Angel Trees, Shoeboxes, Backpacks and Lottie Moon.
Those words may not mean a lot to you. But in my church they are words with which we are quite familiar.
The Angel Trees in our church foyer are filled with paper angels with names and needs of different children in our community.
Shoeboxes have already been sent to Operation Christmas Child of Samaritan’s Purse for children around the world.
Backpacks were sent to the Appalachian Mountains, filled with needed items for impoverished children in that region.
And Lottie Moon was a missionary of a former century for whom we name our largest one-time offering for missions in Baptist churches around the country.
All of these words speak of one thing – generosity. The members of our church have bought gifts or written checks to meet the needs of both children and adults, most of whom we will never meet. Why? Because we have learned that Jesus was right when he said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
I have to admit that I’ve not always believed that concept. Especially when I was a little boy – but to my shame even into adulthood – I often anticipated more what I would receive than what I would give.
Quite frankly, that seems to be the default mode of most Americans. What will I get? How can I get ahead?
But there is great truth in the words of Jesus. It is more blessed to give than to receive. I’ve known more than one person, who upon learning that they were dying, made the decision to start giving away much that they owned.
In the first place, they learned that their priorities had been upside down previously. But even more, they decided that they wanted to have the joy of seeing family and friends blessed. They did not want these events to take place at the reading of the will, after they were gone.
I must make this clear. Jesus has not called all of us to do what he demanded of the rich young ruler in the New Testament. Not everyone should give it all away. But we live in a place and in a time when we are truly blessed, often with more than we need.
I pray that we will learn the joy of giving, especially as we celebrate the ultimate gift of all, Jesus, the Son of God.