We’re all well acquainted with the mixed feelings that surge through our spirits as December peeks around the corner. Mixed, because even without the cosiness of firelit, snow-covered houses decked out in Christmas lights, a certain warmth starts to kindle within the tropic dweller, and it’s not the Toffee Nut Latte acting up.

But then there is the gift-giving.

Christmas has become inextricably tied to half-hearted shopping, reluctant gift wrapping and the occasional “let’s just fly overseas during Christmas so we don’t have to buy anyone anything” year.

Add in the Singaporean tendency to be pai-seh for not going along with such a universal tradition, and you have the annual repetition of cheer and drear, Capitaland vouchers and rewrapped pre-loved books. Maybe some new towels.

Having opened one too many gifts that were clearly out of obligation (and someone’s magic cupboard of recycled gifts – every house has one), I cannot help but think back to the first Christmas gift exchange ever.

God kicked things off with the best (and still unbeaten) gift to all mankind in the form of His only Son, Jesus Christ. The Three Wise Men, in response to the newborn King, plan a trip to Bethlehem to present the would-be Saviour of the world with gold, frankincense and myrrh, as told in Matthew 2. No last-minute, frantic shopping recorded.

This Christmas, let’s relearn the art of giving, with principles drawn from the Original Gift-giver Himself.


1. Give to a real need

Stop and think about the people you’re giving to. See every gift as a chance to bless instead of just to fulfil an obligation.

God didn’t give us Jesus because He had to, He gave because He chose to give us the Way to new life – life in its fullest measure (John 10:10), no longer a shadow of what He designed it to be.

God thought about what the world needed most – the restoration of men and Himself from that fateful Fall in the Garden of Eden – and though He knew this gift could only be completed by death on the Cross, He placed His only Son in the virgin’s womb.

It would cost Him dearly, but He gave it anyway, to the ones who would be doomed to eternal separation from Him without this gift of life.

2. Give what costs you something

In a consumerist culture, giving has become so closely tied to the monetary price of a gift. The more expensive, the better. But when God gave to the world that very first Christmas night, He didn’t send showers of silver coins or turn the rivers into liquid gold.

He sent His Son, and He sent Him to ultimately die in the place of all mankind. It was a gift worth more than the most precious of jewels.

The gifts we hold closest to our heart are rarely the most extravagant, but the ones that cost someone greatly in some other way.

Money isn’t the only way to prove a person’s worth to you. There is real cost in time, effort and sacrifice – costs that may far outweigh anything money can buy.

Maybe it’s a full day spent with a loved one. Or staying up late to compile a scrapbook of memories. The gifts we hold closest to our heart are rarely the most extravagant, but the ones that cost someone greatly in some other way.

3. Give because you love

The weariness of the giving season reflects a deeper misalignment within. In truth, giving is not hard when we genuinely love the one we give to. God’s love for us compelled Him to give (John 3:16).

When giving becomes a chore, perhaps we need to stop and recalibrate. The question isn’t what to give but why you are giving. Every gift has the latent power to carry the message of I know you and I love you. Activate it.

Ask yourself: What can I give to this person, that will be meaningful to him or her? How can I show that this person is known and loved?

It could be as simple as an honest letter of affirmation, or as unique as a little donation in the right currency for a dream destination. Sometimes the best gifts are not responses to demands, but unspoken understandings. God knew, God loved and God gave.

Let Love be the source from which all your gifts flow.