This time of year brings nostalgic memories, painful losses, and a whirlwind of a running to-do list. It’s the most wonderful time of year, and yet the hustle and bustle is so counter to the meaning of the season.
We said good-bye to Thanksgiving before Halloween even started. All my favorite stores were stocked with green and red before October could close it’s last pages. We are all in a hurry in every sense of the word this time of year. Anxiety is high and expectations are even higher. I, for one, am pledging to strike and not participate in the overwhelming any more. You with me?
I have been pondering the original Christmas night: nothing but stars in the sky, the rustling of barn animals in hay, and the cries of a laboring mom. Then in a moment, all the world stood still and Jesus, the King of Kings, was born as a baby in a humble setting, ready to receive. The God of the Universe humbled Himself and joined humanity in the most poor, rural, and quiet setting. No hoopla. Well, maybe a few angels singing “Glory to God in the highest heaven,” and a few gifts, but you get the picture.
Amongst leaders and helpers, I am often discussing the idea of receiving this time of year, as opposed to giving. It is the most amazing time of year to give and be generous out of the many blessings in our store houses. At the very same time, testing our motive to why we give and receive is even more important.
Andy Crouch, author of several books including Playing God and Strong and Weak, said that charity can often be a form of keeping the more vulnerable in a place of no authority which propitiates a sense of suffering. The conviction of his words requires a deep pause and maybe even a deeper breath. Charity without love and a true desire to bring rightful power into the hands of the receiver is never a true gift, but only an act born of our own guilt and a selfish need to placate our own egos.
Proverbs 16:2 says that, “All a person’s ways seems pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord.” (NIV) Another translation says, “People may be pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives” (NLT). Motive is everything when it comes to being a person of integrity. You and I can both participate in the same experiences this season. From hosting and toasting to buying and serving. However, the motive of our hearts can vary greatly. If we truly stop and reflect on the motive of our heart and minds, we might find:
“I have to.”
“I don’t care.”
“I love to!”
“I choose to.”
You see, Jesus coming as a baby in the still of the night where no one noticed but the uneducated shepherds tending to their flocks, was a choice. It was an intentional motive of an unimaginably loving God who sacrificed His rightful place as powerful and mighty, to enter our world as a help-filled fragile baby; it was also an intentional modeling of what it means to receive as well. Sometimes as leaders and helpers, we find ourselves in desperate need of receiving but our pride keeps us from allowing such an act from occurring. A healthy leader is someone who can both give AND receive. Even more, a leader is someone who chooses consciously to give and receive. Consider all the obligations you think you have this season, run them by the Lord and let Him test the motives of your heart. Do not give or act out of the first two motives listed above, for those are selfish, protective motives, and are rooted in the bondage of shaming voices coming from our families, our culture, our churches, and our own egos. Consider the motive. If you cannot receive, as Jesus did on the night He was born, than your motive to give is not rooted in love.
Join me this Christmas in not entering the crazy of the Season; breathe deeply, and let the Lord weigh your motives. You might just gain a few hours to rest and celebrate with those who bring you life and joy, and when you give and serve, you will find that the ripple effect is far greater than you can ask or even imagine. Become a conscious participant this Christmas and move towards a rightful posture of giving and receiving. Humility is found in the balance of both, as we cannot give away what we have not ever received ourselves.
“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you; You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:11-12
Written by Terra A. Mattson, LMFT, LPC
Living Wholehearted Co-founder and Clinical Director