Christmas traditions are a lot of fun. Sometimes you can’t always remember how they got started or how they became a tradition but one day you realize that if that thing was missing, it just wouldn’t feel like Christmas.
We have a few of those in our house. One of them is the 12 boxes of Christmas that we distribute in the 12 days leading up to Christmas. A few years back my wife received a gift of 12 Christmas boxes, each decorated with pictures from the song, “The 12 Days of Christmas”. The first is small and fits inside the second, the second fits inside the third etc… So starting with day one, my wife and I put together little gifts for the kids ranging from winter gloves to service projects, from a family dinner out to baking goods for making cookies for our neighbors.
Part of the purpose of each box is that we take a little olive-wood nativity my mom purchased for us in Israel, and we put a piece in each day’s gift. Then when the box is opened, we talk about that particular person or thing as it pertains to the Christmas story. It’s a lot of the fun, the kids love it and it requires a lot of creativity (after all, how exactly does the huge carved camel fit into the nativity story?!?!?). We also like that it allows us to spread out gifts over the whole season — seems to help our kids not have a huge present-binge and crash on Christmas.
Last night Traci and I got all the boxes ready and placed the nativity pieces in each box. As I was plopping a wise man in day seven, I started thinking about the various gifts these men brought God’s Son, and in particular, reflected on the gift of Frankincense, a beautiful — and expensive — smelling perfume. It made me think of Paul’s words in Philippians 4:18 as he reflected on financial gifts that had been given to him:
“They [the gifts] are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.” — Philippians 4:18
I hadn’t really ever thought of my gifts as “Fragrant”, but as I held a slightly chipped up wise man in my hand, I started to think about what fragrant gifts look like. And I realized I want to give more and more of these gifts every day in my life.
One of the fragrant gifts our family gives is another one of our Christmas traditions — we serve breakfast burritos to homeless men, women and children under the bridge in our town. My parents, my sister and brother-in-law and both of my brothers and their wives and a whole slew full of kids (13 with all of our families together!) meet under the bridge early Christmas morning and serve a warm meal to our friends. It’s a great way to start Christmas day with a clear focus on the real meaning of Christmas — giving fragrant gifts.
As you dive head-long into the Christmas season, I hope you too will be a fragrant gift-giver. It’s not easy to get outside the comfort of the boat and out on the water where Jesus is building His Kingdom, but when you start to think about your gifts being fragrant offerings to God, it’s a little less difficult each time. It might be a Christmas meal to someone in need, maybe it’s buying gifts for a family in your church or community. You could load up a bag of groceries and anonymously leave them on someone’s porch or help your church or favorite charity meet their end-of-year financial demands with a sacrificial financial gift. All those things (and much more!), when given selflessly for God’s glory and not yours, are fragrant offerings before God!
I hope you give some great gifts this year, and I hope you are blessed by the goodness of others to you, too. But most importantly, let’s all try to remember the fragrant gift God gave us on Christmas morning when He sent His one and only Son into the world, in the most modest of settings, in order to begin the process of redeeming us from our sins. That baby was a beautiful and fragrant offering and is the perfect example of the types of gifts God wants us to give, too.
Give fragrantly this Christmas and as you do, you’ll be stepping out of the boat only to find that life is always better on the water!