all she had to live on.”
It is not about the amount you are able to give, it is all about the heart of the giver. Are you giving God the scraps and leftovers of what you have? Are you giving back to God at all? During Christmas especially, we focus so much on what we receive, but in reality - what gifts are we giving back to God? Are we hoarding our money all to ourselves or are we giving out of a heart of generosity and thankfulness. Because God has given us so much, most importantly His Son (Christmas!), we should respond in obedience and give back to Him things that are truly sacrificial to us. Money is one of those things that we can hold onto tightly, because it is valuable and it is a sacrifice to let it go. Let us give like how the widow in Mark 12 gave, with hearts of full faith towards Jesus and gratitude for what He has done for us.
What you put your money towards is what you value - if you value skateboarding, you will put money into new decks. If you value photography, you will put your money towards camera equipment. If you value music, you’ll save and spend on new instruments. If you value style, you’ll put money into the latest fashion. And when you pour money into something, you are especially dedicated to that thing and you’re laser-focused on it… Same with God - if you value your relationship with Jesus, you should give out of a generous, thankful heart. And this act of sacrificing what is valuable will cause a more focused relationship with Christ.