Does giving gifts take away from the true meaning of Christmas?
The real meaning of Christmas is celebrating of the birth of Jesus—God's ultimate gift of love to the world to save us from our sin (Luke 2; John 3:16). When talking about the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas, many people point to the Magi (wise men) bringing gifts to baby Jesus (Matthew 2:10-11).
Today, in our materialistic-saturated culture, Christmas is often made more about "what I get" rather than about "what God gave us." Millions of marketing and advertising dollars ensure that is the case, because let's face it: Christmas is a very lucrative time of year for retail businesses.
But just because obscene materialism has become a big part of the Christmas season today does not mean that the tradition of giving gifts has to take away from the real meaning of Christmas. The key is our focus. It's easy to become consumed with the gift giving aspect because it's such an ingrained part of our culture, but our focus should be on God, who is the ultimate gift-giver (James 1:17). When we stop and realize that the birth of Jesus was not just a one-time gift from God over two thousand years ago, but that it has tangible meaning and impact on our lives every single day in the "now," giving gifts to one another can be a natural expression of our gratitude.
Ultimately, the question of whether giving gifts takes away from the true meaning of Christmas must be answered on an individual basis. If a person feels like it does, it may be worth reevaluating one's motivations behind giving gifts. The Bible speaks of excelling "in this grace of giving" as Christians (2 Corinthians 8:7-8 NIV). Our God is a very giving God, so it would make sense that as His followers we reflect the same characteristic, not just at Christmas, but year round.
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