There was a time when I would have argued that gift-giving was all a part of the commercial hype of Christmas that has been created by our society. I would have said that the culture robbed Christmas from Christians and Christians should throw out all the lights and decorations and holiday parties and Santa Clauses and—most controversially—maybe Christians should stop giving gifts at Christmas altogether!

But, as we are doing a series called Keep Christ in Christmas, I’m reminded that gift giving is a part of the actual Christmas story. The wide-spread gift-giving in our culture actually comes from the Bible.

You can read the story in Matthew 2, but it goes like this.

There was a group of wise men that lived in the East, probably in Persia. They weren’t God-fearing people. They didn’t worship God. They were actually ancient astronomers. They watched the stars and charted their movements.

But, the wise men were more than astronomers. They were historians. They knew the stories of the stars that came from the ancient civilizations. And, as they watched the stars, they watched to see if the stories were coming true.

There’s an old story that a savior would come to the Kingdom of Israel and that a star in the sky would guide the way to the savior. The story dates back to the times when the Jewish prophet Daniel was in exile in Babylon, which later became Persia.

So when the wise men saw the star, they knew that the savior had come. They gathered amazing gifts and got their servants together and mounted up on camels to go on a journey to find the savior that had been born.

This is the beginning of gift giving. The wise men brought gifts to Jesus.

But, these weren’t just any gifts. These were King-sized gifts. They brought Gold, still a precious and valuable gift today. And they brought frankincense and myrrh, valuable spices. They brought these gifts because that’s what the stories said they were supposed to do when they went to find the savior.

But, the gifts they brought aren’t just any gift. These were gifts you gave a King.

Now, most of us can’t afford King-sized gifts like the wise men brought. So, today, we’re going to discuss some King-sized gifts that we can…

Give to Jesus

…at Christmas time.

The first is this.

A gift given to…

Jesus’s Church

…is a gift given to Jesus.

What I like about this one is that it makes it possible for every single person to give king-sized gifts to Jesus.

In the Old Testament and the New Testament, the most common pattern of giving to God is to give a percentage of wealth, not a set amount. It allows everyone to be generous, all the way down to the kids in the room.

Some of you get an allowance. Some of you do small jobs to make money. Some of you scrounge in the couch cushions for loose change—some of us parents scrounge in the couch cushions for loose change.

It doesn’t matter where that money comes from, you can give a gift to Jesus by praying and setting a percentage and then committing to that percentage as often as you receive money—payday or whenever else.

I think this is a great place to start your gift-giving this season. Make sure that you are committed to regular giving, this month and moving into the new year. Kids, pray and talk to your parents about how you can give. Adults, pray and talk to your spouses or to other people who you trust. And make that commitment today or this week if you haven’t already.

Jami and I have been committed to giving 10% for most of our adult lives and we continue that today. I tell you that, because, I know as well as anyone that it can be scary and sometimes very difficult. There were times in Bible school or seminary when I was working multiple part-time jobs and not making enough money, but we stayed committed to giving to Jesus’s church. And I can tell you we have never gone without anything. God always provides.

A gift given to Jesus’s Church is a gift given to Jesus.

Beyond your regular giving to the local church, there are other King-sized gifts.

A gift given to…

Jesus’s Mission

…is a gift given to Jesus.

The most important mission work you do doesn’t cost much. It doesn’t cost any more than inviting someone over to your house for lunch with the intention of having a spiritual conversation. It doesn’t cost more than taking someone out for coffee and having a chat about important things. It doesn’t cost more than inviting a family from the neighborhood to join your family at the park to give you the opportunity to talk to the parents.

Those kinds of things are the personal mission that you each are responsible for in your daily lives.

But as we look out further, the mission work becomes a lot more expensive.

In 1 Timothy 6, the Apostle Paul tells Timothy, who is a pastor of the church in the city of Ephesus, that we should use our wealth to do good. He says we shouldn’t be rich in our bank accounts, rich in our investments, rich in our retirement funds, rich in our piggy banks, but instead, we should be rich in good works.

They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share. (1 Timothy 6:18, ESV)

As a church, we give to local missions work. We also give to state-wide ministries for church planting, help for the needy, and disaster relief.

[Jesus’s Mission]

But, as you give gifts this holiday season I’d like you to consider another opportunity to give a king-sized gift to Jesus.

