Christmas Gifts By Mrs. Ellen G. White
"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself....This do, and thou shalt live." The words spoken to the lawyer are applicable to every soul inquiring, "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?"
If we do love God with all the heart, we shall remember His claims upon us. He requires that we shall be like Him, that we shall imitate the self-sacrificing life of Christ. Jesus said of Himself, "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work." The joy ever before Him was the blessing and uplifting of fallen humanity. Everything else was secondary and subordinate. From the manger to Calvary His life was one scene of loving effort and sacrifice for the good of men. If Christ is dwelling in our hearts, we shall have the same spirit, and shall do the same work. Our thoughts, our interests, our sympathies, as well as our words and money and effort, will be given to the upbuilding of the Redeemer's kingdom. And this not merely as a duty; it will be our life, our joy. As the living water bursts from the mountain spring, so will our life flow out in words and deeds of love.
This spring of self-sacrifice has become feeble in the hearts of Christ's professed followers. Instead of gratefully inquiring, "What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?", how many of those who claim to have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, seem bent on self-pleasing. Even Christmas, the day observed professedly in honour of the birth of Christ, has been made a most effective means of turning the mind away from Christ, away from His glory. If Christmas is kept at all, it should be kept in a way that will be in harmony with its significance. Christ should be remembered, His name honoured; the old, old story of His love should be recounted. Instead of saying by our actions that we are putting Christ out of our minds and hearts, we should testify to men, to angels, and to God, that we remember our Redeemer, by following His example of self-sacrifice for others' good. But the day chosen to honour Christ is devoted by the many to honouring and pleasing themselves. Appointed to keep the Saviour in remembrance, it is spent in causing Him to be forgotten.
How stinted are the offerings that on this day go into the Lord's treasury! How large the sums that are spent in presents to one another! Yearly those who have means, have put God from their remembrance, and bestowed their gifts upon those who have no need of them, and who could repay them again. How many of you have thus needlessly expended time and money, while close under the shadow of your own homes the poor and needy have been neglected, and while the message of truth has been restricted in its work. The means that was devoted to gratify pride and foster vanity would have been a great blessing to the needy, and would have carried the gospel light to those who sit in darkness.
God is the giver of every gift, and He has honoured men by making them His stewards, that they should prove themselves faithful in disbursing their means in gifts and offerings to sustain His cause. The Lord has not withheld His blessing from man; He has given His only begotten Son to come into this world to suffer and die, that by believing in Him we should have eternal life. He that withheld not His own Son, but gave Him as an offering to save us from hopeless misery, how much more will He not with Him freely give us all things! What offering will we individually present to Jesus our Saviour for this priceless treasure? Will it not be the very best plan to celebrate the coming Christmas by bringing God to our remembrance, and showing our love to Him by putting our gifts into His treasury? These gifts are needed, that the gospel may be sustained, and the truth may reach all parts of the world.
The rich can bring to God a liberal offering, saying, "All things come of Thee, and of Thine own have we given Thee." Thus they acknowledge the claims of God upon them, and show honour to Christ. In this work the poor also may act a part. God does not estimate the value of our gifts to His cause by their amount in money; He looks upon our motives. It is the heart service that makes the gift valuable. When the Majesty of heaven became a babe, and was intrusted to Mary, she did not have much to offer for the precious gift. She brought to the alter only two turtle doves, the offering appointed for the poor; but they were an acceptable sacrifice to the Lord. She could not present rare treasures such as the wise men of the East came to Bethlehem to lay before the Son of God; yet the mother of Jesus was not rejected because of the smallness of her gift. It was the willingness of her heart that the Lord looked upon, and her love made the offering sweet. So God will accept our gift, however small, if it is the best we have, and is offered from love to Him.
Will you not acknowledge Jesus as the chief object of your affections, by your free-will offerings to Him? Will not parents educate their children to appreciate the great love of Christ, and His wonderful gift? Will they not teach them for His sake to practice self-denial, that they may bring their grateful offerings to Him who for our sake became poor, that we through His poverty might be rich? Instead of sending gifts to one another, let your offerings, large and small, flow into the treasury of God, as the many rivulets flow toward the mighty ocean. The lessons thus taught to your children will be such as God can approve.
Under the Jewish economy, on the birth of children an offering was made to God, by His own appointment. Now we see parents taking special pains to present gifts to their children upon their birthdays; they make this an occasion of honouring the child, as though honour were due to the human being. Satan has had his own way in these things; he has diverted the minds and the gifts to human beings; thus the thoughts of the children are turned to themselves, as if they were to be made the objects of special favour. That which should flow back to God in offerings to bless the needy and carry the light of truth to the world, is turned from the right channel, and frequently does more harm than good, encouraging vanity, pride, and self-importance. On birthday occasions the children should be taught that they have reason for gratitude to God for His loving-kindness in preserving their lives for another year. Precious lessons might thus be given. For life, health, food, and clothing, no less than for the hope of eternal life, we are indebted to the Giver of all mercies; and it is due to God to recognise His gifts, and to present our offerings of gratitude to our greatest benefactor. These birthday gifts are recognised of Heaven.
If Christian parents had accustomed their children to present offerings to God in acknowledgement of His great gift of salvation to men, how different would be the character of the young. Their minds would have been called away from themselves to the blessed Saviour. They would have been taught to feel that He loved them, and that He is the source of all blessing; that He is their hope of happiness and eternal life. If this kind of education had been given to our children, we should today see far less selfishness, far less envy and jealousy; we should have more manly young men and womanly young women. We should see the youth coming up with moral strength, with pure principles, with well-balanced minds and lovely characters, because the Model would be ever before them; they would be impressed with the importance of copying the excellence of Jesus, the pattern. The world will follow its own customs, its maxims and practices; but the children of God will seek to reach the elevated standard of purity and holiness.
God wants the youth and those of mature age to look to Him, to believe in Jesus Christ whom He has sent, and to have Him abiding in the heart; then a new life will quicken every faculty of the being. The divine Comforter will be with them, to strengthen them in their weakness, and guide them in their perplexity. It will make the mind clearer, the heart purer; it sanctifies the will, and makes it strong for the service of God. It will make plain to them the path of life.