Christmas Gift Suggestions

Bible Book: Matthew  2 : 11
Subject: Christmas; Stewardship; Gifts

My subject this morning is “Christmas Gift Suggestions.” Some of you are probably saying, “Oh, no! I’m being bombarded from every direction with Christmas gift suggestions, and now the preacher wants to get into the act!” But let me hasten to assure you that the Christmas gift suggestions I’m going to make are quite different from the ones you normally receive.

It’s understandable that Christmas is a time of giving. After all, it was God’s great gift of his Son to the world that brought Christmas into existence. That truth is expressed so beautifully in what is probably the best known and best loved verse in all the Bible, John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

So, down through the centuries Christmas has been a time of giving. In principle, that’s Biblical. However, I’m afraid that in practice we’re all too often unbiblical.

Helen Bower wrote:

Somewhere, buried under tissue, Bent beneath the load

Of our hurried, harried giving, Christmas lost the road.

I invite you this morning to join me in rethinking this whole business of giving at Christmas time. We’re going to look at the record of the wise men in Matthew 2. I realize, as you do, that actually the wise men arrived a considerable time after the birth of Jesus--but they are a part of the larger Christmas story, so let’s see what the record tells us about them. I believe that if you and I will look carefully and prayerfully at that story, we’ll find there some convicting, challenging, and refreshing Christmas gift suggestions.

I. To Whom We Should Give

First of all, the account of the wise men suggests to us in no uncertain terms TO WHOM WE SHOULD GIVE.

In Matthew 2:11 we read, “And when they [that is, the wise men] were come into the house they saw the young child with Mary, his mother, and fell down and worshipped him. And when they had opened their treasures they presented unto him gifts....” Naturally! After all, his birth was the reason they had made that journey and were there.

There’s not anything wrong, I’m convinced, with presenting modest gifts to family and other special friends at Christmas time. However, I’m afraid that many of us are in desperate need of learning the same lesson that the little child told about learning in these homespun lines:

I had the nicest Christmas list, The longest one in town;

‘Til daddy looked at it and said, You’ll have to cut it down.

I knew that what he said was true Beyond the slightest doubt,

But was amazed to hear him say, You’ve left your best friend out.

I quickly scanned the list again And said, why, that’s not true.

But daddy said, his name’s not there; That friend who died for you.

Then I quickly understood, ’Twas Jesus that he meant;

For him who should be first of all, I hadn’t planned a cent.

I’d made a Christmas birthday list And left the Savior out;

But, oh, it didn’t take me long To change that list about.

And though I’ve had to drop some names Of folks I like a lot,

My biggest gift not goes to Christ, Whose name is at the top.

Christmas is all about the birth of Jesus, and it is he to whom you and I should give at Christmas time. Gifts to others should be corollary, incidental. Jesus should be the focus.

In Reader’s Digest was the account of a little boy who was attempting to say The Lord’s Prayer. At one point in the prayer, as children sometimes do, he got his words just a bit mixed up. He said, “Forgive us our Christmases, as we forgive those who Christmas against us.” He might not have been as far off as it first appears! We do, indeed, need to ask God to forgive us when we’ve failed to make Jesus the focus of our giving at Christmas time.

II. What We Should Give Him

There is another strong, clear Christmas gift suggestion in this account of the wise men; it suggests to us WHAT WE SHOULD GIVE HIM.

A. First, we should give him our allegiance.

Look at it again, please: “When they were come into the house they saw the young child with Mary his mother and they fell down and worshiped him....” They adored him. They worshiped him. They expressed their allegiance to him--and that’s exactly what Jesus wants most of all and first of all from you and me, our heartfelt allegiance.

1. You can first give him your allegiance by making sure that you’re saved. Be absolutely certain that you’ve repented of your sins and by faith accepted him as your personal Lord and Savior. That’s the number one, towering need in every life until it has been met, and that’s God’s number one desire for every person. In commending the members of the churches in Macedonia, the apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians 8:5 that they “first gave their own selves to the Lord.” That’s what our Lord wants from you and me more than anything else.

2. We can show our allegiance to him by recommitting ourselves to being loyal to his church. Sometimes I hear folks say, “Oh, I’m really trying to live for God; I really love him--but I don’t go to church.” That’s sort of like saying, “I really love to swim, but I don’t like water.” Claiming to live for the Lord and being unfaithful to the church just don’t compute. No, the church is not the building--but the building is where God intends that the church gather for worship on the Lord’s Day. Jesus said, in John 14:15, “If ye love me, keep my commandments”--and all Biblical commandments are ultimately Christ’s commandments, including the mandate given to believers in Hebrews 10:25: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

In Ephesians 5:25 we are reminded that “Christ loved the church and gave himself for it,” and if you and I love Jesus we’ll love the things that he loved. In Acts 9:4 we learn that when Saul of Tarsus fell to the earth in response to a great light from heaven, Jesus said to him, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” So far as the record indicates, Saul--up to that point--had never even seen Jesus; so why did Jesus ask, “why persecutest thou me?” The answer is that Jesus so closely identifies himself with his church that Saul’s persecution of the church amounted to persecuting Jesus himself. To neglect or have a bad attitude toward the church is a personal affront to the Lord Jesus.

