At every birthday party I’ve ever been to, the gifts have been for the person having the birthday. So why do we celebrate the birth of Jesus by giving gifts to everyone else?
I’ve often said that, as Christians, we’re giving gifts to the Christ we see in each other. I guess that’s OK, but it doesn’t completely satisfy me. I see more Christ in some people I don’t give gifts to than in some who are on my list.
I find a much more satisfactory answer by going back to the root of who God is and what He wants of us.
God is love. Because of that love He made the greatest sacrifice of all time by coming to Earth as a man and dying in order to reconcile us to Himself. We become instruments of His love when we sacrificially love others. So when we give of our time, energy, and money to meet needs or bring joy to someone else, we are giving a gift to Jesus: The gift of allowing Him to spread His love to others through us.
My practical side thinks it’s inefficient for me to give you a $25 iTunes gift card so you can give me a $25 Amazon gift card at Christmas. But I guess I can get over the efficiency issue if the exchange process results in a gift to Jesus that He really wants: For me to demonstrate His love to others.