At Christmas time, we always take up an offering for the International Mission’s Board called the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

Over 100 years ago, there was a missionary named Lottie Moon. She was on her own in China, trying to communicate the good news about Jesus to the people there. But, the mission was too big for her to do on her own, so she began a letter-writing campaign. She petitioned the mission’s board in the United States to pray and to raise more money and send more workers to China. Her letters were circulated among churches. They prayed. They gave gifts. Many more missionaries were sent to China. And many Chinese people decided to follow Jesus.

Today, we remember Lottie Moon’s commitment and we use her name to call you to the same commitment. Once you’ve given to the mission of the local church, remember that our commission is also to the nations. This is one way you can be involved in the greater mission of the church.

EXH: When it comes to giving, it can be so tempting to ‘promise’ to give at a more convenient time. Let’s face it. The holidays are an expensive season. It’s estimated that the average adult will spend $983 on Christmas presents this year.

It would be way easier to say that January you will give to Jesus. January you will give to Jesus’s work. January you will give to missions work.

You think there must be a more convenient time to give, but, that time will never come. Now is the best time to start giving.

A gift given to Jesus’s Church is a gift given to Jesus.

A gift given to Jesus’s Mission is a gift given to Jesus.

This Christmas season as you begin to gather gifts for people, don’t forget to give to Jesus first. But, then let your gift-giving move out to people.

Because, a gift given to…

Jesus’s People

…is also a king-sized gift given to Jesus.

The gifts we give to others are actually gifts we give to Jesus. James, the brother of Jesus, said,

—Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights. (James 1:17, ESV)

Here are two things I see in this text.

First, God is a gift-giving God. So, it follows that God’s people are gift-giving people.

Second, only good and perfect gifts are gifts from God. We’ll talk in a moment about what makes a great gift, but suffice to say that a meaningless gift given out of obligation or for some other reason is not the same thing as a thoughtful gift presented in love.

So, giving gifts to our children and grandchildren is a picture of the Father’s good and perfect gifts towards us. Kids, giving gifts to your siblings and your parents is a picture of the good and perfect gifts that God gives to us.

Baking cookies for neighbors, coworkers, and all the different gifts we give like that around the Christmas season, are all images of the good and perfect gifts that God gives to us.

But, I think there is one more area of gift giving that is very near to Jesus’s heart. You see, gifts that we give to those who are in need are very specifically gifts that we give to Jesus.

In Matthew 25, we see Jesus teaching the people. And he gives this image of judgment day where all the people of the earth are gathered around his throne. And Jesus calls his people to himself. He calls those who believed in Him and who followed him and he makes this statement:

—Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. (Matthew 25:34–36, ESV)

As I read the story, I imagine this uncomfortable silence. Everyone freezes. No one present actually fed Jesus or gave him something to drink. No one welcomed him as a stranger or clothed him.

Did Jesus make some kind of mistake when he called them?

Probably not, but, they stand there awkwardly … until someone has the gal to speak up. And he asks,

—Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you? (Matthew 25:37–39, ESV)

And Jesus looks at this man with the intense compassion that only Jesus can muster and he says to him,

—Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me. (Matthew 25:40, ESV)

Giving to the needy is always a gift given to Jesus. Giving to those in need is giving king-sized gifts to King Jesus.

But, what if they don’t take care of the gift?

As you did it to one of the least of these, my brothers, you did it to me.”

But, what if they sell it to buy drugs or alcohol?

As you did it to one of the least of these, my brothers, you did it to me.”

But, what if I do all these things for them and they never change?

As you did it to one of the least of these, my brothers, you did it to me.”

What if I give these gifts and they never come to know Jesus?

As you did it to one of the least of these, my brothers, you did it to me.”

The gifts that we give to those in need around us, have less to do with how they respond to the gift and more to do with what is happening in our hearts when we give.

It is those who give generously, with no strings attached, who give to Jesus. Jesus is the greatest giver who ever lived and those who give to the needy, prove themselves to be the righteous ones called by God to eternal life.

We give king-sized gifts to Jesus when we give to Jesus’s church, when we give to Jesus’s mission, and when we give to the people Jesus created.

But…

What makes a great gift?

I think there are three ways to make sure a gift is a good gift. The first is to give…

A gift with meaning

King Solomon of Israel wrote that…

—The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty. (Proverbs 21:5, ESV)

I realize this proverb has to do with daily life, but notice the principle. Diligent planning produces fruit. But, hastiness—I think we can add in there procrastination—produces ruin.

A great gift is one that undergoes diligent planning. Last-minute purchases that have little thought are rarely good gifts. The receiver doesn’t really appreciate the gift because they can tell little thought went into it. Great gifts are appreciated because they are well thought out.

