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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Advent Day 3: Giving Gifts on Purpose

Meditation (3-5 Minutes)

Begin by being still before God.  Read Proverbs 18:16 and meditate on the words.

 Proverbs 18:16 (NIV)
A gift opens the way for the giver and ushers him into the presence of the great. 

1)    Be still and know he is God. 

2)    Think about some of the Christmas gifts you have given in years past.
a)    Were they from the heart?
b)    How did you pick them out?
c)    Did you pray about them?
d)    Did you enjoy giving them?
e)    Did they serve a purpose in God’s kingdom?

3)    Picture yourself standing at a door on Christmas morning.
a)    Your arms are overflowing with gifts and it is hard to knock.
b)    Excited children quickly open the door. 
c)    What is the look in their eyes as they see your gifts?

4)    Picture yourself standing at the door of the “Presence of the Great.”
a)     Your arms are overflowing with gifts and it is hard to knock.
b)     “The Great” quickly opens the door.
c)    What is the look in His eyes as he sees your gifts?

5)    Sit quietly and experience the “Presence of the Great.” 

Prayer (5-10 Minutes)

1)    Ask God to speak to you during this devotional time.

2)    Requests of the Christ Child (Appendix 1):
i)    Ask God to help you to understand the purpose of giving gifts at Christmas.
ii)    Ask God to help you release:
(1)    Resentments of family pressure to give more.
(2)    Fear that the gifts you can afford will not be enough.
(3)    Worry about the time it takes to buy or make gifts at Christmas.
(4)    Stinginess or greed
iii)    Turn to Appendix 1: pray and update.

3)    Gifts from the Christ Child (Appendix 2):
i)    Think about Christmas gifts you have received or expect to receive.
ii)    Praise God for his gifts to you.
iii)    Turn to Appendix 2 and list anything that comes to mind.

4)    Gifts to the Christ Child (Appendix 3):
i)    Ask God to guide you as you pick out your Christmas gifts.
ii)    Thank God that these gifts will usher you into the “Presence of the Great.”
iii)    Turn to Appendix 3.
(1)    Scan the list thinking of these gifts as gifts to the Christ Child.
(2)    Ask the Christ Child what he wants for Christmas.
(3)    Update the list.

5)    Ask God for knowledge of his will for you this Christmas and the power to carry it out. 

6)    Ask the Holy Spirit to interpret the scriptures you are about to read.

Bible Study (10-15 Minutes)

God gave the first Christmas gift.  Jesus Christ coming to earth was his Christmas gift to us.  He came for everyone.  It is our choice to accept or reject that very first Christmas gift.  We celebrate Christmas because God sent His son to us. 

Most of us give gifts at Christmas.  Merchants plan much of their economic year based on expectations for Christmas.  Studies show that each American spends an average of $800 a year for Christmas.  Since many people in America spend nothing for Christmas, that means many of us spend much more than $800. 

Some wonder if Christmas has become too commercial and if we spend too much time and money on Christmas.  People often wonder if the gifts we give get in the way of the meaning of Christmas. 

The answer to those questions lies in the purpose of the gifts we give.  Giving gifts “on purpose” is an important part of the Christmas Season.  Giving gifts to God’s children is part of our relationship with God.  Like everything else in our relationship with God, gift giving at Christmas should serve God’s purpose in the lives of the giver and the receiver. 

Background Scripture

Read Matthew 25:40.  When we give gifts, to whom are we really giving?  (Write your answer in your journal.)

Read Matthew 2:1-11.  The first Christmas gifts given to the Christ Child were from Wise Men from the East.  Note the time and effort that the men went to in order to celebrate this first Christmas.  What obstacles did they have to overcome?  (Write your answer in your journal.)

Note that these Wise Men were both generous and frugal.  We know the gifts were precious to them because we see the words “They Opened their Treasures.” We also know they could afford to give what they gave because of the word “their.”  These men did not go into debt to give their gifts to the Christ Child.  What gifts did the Wise Men give to the Christ Child?  (Write your answer in your journal.)

What did the Wise Men do as they gave these gifts?  (Write your answer in your journal.)

Jesus was a baby.  He would not have known what to do with the gifts given to him.  Like us, the Wise men had to give gifts to Jesus through other people.  Who do you think really used the gifts from the Wise Men?  (Write your answer in your journal.)

What purpose do you think these gifts served?  (Write your answer in your journal.)

Gifts with a Love Purpose

Read Jesus’ command in Mark 12:30-31.  What are the five ways we are to love God?  (Write your answer in your journal.)

