One of the most amazing things about Christmas is that, just like the Bible and God Himself, the story is dynamic. There are so many aspects to it that every year I see a different facet of God’s amazing love. This year our pastor has been preaching about the back story, including the birth of John the Baptist. He showed us how God used the meanings of names to make a deeper point.
What struck me is the name of John. I already knew that it means “God is gracious” but Pastor Tim used a less popular meaning. He said it means “God is generous.” So I looked them up and found these meanings on dictionary.com. Gracious means merciful or compassionate. Generous means liberal in giving or sharing. On his website, Arie Uittenbogaard says that “HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament states that this verb 'depicts a heartfelt response by someone who has something to give to one who has a need.'”
God’s grace sent His Son Jesus to earth to be born as a baby in response to the world’s need for a savior. And He prepared the way for both Jesus’ birth and later for His ministry through a man named "God is generous" - John.
In other words, God’s generosity prepared the way for our salvation.
That puts my gift giving into perspective. As I was wrapping gifts today and putting them under the Christmas tree, I asked Wayne how it looked. He laughed and said it looked commercial. In a way he’s right, since the gifts are bought – not homemade – and I used commercial paper and bows. But, in light of how God prepared for Jesus’ birth, giving gifts is the appropriate way for us to do so too. He was generous and so should we be.
The question I had to ask myself this year, though, was whether I am truly being generous. I love buying gifts for the people closest to me and I probably spent more money than I should have. But am I aware of other opportunities for giving God has given me? There are a lot if I look for them. We went to a benefit concert for a homeless shelter last week. There was a special offering for missions the week before that. Another program at church is requesting food donations for Christmas baskets for needy families. In fact, I know several needy families that could use an anonymous donation. And then there’s the Salvation Army bucket outside Walmart . . .
Generosity is God’s way of preparing for Christmas. I want to get ready for Christmas by being generous too. I want to give liberally to those in need.