What God Wants For Christmas

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by Juli Slattery

True confession: the Christmas season overwhelms me.

It’s not the busyness, the music, or the parties, but the gift-giving that stresses me out. Gifts are not my love language, so I never know how to answer my husband when he asks what I’d like for Christmas. What makes the season most stressful is choosing gifts for others. I rarely feel like I picked out the perfect gift. If I knew something that would delight a friend or loved one, I’d buy it in a heartbeat, but I usually feel like I’m guessing in the dark.                                                                                                                        

Have you ever felt that way with God? What can you possibly give the One who is the giver of all things? While He doesn’t need anything from us, there are ways that we can bless and delight the Lord—at Christmas and throughout the year.

God has a very short wish list. At the very top of it is His consistent request that we love the people around us. 

"Love each other as I have loved you" (John 15:12 NIV).

"Let love and faithfulness never leave you" (Proverbs 3:3 NIV).

"Be devoted to one another in love" (Romans 12:10 NIV).

"Love your neighbor as you love yourself" (Mark 12:31 NIV).

There is nothing our world lacks more than love. We sing about it and watch movies that encourage us to have a giving spirit at Christmas, but we seem to become less loving with each passing day. You might be nodding your head in agreement, but we can’t criticize the world’s lack of love without first looking at our own lives. 

Am I a person known by my love? What would it look like for me to give God a gift of love for others? 

As I’ve pondered these questions, I’ve realized that not all commands to love are the same. In fact, the Lord tells us to love three different groups of people in three different ways. 

Be unified with fellow believers.

The greatest challenge for a Christ-follower is how we love fellow Christians. On His last night on earth, Jesus gave a final charge to His disciples and then He prayed. He prayed not only for those in the room but also for those who would someday believe in Him. The theme of His prayer was unity, “... that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you (John 17:21 NIV).” Jesus’ disciples would be first and foremost known by how they loved each other. 

The world’s spirit creates division, pride, unforgiveness, gossip, hypocrisy, and jealousy. Only by the power of the Holy Spirit can God’s children love each other well. As we grow in Christ, genuine Christians should become the most loving people on the planet. This matters deeply to God—more than our worship, tithing, and sacrifice. (See Mark 12:33.)

Think about the Christians you know, both in your inner circle and within the broader church. How are we doing in love? From my vantage point, we are breaking God’s heart with our lack of love for one another. Churches snub each other. Authors and podcasters aim to slander leaders with whom they disagree. Friendships break apart because of arguments about masks, vaccines, and other political views. If the litmus test of our faith is love, we are failing miserably. 

What can you do to give a gift of love? 

Think of a Christian friend or family member with whom you have a deep disagreement. Perhaps your relationship has been broken by a misunderstanding or past unkind exchange. Now apply these verses from Colossians 3:

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (NIV)

Write a note, meet for coffee, and see your brother or sister through this grid of love. 

Selflessly love your neighbor.

A few months ago, it dawned on me that the kind of love God calls me to have for my neighbor is different from the love I’m meant to show to my Christian brothers and sisters. God does not want me to be unified or in perfect agreement with people who don’t follow Him. The goal of interacting with the larger world around me is not to find common ground. As a Christ-follower, I should think, believe, and act differently. 

Yet, God still calls me to love. This love isn’t a pursuit of unity, but an attitude of a servant. How can I bless the couple that lives down the street? How can I meet the needs of the poor and lonely in my city? How can I live as a good citizen, obeying the laws and working toward the common good? 

You may deeply disagree with a friend or neighbor who doesn’t know the Lord. That’s OK. Your job is not to change their mind. Your call is to be a gracious and kind person that represents the hope and love of Christ Jesus. 

What can you do to give a gift of love? 

Find someone in need and bless them. It may be a physical need for food or clothing met through a local charity or it may be the need for companionship and comfort. 

Courageously love your enemy.

The crowd once asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” They never asked him, “Who is my enemy?” I think they instinctively knew the answer to that question!

Do you have an enemy? Perhaps a name or face just came to your mind, someone who opposes you, slanders you, or has taken something precious from you. Or maybe your enemy is a group of people—those you perceive as tearing down the Church or society. Maybe your enemy is someone within your own household. You try to love and they respond with hate. 

Jesus said that even a pagan can love those who are kind toward them. The true test of belonging to the Father is how we treat those who are cruel to us. 

Loving your enemy does not mean seeking unity or reconciliation with them. In fact, you should wisely set boundaries with someone who is trying to harm you. Love means trusting God to be the one who judges the heart and repays evil. Instead of responding with anger and revenge, determine to pray for and bless people who don’t deserve it. Imagine how different our world would be if every Christian followed this advice!

What can you do to give a gift of love? 

Think of a person or people you view as an enemy. Resolve to pray for them every day for the next two weeks. Ask the Lord to show you how to forgive and trust Him with judgment. Find one way to bless them—a text, a gift, a word of kindness. 

God, indeed, has a wish list this Christmas season. He longs for His people to reflect His love to a broken, hateful, divided, and hurting world. Over the next few weeks, you are likely to see manger scenes and figures of wise men bringing gifts to Jesus. Let these images prompt you to bring to your Savior a gift of love. 

 

If you'd like to learn more about loving others well, here are two blogs and a Java with Juli episode for you:

 

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

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  • Linda Thwing

    Linda Thwing

    Thank you for this, Juli.

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