At Christmas, we demonstrate our love for God by giving gifts.  Our gifts can help others fulfill Jesus’ greatest commandment. 

Loving God With Our Hearts: Fellowship Gifts

We love God with our hearts when we fellowship with him and others.  Many and possibly most Christmas gifts are for fellowship.  Our fellowship includes playing and visiting together.  Most people remember the toys they get at Christmas.  Gifts of fellowship are anything we enjoy doing with other people: anything that communicates love.  Fellowship gifts can include games, toys, or even redecorating a family room.  We love the Lord God with our entire heart when we play with the abandonment of a child and strengthen the relationships in our lives. 

Loving God With Our Souls: Worship Gifts

Our souls worship God.  We love God with our souls as we praise him, pray, and spend daily time with him.  If we love God, our souls will worship him for all eternity.  Many gifts can assist with worship.  An example of a worship gift could be Christian Music and even a stereo to play it on.  Yes, that stereo may play other types of music, but its purpose would be to worship God. 

Loving God With Our Mind: Discipleship Gifts

We love the Lord God with our mind when we strengthen our mind or learn more about God.  As we study, we become Disciples of Christ. We educate our minds so we can fulfill our earthly callings.  Discipleship gifts help the recipient strengthen their minds.  These gifts can include anything that makes us better people.  Educational toys and books, Bible Study books, or journals can be examples of gifts of discipleship gifts. 

Loving God With Our Strength: Ministry Gifts

We love God with our strength when we minister to other people.  Ministry gifts are practical gifts that make someone’s life more functional.  Examples can be appliances, tools, socks, and even the dreaded tie.  We love the Lord God with our strength when we have the tools we need to take care of the housekeeping items that God assigns us. 

Loving Our Neighbors As Ourselves: Mission Gifts

We love our neighbor as ourselves when we help our neighbors find God.  At Christmas, many people donate to Missions or help with mission projects.  An example of a personal gift of mission could be giving a Bible to a non-Christian. 

As we give gifts this year, let us give them on purpose.  As we receive gifts on behalf of the Christ Child, let us use them for his purpose.  For the next five days, we will read stories of people finding purpose in the gifts they give and receive.  We will learn to apply God’s greatest commandment, loving God with our entire heart, soul, mind and strength and loving our neighbors as ourselves to our Christmas gift giving.  Together, we will worship God as we learn how to give gifts to the Christ Child. 

Application (5-10 Minutes)

1)    Making It Personal
a)    What is your attitude about giving gifts?  Are you thinking of the gifts to others as gifts to the Christ Child or do you resent gift giving?  Do you delight in giving gifts or find yourself making speeches about “commercialism” or “the selfish demands of gift giving?”  What areas do you need to improve?  (Write your answer in your journal.)
b)    Do you think of your Christmas gift giving as an act of worship?  Like the Wise Men, do you bow down and worship Jesus as you present him with his gifts?  How can you better worship as you buy and give your gifts?  (Write your answer in your journal.)
c)    Turn to Appendix 3.
i)    Pray once again over this list, asking the Christ Child what he wants for Christmas.
ii)    “Opening our treasures” can include giving gifts, money, precious items, or time.  How are you “Opening your treasures” this year?  (Write your answer in your journal.)
iii)    Each of us has a different amount in our “treasury.”  Can you afford the gifts you are giving?  Adjust the list if necessary. 
iv)    Do your gifts serve one of the five love purposes: Worship, Fellowship, Ministry, Discipleship, or Mission?  Beside the gift, write its love purpose.
d)    Thank God for his first Christmas gift to us. 

2)    Praying Continuously  (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
a)    Throughout your day, try to remember the meaningful Christmas gifts you have received.
i)     Figure out which of the five love purposes (Worship, Fellowship, Ministry, Discipleship, or Mission) they served in your life. 
ii)    Praise God for the gifts.
b)    Every time you see Christmas lights, thank God for the privilege of being able to give him gifts.

3)    Ending The Day
a)    Thank God for his Christmas gift to us. 
b)    Thank Him for the model set by the Wise Men. 
c)    Thank Him for the privilege of giving gifts to others in His name. 
d)    If you are resentful or feeling trapped into giving gifts at Christmas, confess.  Ask Him for help with your attitude. 
e)    If you have not been “Opening your treasures” or you have been spending too much, confess. 
f)    If you have not been taking delight or worshipping as you give Him his gifts, confess. 
g)    Ask Him to guide you as you go through the Christmas season.  Ask for wisdom as you give gifts.  Ask Him to teach you how to use gift giving as an act of worship. 
h)    Praise Him for loving us.

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