Christmas is a good time to be sure that you’re saved, and then to rededicate yourself to being loyal to your church--in attendance, tithing, and participation.

3. There’s another way you can show your allegiance to him at Christmas time, and that is to be sure and set a clean, upright example.

It’s ironic and sad that many folks seem to look upon this, the holiest season of the year, as a time for permissiveness. Many people allow themselves excursions into self-indulgence at Christmas time that they probably would hesitate to allow at any other time of the year. And when confronted--by their own conscience, or by some other person--they sort of shrug, smile weakly, and say, “Well, it’s Christmas.” But of all times to be sure that the ship of life is sailing in the right direction, and to make any needed course corrections, Christmas should be such a time.

There are some social events during the Christmas season that are fine. For example, there are Sunday School class parties that are a blessing--they build fellowship and honor God--but there are some social events during the Christmas season that are a stench in the nostrils of Almighty God. They involve alcohol, flirtation, vulgarity, and sometimes even downright immorality--and Christians ought to avoid such events like we would avoid the purple plague.

We can show our allegiance to him by taking every opportunity we have to share with people that Jesus really is “the reason for the season.” We’re living in a day when so-called political correctness has gone berserk. Some companies have dropped any mention of Christmas--they now sell holiday trees, and holiday gifts. Some schools now have winter vacation, not Christmas vacation. They don’t want to offend the atheists and members of cults and far-out religions. But this country wasn’t founded on the perverted beliefs of such groups--this country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles--and it’s time in America for a return to some plain, old-fashioned, God-honoring common sense!

My prayer for every one of us during this Christmas season is that we’ll be exceedingly careful to set an example that will exalt Jesus Christ. I pray that every individual within the sound of my voice will have the strength of character, the backbone, and the devotion to God to say “no” to those activities that would dishonor the Son of God.

What he wants most is the allegiance of our hearts. But we also find another suggestion in Matthew 2:11 as to what we should give Jesus at Christmas time.

B. We should also present to him material gifts.

Look again at the last part of Matthew 2:11: “...and when they had opened their treasures they presented unto him gifts, gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” They began by bowing and giving him the allegiance of their hearts--and then they gave to him material possessions.

May I suggest some ways in which you and I can give materially to Jesus at Christmas time?

1. One way is by giving generously to missions. That’s the cause nearest and dearest to our Lord’s heart. In Luke 19:10 Jesus summed up the very purpose for which he came into the world: “For the son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost”--and he said, in John 20:21, “ my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” There is no better investment you and I can make of our material substance than by giving to help spread the gospel--and there is no better way, materially, to help spread the gospel around the world than by giving through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.

We Southern Baptists have over 5,000 foreign missionaries serving in countries and territories all over the globe. Some serve in dangerous places--and sometimes tragedy occurs. There have been missionaries murdered by fanatics who were hostile to the Christian message. But in spite of the high risk, they go to these places and they serve, because they have felt the call of God, and they have a burning conviction that people need the gospel.

God is blessing their work. In a recent year our Southern Baptist foreign missionaries, together with their native partners, led 475,072 people to Christ. I’m talking about the number of people who actually professed their faith publicly and were baptized and became members of churches. That’s 92 conversions per missionary in one year.

These missionaries depend on the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Did you know that that special offering accounts for slightly over one-half of the total yearly budget of the International Mission Board?

Another thing: Of every dollar you give to foreign missions through the Lottie Moon offering, 100 cents actually reaches the mission field! “But, preacher, I don’t understand how that can be. Doesn’t it cost a lot of money to prepare and send out all of those excellent promotional materials?”--and of course it does. But as the early offerings from churches all over the convention come in, the International Mission Board invests those funds on a short-term basis so that enough interest is earned to pay for all of the promotion--and the result is that when you give a dollar through the Lottie Moon offering, our missionaries receive that entire dollar!

One of the pioneer foreign missionaries said to his friends back home, “I’ll go down into the well, and you hold the rope.” These missionaries of ours are down in the well--the least you and I can do is hold the rope--by praying for them, certainly, but also by giving generously to support their work.

Let me offer a challenge. To get Christmas at least started back in the right direction, I challenge you to make the following commitment: determine that you will give to missions through the Lottie Moon offering this year at least as much as you spend on the largest single gift that you buy. It would be better, still, to give through the Lottie Moon offering as much as you spend on all other gifts combined. I’m thinking right now of a church where in a recent year some of the members decided to take that challenge--and instead of merely meeting the church’s $10,000 goal, the people of that church gave approximately $30,000 through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.

