The Ultimate Giving Experience

In November 2004, Barb and I took our son, Nathan, to Philadelphia for his semi-annual doctor’s appointment at the Family Hope Center. While there, I was a bystander to one of those conversations that leaves your mind full of conflicting thoughts and your heart experiencing a range of emotions. Late on a Tuesday afternoon we met a young couple from Texas who had brought their 2-3 month old infant to the clinic for a neurological evaluation. The baby had been born prematurely and was experiencing a host of challenges, including an inability to clear her airway when it became blocked with milk or formula. This made feeding her an everyday challenge but the mom had thus far been able to help the child clear her throat and lungs anytime food or liquid had become lodged, thereby cutting off her air supply. It was clear that the child’s life was in danger every time this happened and the couple was at the clinic hoping to discover a possible solution to their child’s problem. Concern, and the resultant emotional strain, was written all over their faces but their conversation was upbeat and positive.


The following morning when we arrived at the clinic waiting room the young couple was already there and had just begun to explain to the clinic staff their ordeal of the night before. Somewhere during the trip the child had caught a cold that was making it difficult for her to breathe. At 3 AM both the mother and father awoke to hear her gagging on her own mucous and phlegm, unable to breathe. Instinctively, knowing there wasn’t time to call 911 for emergency services, the father placed his mouth over the nose and mouth of his infant daughter and sucked out all that was blocking her airway. Intuitively, we all knew that this young father had quite likely saved his daughter’s life that early November morning.


In the seconds following my hearing their account I began to experience incredibly powerful but divergent emotions. I was first of all repulsed by the thought of what he had done as I tried to imagine myself in the same situation. Then almost as quickly, I found myself in awe over the depth of love that was demonstrated in this father’s selfless and sacrificial act.   My emotional journey ended as the Lord reminded me of the Calvary event where God the Father, out of His love for me, sacrificed His only Son as payment for my sin. I was left wondering if I will ever be able to fully comprehend the extent and transformational power of God’s love.


During the Advent season, we traditionally spend time reading and reflecting on the incarnation of the Jesus, the second person of the Godhead. It is a story so familiar that we have difficulty appreciating both the sacrificial nature of the act and the depth of love that motivated God to humble Himself for the sake of sinners unable to save themselves. 


Yet, if we are to truly enter into the “spirit” of the season it is essential that come to understand God’s call that we emulate both His humility and the depth of love that willingly puts the needs of others above their own needs, interests and desires. Since returning from Philadelphia that fall of 2004, I have found myself returning again and again to the words of Jesus from John 15:12-13, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” Our Christmas celebrations were made possible by the supreme act of sacrificial giving.


All of this has led me to re-consider how our family should remember and “celebrate” the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In previous years, we, like many families, have de-emphasized the retailer’s image of Christmas and have scaled back on both the size and quantity of gifts. With our children we have emphasized that Advent is a special time to remember the needs of others who are hurting and alone. We have also sought to personalize our giving by, whenever possible, either making the gift ourselves or by giving of our time and energy to bless those we love. Yet, none of these activities are truly sacrificial in nature, most are done in ways, and at times, that are convenient for us. Is it possible that even in this season of giving and celebration, we have limited what God would want to do through us by acting selfishly?


What would happen this Christmas if we would allow the Spirit of God to direct us to the people (strangers or family) that were to be the recipients of our gifts? And what if we were to begin to think in new ways about the kind of gifts we would give? Not limiting ours actions to writing out a check or buying someone a shirt or sweater they could easily buy for themselves but including acts of service that required our personal involvement and a new level of sacrifice. Though I cannot be certain, my suspicion is that the Christmas season would take on a completely different feel as God leads us to love as Jesus loved rather than giving out of convenience or out of our abundance.


While it sounds a bit risky, and it will certainly cost us something personally, I am going to suggest that we embrace the adventure and allow Jesus to be Lord over this area of our life. Invite the Holy Spirit to guide you to the people He determines and pray that the Lord would enable you to give whatever He leads you to give. Our obedience will result in a double blessing. First, it will be a blessing to those who receive our gifts, having their needs met and their spirit’s encouraged. Second, we will be blessed as we grow to be more like Jesus and enter into the ultimate giving experience. May the peace of Christ be with you and your family during this special time of year.