This is the time of year when even the most nominal Christians give. They may give of their time, their energy, their resources. They may serve a meal at the homeless shelter with their small group, they may go caroling at a nursing home with the church choir, they may make an uncharacteristic donation to a charity. In the context of Christian community, Christmas is all about giving as God himself gave.
If twentieth-century Christians are to speak the truth for the sociohistorical situation, they cannot merely repeat the story of what Jesus did and said in Palestine, as if it were self-interpreting for us today. Truth is more than the retelling of the biblical story. Truth is the divine happening that invades our contemporary situation, revealing the meaning of the past for the present so that we are made new creatures for the future….” -James H. Cone¹
How are those you shepherd living out the truth of Jesus birth… the truth that God gave more than we could ask or imagine so that we also might give? What can be learned from the way they are expressing that truth through their Christmas giving?
Begin with your ministry team, a Sunday school class, or your small group and pose these questions:
- To what are you giving this year (outside of family and friends)?
- What form is your giving taking (e.g., time, energy, resources)?
- Why did you choose to give in this particular way to this particular recipient?
- What might this tell you about how God has uniquely designed you for ministry?
By engaging in dialogue around these questions, you can open the door to discovery, even with those who are resistant to gifts inventories. By examining their motivations, you can help them discover something–a people group, an issue, or a cause–that stirs their heart. By looking at the means by which they express that heart-stirring, you can help them see an ability or skill that they can use for ministry. And if their giving is in the form of making a monetary donation, you just might help them discover the spiritual gift of giving!
Mr. Cone goes on to say that we must investigate the connection between Jesus’ words and deeds and our existence today. Anyone who hangs around the Christian community for any length of time can’t escape the truth that we are created in the image of God whose purpose for us is that we be conformed to the likeness of Christ, who gave everything for us. Never is giving more in the spotlight than at Christmas as we celebrate the Christ coming to dwell among us. Help your people see the connection between Jesus’ existence and their existence today. Point them to the clues to their unique design for ministry, that they might see themselves as a living revelation of the love of God in Christ Jesus.
There is no sweeter gift that you could give this Christmas!