Which Ditch Beckons

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God is the great giver of gifts. When we give things away in imitation of Him, we are learning how to become like Him. When we give things away with strings attached, we are becoming more and more like the devil, growing in the ways of manipulation.

We are in the shopping season for Christmas, and this is because it is a gigantic season for gift giving. And of course, much of it is a consumerist racket, with people in hot pursuit of Mammon and uninterested in celebrating the birth of the Christ child. Just because people are giving presents doesn’t make anything godly. In the Revelation, when God’s two witnesses were finally killed, the unbelieving world celebrated by giving presents (Rev. 11:10). So let us hear the caution against materialism in Christmas.

But most of us need to hear the caution in the other direction more. Our celebration of the Incarnation is a celebration of the great event when God Himself gave Himself to us as a material present. Jesus took on a material body. He was born of a woman, born under the law, and gave that body to us, doing it for us. And so Christmas must not be materialistic, but it must be material.

Remember that the White Witch is the one who asks all the responsible questions about sustainability. When she came across a feast characterized by waste and conspicuous consumption, she said this: “What is the meaning of all this gluttony, this waste, this self-indulgence?”

And it was Judas who put on the responsible long face when all that precious ointment was wasted on Jesus. “Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?” (John 12:4–5). Judas was to betray Jesus, but it is to be noted that in this question, he was betraying Him already.

There is a ditch on both sides of the road. Take great care that you don’t flatter your own propensities by misjudging which ditch beckons you.