Christmas is the season when we celebrate Christ’s birth— in theory. But as we all know, it often turns out to be a time when we cater to materialism and greed.
The enemy wants us to go into this season focused on ourselves. But I have a challenge for you.
The Black Friday Christmas Challenge.
This year, choose a different course for Christmas. Instead of asking what you can get, be like the three wise men from the east— ask what kind of gift you can give to the King.
Then take your Black Friday Christmas money and before you spend a dime, tithe on it.
10%, 20%, 80%— it’s up to you.
But determine the amount, then set it aside.
And start looking for a gift for Jesus.
Hide and Seek: How to Find a King
Now you may think, “That’s nice. But Jesus is kind of hard to find nowadays— you know, you don’t see Him just walking around the neighborhood. I mean, we’re not in Bethlehem anymore, Toto. Where would I begin to look?”
The answer is in Matthew 25. Jesus actually tells you where to find Him when He takes human form.
“Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘I tell you the truth, just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me.’” Matthew 25:34-40
(Click above to watch this video!)
Want to find Jesus this holiday season? Now you know where to look.
He’s in a place of need.
So where do you find the naked, the hungry, the sick, the lonely?
Maybe in the department store – but hopefully not. Trampling Jesus to get the last Xbox One— not the scenario we’re going for.
Well, Jesus said if you seek, you will find.
And here’s a clue most people don’t care to know.
The broken hide. And so does God.
If you want to find them, you have to search them out.
But Jesus promised that if you do, He will open your eyes.
Christmas 101: How To Give a Gift
Don’t know where to start? Start in your neighborhood, your church, your school, your workplace. Remember, you’re looking for a person— just a regular person in a place of need.
For example— you know that elderly guy that works at the gas station on Thanksgiving and Christmas? Ever ask yourself why?
What if you brought him Christmas dinner this year? Maybe some pie. He might like it. He might tell you about his day. And if you stick around to listen, he might feel for a moment like the world is a friendly place.
Maybe no big deal. Worst case scenario, you share a meal and a smile and brighten someone’s day.
But if you make a habit of it, with him and the other people God puts in your path, you will find that sometimes an act of kindness can actually save a life. It can give hope in a lonely or dark moment. It can get a person through to the other side, to see the light of day again.
And when they see Christ in you, sometimes it can even save a soul.
So start planning now. Think of one person who could use some company, and call them. Invite them over to your house to celebrate Christmas. Offer to pick them up if necessary. If the first call doesn’t work out, keep dialing until you find at least one person to invite to your party.
Maybe inconvenient. Maybe awkward. Or maybe fun. But remember, if you want to find Jesus, you have to look.
And that’s just one idea – there are a million. Here are some thoughts to get you started.
Invite people to your party.
The holidays are a time for get-togethers and parties. If you’d like Jesus to be at your event, here’s a tip from the master:
“When you host a dinner or a banquet, don’t invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors so you can be invited by them in return and get repaid. But when you host an elaborate meal, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Then you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Luke 14:12b-14
Fill their need, not yours.
You may feel the need to do a good deed to appease your own conscience. Don’t.
Because if you do it for yourself, you’re going to do it wrong.
People are not pet projects, and no one is interested in being your charity case. I cannot tell you how many times when ministering to the poor we saw “good Christian people” try to unload whatever boxes of leftover garage sale junk they couldn’t get rid of, or something they happen to have too much of, or something THEY thought the “poor people” would like— like used bottles of HOTEL SOAP (yes, that actually happened.)
Look, if you want to recycle, make a trip to the Salvation Army and drop off your old stuff. That’s just the responsible thing to do.
But if you want to find Jesus this season, you have to get to know an actual person to really know their need.
Some people need your time and a listening ear. Some people need a friend to get them to a doctor’s appointment– or help them make one. Some need a place to go on Christmas day because they have no family. Some people have a pressing financial need— a broken car, a bad tooth, an electric bill, a couple of months’ of rent. Don’t make assumptions, and don’t decide for them. Pay attention to what they say they need or want. (Most people tell that in regular conversation, if you listen.) Determine what you have the ability to do, and then meet that need.
How do you measure generosity? Here are some guidelines.
1) Treat them like you’d treat Jesus.
Give your best, not your worst. Give the kind of present you would want, the quality that you would expect— not what you think is “good enough” for them.
“…each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself.” Philippians 2:3b
If you use a lower standard in what you give to others in the name of “good stewardship” or “wisdom”, consider the foolishness of the three wise men who followed the star to Bethlehem.
I mean, who lays gold and treasure at the feet of poverty stricken teenage parents from the wrong part of town anyway?
They did it, and we are still talking about them today. So employ wisdom in your giving, yes – but make sure your “wisdom” is not a mask for judgmental attitudes or a stingy heart.
2) Treat them like you want God to treat you.
“Give, and it will be given to you: A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be poured into your lap. For the measure you use will be the measure you receive.” Luke 6:38
If you think a gift is not warranted because the person caused their own problem, or that it would be a waste because the person may not appreciate it, ask yourself:
~Has God ever bailed you out of a problem you created? Did He have to do it more than once?
~Do you deserve the reward God has promised you?
~Was Jesus foolish for shedding His blood for the whole world— even though many would never appreciate it?
Sometimes your generosity will solve a person’s problem— but don’t count on it. And that’s okay.
It’s not your job to fix the person. It’s your job to show them God’s love. So how generous has God been to you?
Don’t talk about your giving.
“Be careful not to display your righteousness merely to be seen by people. Otherwise you have no reward with your Father in heaven. Thus whenever you do charitable giving, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in synagogues and on streets so that people will praise them. I tell you the truth, they have their reward. But when you do your giving, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your gift may be in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:1-4
Talking usually means gossiping. So before you “mention” your gift or act of kindness in conversation, ask yourself:
~If someone were to meet my need, would I want them to tell people they were doing me a favor?
~Would I want it to be known that I can’t get what I need for myself?
~Would I want to be spoken of as a charity case? Or would I rather be treated as a friend?”
Jesus said it this way: “Treat others in the same way that you would want them to treat you.”
In other words, put the shoe on the other foot. Then you’ll realize how important it is to not only give, but to be smooth about it.
Play it cool, brother. That’s how you give respect— which may be the most important thing you can give another human being.
Remember that giving is your privilege, not theirs.
This is, after all, Jesus you’re ministering to. That’s a priceless opportunity, my friend.
And as if that weren’t enough, Jesus said that you’re going to get paid back generously for what you do for Him now.
So who’s doing who a favor? Hmm?
“…remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35b
The Black Friday Christmas Challenge: Taking Christmas Back!
If you’re tired of the commercialization and materialism of Christmas, there’s something you can do.
You will not convince a pagan nation to put the Christ back into Christmas.
But you can let the Holy Spirit convince you to.
Take the Black Friday Christmas Challenge, and make it official. Write it down, share it with your family. (You can even share it with me through the decision button!) Set the money aside, and get excited— you’re about to be used by God!
Whether you have a little or alot, make the commitment to share what you have this year. You may even be in a place of need yourself— God can still use you to bless someone else.
And when He does, don’t be surprised when the blessing flows to you.
“The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped.” Proverbs 11:25
Watch out Black Friday, here we come! You will not rule our hearts or wallets this year.
We are have seen the star, we have prepared our gift, we have set our course for Jesus.
Let the Christmas miracles begin…