Do you struggle each year to come up with the perfect gifts for friends and family at Christmas?
I know I do.
I wonder…what if we challenged the overarching focus of Christmas – one that is materialistic and self-indulgent – to one that is less about us and more about Jesus? What do you think Jesus really wants?
An end to hunger?
An end to poverty?
I think Jesus wants all those things. But most of all, I think what Jesus wants for Christmas is…us.
Our time, our talents, and our treasures. And he wants them to be used in service to others.
As Christians, we are the hands and feet of Jesus in the world. We have the love of Christ inside of us. And how is this love known? Through serving others. With action. We show the love of Jesus. Jesus says in Matthew that what you did for the least of these – sick, hungry, homeless, oppressed, imprisoned – you do to me. When we meet someone who has a need – be it hunger, or thirst, or shelter, or clothes – we are supposed to meet that need. To take care of them. To help them. We are to visit the sick and imprisoned. We are supposed to help ease their suffering. We know that there are people in our community suffering during this season of the year. I wonder… who are “the least” in our community? And what can we do to ease their suffering?
Jesus teaches us that our lives have more meaning and value than we can imagine. And what we do with them and choices we make really do matter. It says in 1 John that “this is how we know love; that Jesus laid his life down for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” Now…not every Christian is called to literally lay down their life for another. That truly is something special. But every believer is called to respond to people in need and to help as best as they can. It also says in 1 John, let us love with actions. Sometimes all that is needed is something simple, like something to eat or drink.
Thinking about the needy can seem pretty overwhelming. There are a lot of people in the world who are in need. There are a lot of people in our community who are in need. Now before we get too distraught, let me just say that I don’t think the heart of these verses is to make us feel guilty for what we haven’t done. I see them as more of a “wellness check” that encourages us to do the right thing. These verses are supposed to inspire us to be faithful, to serve the least in our community. To encourage us to stop being so self-centered. To help us gauge how we are – or are not – growing into the likeness of Jesus. That serving others becomes so much a part of us that we do it before we realize we are doing it. Before we know it, we are making time for others. We are getting out into the community and giving our time and our talents. And when we get to this point, we are laying down our lives for our brothers and sisters. My seminary professor said that, “when we lay down the completely normal human desire to live for ourselves and instead allow the love of God to reorient us toward the needs of others, we are laying down our lives.”
When we serve, we lay aside claim to our own lives and put others first. Because we love. When we believe in Jesus, we believe in love. And we cannot have love without action. And when we let that love act, through things like giving clothes to the needy or food to the hungry, we can be sure that the love of God is what is pulsing through our hearts and our hands and our feet. 
Love has spurred us to action a lot this fall at Faith. We have reached out into our community and painted a house for an elderly couple, given our time at elementary school carnivals, and given of our treasure when we filled up shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child and took ornaments from the Gift Tree*.
Love…. The Beatles had it right all along.
All you need is LOVE.
What does Jesus want for Christmas?
For us to love. And how do we do that? We serve. Any and every way we can.
The Cotton Patch Bible says it best: Let’s not talk about love. Let’s not sing about love. Let’s put love into action and make it real.