I love when I can give someone that perfect gift, the thing they always wanted but never knew they wanted.

You listen to people, watch people, learn what makes them tick so that you can buy or make that gift that’s just spot on.

I’ve come up with some pretty cool gifts, in my opinion. But, I really thought I did well probably 12 or 13 years ago. I made a really gutsy move and I bought Jami clothes for Christmas. You can imagine why that might have been a bad idea for me to do.

I got into her closet and drawers and looked at sizes. I measured her shoes because I know that not all shoes fit the same. I measured necklines and skirt lengths on clothes I knew she liked to wear. And then I went to probably 20 stores—with my measuring tape—looking for just the right things. She loved them all and everything fit. It was awesome because it was that perfect gift.

And I think this is the best place to talk about training your kids to give gifts. Kids give weird gifts sometimes. That’s OK. They’re figuring stuff out.

I come from a gift-giving family, so I learned very early on the joy of giving a great gift. And I think that we have a great opportunity with our kids to talk to them, to help them to watch other people and to choose gifts that they think will be meaningful or what would meet a need.

Even little kids can do this. They won’t see the world the way you do and they’re going to pick out some odd gifts. But, take them to the Dollar Store and let them pick out a gift for the people in their immediate family so they can begin to learn giving. And talk to them so that gift can be meaningful, as much as that’s possible.

Our oldest daughter Lorelei was born on December 15th and I thought I was so clever that Christmas. I don’t remember what the gift was, but I put a present under the tree for Jami that said, ‘To Mommy, Love Lorelei.’ It’s never too early to start training your kids to give great gifts.

Another way to give a great gift is to give…

A gift from the heart

Jesus was talking to the religious leaders of his day and he posed this rhetorical question. He asked,

—Which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? (Matthew 23:19, ESV)

Jesus is talking about animal sacrifice. He is asking, which is more important, the alter that was built for God or the animal that is laid on the alter?

You might be tempted to say the animal, but Jesus goes on to explain that the alter was constructed to glorify God and thus the alter makes the offering holy, so the alter is more important than the gift.

In other words, the source of the gift is more important than the gift itself. The gifts you give become great gifts when they reflect the love of your heart.

I think that’s why Jami and our kids love homemade gifts so much. Every year they make cookies and candies and other things to give as Christmas gifts.

And that’s funny if you think about it because a lot of the things we make during Christmas are actually cheaper and less time to consume to buy.

I’m actually making some Christmas presents this year and Jami and I were at the store the other day and we passed one of these things I’m making and it was like $6 or something like that. Jami pointed out that it will cost me more to make it than to buy it and my only response was, ‘But I want to make it!’

Why?

Because the crafting of the gift reflects the heart of the giver.

Making hand-made gifts, though, isn’t the only way to give great gifts.

Anything you can do to demonstrate your love through the gift will make it a great gift.

Which brings us to our last way to give great gifts. We give great gifts when we give…

A gift of service

Serving someone in some way is a far more profound reflection of your heart than a gift you purchase.

Gifts of service are great gifts when you don’t have a lot of money to spend. Gifts of service are great gifts for the needy in your neighborhoods, your workplaces, your schools.

My neighbor told me a story the other day. One of her co-workers asked if she knew how to bake a turkey for Thanksgiving. She told her how to season it and bake it and all that. Then she asked if she knew how to make a pie. And then mashed potatoes. And then stuffing. She didn’t know how to cook at all, but she wanted to cook her family a Thanksgiving meal.

This is the gift of service. My neighbor went over on Wednesday and helped her prepare the entire meal. She got everything ready to either put out on the table or put in the oven. She spent all day serving her co-worker. It was an incredible gift!

I just can’t begin to imagine the gratitude she must have felt. She received a gift that she probably will never have the opportunity to repay. She received an incredible blessing in that gift of service.

Conclusion

God is a gift-giving God and we as Christians are gift-giving people.

This year, be about the works of God, giving where He gives. Set your heart and mind to give without expectation of receiving. And as you receive gifts this year, I pray you receive them well, your heart filled with gratitude towards the one who gave that great gift. And I pray your heart is filled with gratitude towards God from whom all good and perfect gifts come.

I pray that this year you would give great gifts to Jesus by giving to His church and His mission. And as you give gifts to the people God has placed in your life, I pray your gifts are great gifts: meaningful gifts, gifts that come from the heart, and gifts of service.