“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” —Acts 20:35

The word ‘selah’ throughout Scripture is used as an exclamation mark at the end of a verse to help us pause and reflect on its meaning. Today, in day 11 of our Christmas devotional series we are resting on Acts 20:35. Selah.

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Reframing Gift Giving this Christmas

by Sidhara Udalagama

No one has a handle on gift giving at Christmas like my mother.

For as long as I can remember, every spare inch of the guest bedroom in our home has been covered in a flurry of gifts, wrapping paper and cards.

My mother has a Christmas gift list—handwritten of course—that she brings out each year. The pages of this list are ink stained and aged with thumb prints that have sat for hours pondering the perfect gift suited to each person.

My father half jokes that the list seems to grow longer every year and he may very well be right. See, my mother has a memory for people.

Even if she meets them just once, even if the relationship is as tenuous as a friend’s uncle’s neighbour’s cousin … they will receive a gift from our family!

Over the years I have come to realise that her list extends each year to make room for people who are hurting, lost or left behind. The friend’s mother who lost her husband a few months ago, the little girl who got that diagnosis, the poor family down the road who cannot afford Christmas gifts, the orphanage that depends on the donations of toys for their wards.

In light of her faith in Jesus, it is important to my mother, especially in this season, that no one is forgotten.

In the above verse in Acts, Paul speaks to the elders of the Ephesus church and reminds them of his example. He encourages them that by the work of their hands they would take it upon themselves to “help the weak”. Inviting them into the truth that as Jesus Himself demonstrated, "it is more blessed to give than to receive”.

It is a truly divine act to give where no receiving is warranted.

The verses in Isaiah 9 echo throughout this season.

“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given…”

Jesus—God’s gift—was life-changing, world-altering, darkness-conquering, and hope-inducing … to say the least! He was gifted at a time when people had lost all hope, living in a world of oppression and bondage, slaves to sin and death.

And then God gave.

Hope. Peace. Kindness. Redemption. Jesus.

God gave not so that He could receive. God gave so that we might receive.

He gave without agenda.

He gave without the possibility of reciprocation.

The gift was for everyone. Everyone was invited. Everyone was included. No one was forgotten.

Why do we give this Christmas season?

Has our giving unintentionally become intertwined with our getting?

Who does our list include?

Is it focused solely on the people around our table?

Or this year, is there room to create space? To pull up another chair.

So that, this Christmas, as far as we are able, we ensure that no one is forgotten.

Dear Jesus, Help us to remember the kind of work that you are calling us into. One that reflects the weak, one that blesses without the agenda to receive. Have mercy on us when we get this wrong. Help us to reframe the motivations of our offerings this coming year. Amen

Sidhara Udalagama

Originally from Sri Lanka, Sidhara spent most of her adult years in England before moving to Perth. She works as a public speaker and organisational consultant/coach. Sidhara is married to her husband Dev and enjoys eating, travelling the world, and repeating those two things … preferably together!

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