Read Matthew 1:1-12
Wise people know it’s good to be generous. Because generosity changes the world.
God has designed it so that generosity benefits not only the recipient but the giver too. This is counter-intuitive. Because we’ve been brought up to think that a person who gives loses something. But it’s not the case. Everyone gains. Not only does the recipient gain but the giver too.
The bible consistently says this, through teaching and story. One story that shows us what it looks like to be generous is the story of the Magi – ‘Wise Men’. Three aspects of generosity are seen in their story.
1) Giving time. These men were astrologers and read in the stars that a great King was to be born. So they travelled from somewhere far in the East and kept going until they found the source of their searching. They were away from home for many months, which means they gave significant time to this. But it was well worth it because when they found the Christ-child they were not disappointed! They learned what people who volunteer and serve in churches, in charities and in caring for the poor also discover: that giving time is worth it. What we receive back is so much more. Generous people give time.
2) Giving gifts. When they found the baby King, the Wise Men ‘presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh’ (Mt 1:11). These were generous gifts, not just for their material value but even more for the thought behind them, as each had its own symbolic meaning. This reminds us that it’s easy to confuse gifts and generosity at Christmas with buying and consuming. It’s not the same. We all know that usually our most treasured Christmas gift is the one with the most love behind it which means we don’t have to spend huge sums of money for a gift to be valuable. This isn’t to suggest that we should be stingy at Christmas! I’m all for enjoying giving and receiving!! But it does mean that we need to plan gift-giving well and be wise in looking for ‘good deals’. So giving gifts at Christmas is not about bowing to the god of commercialism, but about modelling generosity. Generous people give gifts.
3) Giving worship. When the Magi are pictured on Christmas cards they’re normally portrayed as giving their gifts. However, according to the Advent story, they did something first. They came into the presence of Jesus and ‘bowed down and worshipped him’ (Mt 1:11). They gave their homage and devotion to him. This must have been something beautiful to behold. Something not just respectful and honouring, but also heart-felt and intimate. The Greek word used for their worship here is the Greek word which literally means ‘to come towards to kiss.’ This worship was not a stiff or awkward thing but something affectionate and warm. This is how we are called to worship Christ, not just at Christmas but all the time! From the heart, with generous devotion. Giving our simple adoration. Generous people give worship.
Everyone loves to be around a generous person. Not just because you might receive something good from them, but because those who are genuinely generous exude grace and are attractive to be with. They encourage rather than discourage. They invest rather than divest. They give rather than take.
So this Advent, be wise and learn from the Wise Men. Commit to be a generous person and start to change the world.
ACTION: A small gift to someone who least expects it can positively change a difficult relationship. So choose two people you could give to this Christmas – perhaps a work colleague or neighbour. Show love and see the change it can bring!
PRAY: We cannot outgive God, who gave his most precious gift of all – his son Jesus Christ to us. Ask him to fill you with his generous love and specifically ask for inspiration and guidance to be generous in giving time, gifts and worship this Advent.