The Spirit of Giving
Christmas highlights the season of giving. From the national holiday of Thanksgiving through the Christmas celebration, Americans are typically more generous and compassionate, more ready to give to others than at any other time of the year. Of course, we give special gifts to our family and loved ones for Christmas, but we also see many people giving spontaneously and randomly to others they may not know. There is something special about the spirit of Christmas that inspires people to be more generous and more giving! Love is in the air during this holy season!
Of course, this is no surprise for Christians who truly understand what Christmas is all about. It is not the spirit of Christmas that inspires people to give, but it is the One whom we celebrate at Christmas who inspires us to not only give, but inspires us to show love and kindness, mercy and goodness to all people. Let us never forget that our Lord Jesus Christ is “the reason for the season!” He is the One who inspires us with His own example.
Christmas is all about giving precisely because God was the first one to give to the world His greatest treasure - He gave Himself to the world by becoming a human being, becoming one of us. He gave Himself by offering His Son - who is “Light of Light and true God of true God”, the second person of the Holy Trinity - to not only enter into the darkness of this world and into fallen humanity itself, but to actually lift up fallen humanity to the divine heights of our unlimited potential.
St. Athanasios the Great summarized God’s gift to the world in the most succinct manner - “God became human so that humans could become one with God.”
Can there be any greater gift than this? God offers us His divine, perfect love to the world. He reveals to us that no matter how far we fall short of our divine potential, we are still truly His beloved children, an integral part of His eternal family. And in Christ, we always have a new opportunity, another chance for a new beginning!
Christmas is the beginning of Jesus Christ entering into the world and radically changing world history - He revealed Love Incarnate, the perfect human being; He taught the world perfect wisdom; He lived in this fallen world, experienced all the darkness and evil of the world, tasted even death itself, and then overcame it all; He conquered death and showed that He is the ultimate Victor, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End; and all who allow Christ to be born in their hearts, Christ promises that we will make each of us into a new creation!
God is the greatest Giver of Gifts! And we are called to and inspired to imitate Him!
It seems most appropriate that we kicked off our year-long celebration of our Church’s 100th Anniversary with a special event highlighting the spirit of giving, right in the midst of this Christmas season! For those in Church on November 24th, you heard about the “Good and Faithful Steward Challenge” where we are giving a gift to every steward of our Church. The first 50 families of our community received an envelope with a gift of either $300/$200/$100 cash. We gave out the first $12,000 of what will eventually be a give away of $30,000. The rest of the Church families will receive their gift at the beginning of February, or around Easter time. We are spreading out this giving over a six month period.
We are giving away this gift to all our parishioners, asking them to share God’s blessings with others, to glorify God through some act of kindness. The whole purpose of this “Good and Faithful Steward Challenge” is to help our community better understand WHO WE ARE as Orthodox Christians and WHO WE ARE as a Church. We want all our Church Family to understand that:
* We are ambassadors of God’s love to the world around us
* We are faithful and good stewards of not only this gift we receive from the church, but of every blessing that God gives us in our lives. We realize we are blessed so that we share these blessings with others
* We are followers of Jesus Christ who understand the JOY of giving and sharing God’s love with others
* We are Christians who understand Christ’s words, when He taught, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
* We are people who have eyes to see those in need all around us, and we are people who will respond to these needs in a concrete way
We believe that this unique challenge - how many of you have ever heard about a church giving its parishioners $30,000 to help others?!? - can become a powerful learning experience for us and for others who hear about it! And we hope that this experience will touch the lives of many people outside our Church. We are excited to start getting back the stories of what everyone did with their gift, of how they glorified God with their gift, and of how they felt when they did this, and how the recipients of the gift responded!
The day after we kicked off this event, someone came to my church office to let me know how inspired they were by what they heard in church the day before. They gave me $250 in gift cards and asked me to give them to people in need. They said that this was not the money they received from the church, but was the money that they would have spent on their Thanksgiving meal. This year, however, they were having Thanksgiving meal at another home, so they wanted to use the $250 they would have spent and bless other people with it. They realize how blessed they are, and want to start sharing these blessings with others. So they told me that they would be doing some good deed like this each month to help others! They were inspired by what they heard in church the day before!!!
This is the spirit that we are trying to cultivate in our Church through the “Good and Faithful Steward Challenge!” We want everyone to realize how blessed we are, and then to understand that we have a responsibility to share our blessings with those who are less fortunate!!! We glorify God by becoming instruments in His hands, by bringing His love in concrete ways to other people!
As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, may we always remember who the first great Gift-Giver is. God has given us the greatest gift! And He continues to bless us with countless other gifts in our lives. May we always live lives of deep gratitude where we strive to share God’s blessings with other people. Christmas shouldn’t be the only time when we are filled with the spirit of giving. For a Christians, this spirit of giving should be our spirit each and every day of our lives!
With deep gratitude for the eternal gift of God,
Welcome to our Church
Holy Land Pilgrimage 2019