2. I also want to suggest one additional way that we can give materially to our Lord at Christmas time, and this particular suggestion comes not from Matthew 2:11 but from something our Lord said toward the end of his earthly ministry. Perhaps I can best illustrate it by reference to a narrative poem written by Edwin Markham and entitled “How the Great Guest Came.”

Markham told of old Conrad the shoemaker. One day, just before dawn, Jesus appeared to Conrad in a dream and said, “I am coming your Guest to be!” Conrad was thrilled. He wanted things to be just right for this wonderful event, so he got busy. He cleaned his combination shop and living quarters until everything was spic and span. He decorated with branches of fir, and with holly. He spread the table with milk, honey, and bread, and he excitedly looked out the window. He could just visualize how it would be: he would wash the feet of Jesus, and kiss his hands, and then they would sit down together and break bread and have sweet fellowship.

As Conrad looked out the window he saw a beggar drenched by the driving rain that had begun, and Conrad called to him and invited him in. He gave the beggar shoes for his bruise’d feet. After the beggar had left, Conrad saw an old woman carrying a heavy load on her back. He invited her in and fed her the loaf of bread. After she had gone, a little child came to Conrad’s door. The child was lost and afraid. Conrad gave the milk to the child, then gathered him in his arms and took him home to his mother. Then Markham finishes the story like this:

The day went down in the crimson west

And with it the hope of the blessed Guest,

And Conrad sighed as the world turned gray;

“Why is it, Lord, that your feet delay?

Did You forget that this was the day?”

Then soft in the silence a Voice he heard:

“Lift up your heart, for I kept my word.

Three times I came to your friendly door,

Three times my shadow was on your floor.

I was the beggar with bruise’d feet;

I was the woman you gave to eat;

I was the child on the homeless street!”

In Matthew 25:40 Jesus said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

Let’s you and I take the bold step of “bucking the tide” this Christmas. After giving generously to missions and presenting very modest gifts of love and appreciation to family members and special friends, let’s use all the rest of our resources that are available for Christmas spending and give to those from whom we can expect no return--to those who really need it.

What we often call Christmas giving is really just “Christmas swapping.” We pile up needless extras in the laps of folks who already have too much, and they do the same in return. But if, instead, we will give to those who truly are in need it will revolutionize Christmas for ourselves and our families--and perhaps our example will encourage others, as well, to “get with God’s program” for Christmas giving.

Make no mistake about it: there are people who are really in need. In this area, we have the Memphis Union Mission, which ministers to the down-and-out, folks who for one reason or another are destitute and alone. Not only do people coming to this mission receive food, shelter, and other help, but--most important of all--they hear the gospel, and are encouraged to get right with God. This wonderful organization receives no government money--they are wholly dependent upon the gifts of people who care.

There is also International Baptist Church in downtown Memphis, which carries on a similar ministry. The people of this church seek to win the lost to Christ, encourage the saved, and minister to a variety of needs, including providing meals and clothing. With the aid of qualified volunteers from outside their membership, they provide classes and counseling for those struggling with various addictions, and they make available some limited vocational training. Health care professionals come in periodically to provide what help they can.

A great opportunity for making a difference in little children’s lives is through the Christmas Shoe Box program of Samaritan’s Purse. Still another excellent opportunity is through giving to our Southern Baptist children’s homes.

One of the Sunday School classes in our church is setting a fine example. At their annual Christian social, instead of presenting gifts to one another, each class member will bring a gift box prepared for a specific child, by name, at a nearby home for children. Each child has made a Christmas list, and most of the requests are for clothes and other personal items. This particular home does a good job, but is dependent on the gifts of caring people for meeting even the basic needs of the children.

In many parts of the world, such as Bangladesh and Sudan, there are millions of people, including old people, little children and babies, literally starving to death. Southern Baptists are making a valiant effort to address that overwhelming need through our World Hunger Fund. Part of the money you give to that fund goes to train native people in how to farm productively--but the bulk of it actually goes to buy food for hungry people, and those hungry people receive the food. We don’t channel our funds through corrupt national officials in the hope that it might be used as intended. Imagine: what if your children or grandchildren were hungry, and because of malnutrition were disease-ridden? If you want a blessing, give generously to the Southern Baptist Hunger Fund.

So, Christmas is a time for giving--but it’s a time for giving to Jesus. All other giving at Christmas time should be incidental. The focus should be on him who was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, rose triumphantly from the tomb, and--as Hebrews 7:25 expresses it--“is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him.”

How would you like to go a birthday party supposedly given for you, only to find yourself virtually ignored and left practically empty-handed while the crowd celebrated by giving presents to one another? Unfortunately, that’s how Jesus is often treated at Christmas time. Let’s you and I see that it doesn’t happen on our turf!

But remember where it all has to begin:

What shall I give him, poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd, I’d give him a lamb.

If I were a wise man, I’d do my part.

What shall I give him? I’ll give him my heart.