Christmas is my favorite time of year—for the joy, cheer, and sweet treats, yes, but mostly because I get to share the Christmas story and the generosity within it. In his book Genius of Generosity, Chip Ingram gives a beautiful picture of how true generosity is woven throughout the Christmas story. Each character lives out their own story of generosity in the full Christmas stories recorded in Matthew and Luke. Let’s look at the six types of generosity we see revealed in the Christmas story:
Joseph’s Christmas Story: Giving One’s Reputation
Joseph, a respectable and hard-working carpenter, was asked to give not only his time and money but also his reputation. An angel assures Joseph that Mary’s pregnancy is not of infidelity but rather a fulfillment of prophecy. This may seem like good news, but a supernatural pregnancy was certainly not news that family, friends, or neighbors would believe. They would still assume that Joseph and Mary were covering up a serious sin; there would be consequences. Joseph was a laughingstock in his community and would be misunderstood by many. But Joseph’s generosity story is of how he sacrificed his reputation in order to serve his King.
Mary’s Christmas Story: Giving One’s Future
Mary, a teenage girl, planning her wedding, was dreaming of her life with her husband. She was asked not only to give up her reputation but also her future. Delivering a baby before she was married and raising a child who is the Son of God meant giving up all the plans she had for her life. Mary’s response is pure, unadulterated obedience. Mary’s generosity story is of how she gave her entire future to her baby son and King.
The Wise Men’s Christmas Story: Giving Treasure
As leading astrologers of their time, the Magi studied the stars and ancient texts and understood through the stars that a King was to be born. Though they knew very little about this newborn King, they still traveled a great distance to worship Him and give material possessions. These were not the typical gifts given to a toddler. The Magi instead gave the best of their possessions, valuable gold, frankincense, and myrrh. This generosity story highlights gifts of great value and cost.
The Shepherds’ Christmas Story: Giving Time
The shepherds, who were on the opposite end of the social spectrum from the Magi, did not have money or many possessions, but they responded by giving what they did have: their time. The night Jesus was born, the shepherds stopped their work and went to visit Jesus. After seeing the King, the shepherds could not help but tell everyone what they had witnessed. The shepherds’ time was valuable, but their generosity story is of giving time for Jesus.
Jesus’s Christmas Story: Giving One’s Life
Mark 10:45 – “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Jesus came to give His life for us. His gift of life through His death and resurrection was the ultimate sacrifice. Jesus’s generosity story is relinquishment of His earthly body so that we may share eternity with Him.
God’s Christmas Story: Giving One’s Most Valuable Possession
What is your most precious possession? God, the Father, the creator of the universe, had nothing more precious than His one and only Son. There is so much to unpack here, but I will keep it brief – the hardest things to give are things we cherish most deeply. Yet, God gave His Son that we might have eternal life. I would give anything – my money, possessions, reputation, future, and my life –, before I would give and sacrifice my wife and children. But God chose to give His Son for me. Because He gave, let our generosity story be to give everything to Him.
Each character in the Christmas story was asked to give something of great value. God does not measure generosity by the size of the gift, but by the size of the sacrifice. By practicing generosity, we draw closer to Jesus, and our generosity story encourages others to draw closer to Jesus through their own generosity. Chip Ingram says that “Generosity is a gateway into intimacy with God.” As you spend the Christmas season with your loved ones, I pray that you will celebrate through the lens of generosity and share the sacrifices of each character in the Christmas story.
This article was originally published on December 6th, 2019.