Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Eve Devotional: John 10 & Gift-Giving Traditions

… I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)
Christmas is traditionally a time of gift giving. After all, God gave us His Son on Christmas Day, a helpless baby, heralded by angels and visited by kings. As Christians we prepare to receive God’s gift through prayer, readings, candle-lighting, and reflections during the four weeks of Advent that precede Christmas.
The custom of Christmas gift giving dates back to the 4th century when St. Nicholas, a bishop in Turkey, gave handmade gifts to the less fortunate and also to children. God has been giving us gifts year-round since the beginning of creation and we love the gift of His earth and how it provides food and water and clothing and shelter for our needs. But instead of honoring God and taking good care of the earth so that future generations will have what they need, in our sinful nature we take more from the earth than we need and leave less for generations who come after us. We dig and bore and explode to get to ores and oil and coal and metals and in the process foul streams and rivers and lakes, harm the landscape, destroy mountains, contaminate the land, pollute the air, and overextend the natural renewal of the earth.
Being the generous God that He is, our God also gave us the gift of His son, Jesus, who would ultimately die for our sins. Sins of greed and gluttony and arrogance and self-centeredness would all be forgiven. Isn’t that the best Christmas present we can imagine - that our God, who gave us this beautiful planet Earth to be our home could forgive us for dishonoring Him by not taking care of it?

What can we do?
  • Shift the focus of celebrating Christ's birth from exchanging gifts to spending quality time together: bake cookies to share with friends, go caroling at a nursing home, invite a single person to attend a musical performance or a play, build a snowman with your neighbors, or have friends and family over for a potluck dinner.
  • Remember that the Christmas season lasts until the Epiphany on January 6.
  • Minimize consumerism at Christmas and all year by giving alternative gifts such as a donation to a charity, a coupon for a service, or a locally produced, hand-made (by you!), or fair trade product.
More Information:
Let us pray for forgiveness: Heavenly Father, on the eve of your only Son’s birth, we praise you for the universe you created for us. We thank you for the special home you made for us on Earth and for how interdependent you made all living things. Help us to understand how we are to live in harmony together, so that all may have life abundantly. Today we celebrate the love you have for us and anticipate forgiveness of our ecological sins through the human form of your baby, Jesus.

Jane Laping is Vice Moderator of Presbyterians for Earth Care. She is active in creation care at her church, in her Presbytery and with the denomination. Jane is co-author of Earth Care Congregations: A Green Guide for Presbyterian Churches.
(Photos courtesy of the author.)

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