Like the Wizard of Oz, the gods of this world want you to be dazzled from a distance while they remain hidden behind a curtain. But the God who made Heaven and Earth wants you to share in His glory and the abundance and so He entered into this world. He entered into this world in order to be touched, seen and heard.
Matthew’s genealogy includes four Gentile women, anticipating the inclusion of Gentiles in a New Israel. The story of the Magi (wise men, possible Near Eastern kings) in Matthew 2:1-12, reiterates this theme. Stars represent rulers, and the appearance of a new star tells the Magi that a king has been born (cf. Numbers 24:15-19).
The Magi come to pay homage to King Jesus, like the Queen of Sheba who brought her treasures into Solomon’s court (1 Kings 10). They come in fulfilment of prophecies about the Gentiles streaming to Jerusalem to offer their riches to the God of Israel (Isaiah 60:4-9).
They come bearing gifts. Expensive gifts. And it’s here that I want to land on this fine Christmas Day.
We are often warned to guard against anything that others might define as contrary to good stewardship. That’s is a good thing, provided we define stewardship biblically.
It’s Christmas and people go off and spend oodles of money. And there are those who, in the name of good stewardship, frown at this spending. And it might be true that in some cases such spending lacks good stewardship. But that all depends on which direction you throw the money.
There’s stingy and there’s generous spending. There’s open-hearted giving and there’s close-fisted hoarding. There’s money spent on account of joy – ours and others and there is spending that is done solely to satisfy our gluttony and our envy.
Now, these Gentile kings are pictured as bringing their treasures into the barn. Isn’t that wasteful – giving a two-year-old such treasures?
God is, by the standards of this world, a wasteful God. Here in Australia, we live on an island surrounded by big oceans. And we watch as fat clouds sail across the land only to dump perfectly good drinking water into the sea.
God opens the heavens and pours down rain as though He had an endless supply. And He encouraged Israel to have a similar attitude. God commanded Israel to enjoy His abundance. and taught them to buy up big each year and come into Jerusalem spending on whatever their heart desires.
…and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household. (Deuteronomy 14:26)
Right now God is producing enough food from the land, without any help from man to feed 6 billion people and most of that food will go unnoticed, untouched, fall to the ground and return to dust.
And He does this sort of thing all the time. And we look at this stunned and say what the recipient of Christmas gifts often say, “You didn’t have to…”
And this is exactly correct.
God didn’t have to give us an abundance of anything, but He did. Why? So that you would enter into that abundance and enjoy it. Not for its own sake, but recognising the Character of the one who gives it to you.
In Jesus, God draws near to us and gets right up close in the form of a man (1 John 1:1). He doesn’t want you to just stare at the painting. He hands you a brush and invites us to enter into creation with Him and participate in all that He has made.
He wants you to take all that water, turn into wine and drink it. He wants you to take the fruit of the land and turn it into bread.
And with every sip and every bite, He wants you to look beyond the bread and the wine to the one whose blood was shed and body broken so that you might share in the eternal life and the forgiveness of sins that His death and resurrection has made possible.
He not only wants you to enjoy it, but He also wants you to share it for the joy of others, just as He has done.
Jesus didn’t need to come into the world and do any of this. But He did. And then He footed the bill. And He invites you to enter into His joy by doing the same.
Good stewardship is a stewardship that displays the abundance of God. It means open-handed and unnecessary generosity.
This Christmas, you can imitate Christ by doing the same thing.
Look at the people in your living room today. Look across the table. And then get up from your chair and do something you didn’t have to do, for their sake. Don’t go down the street and do it. Start at your own table, with your own family.
Flaw someone in your own household with grace undeserved by doing what you didn’t have to do for the sake of someone else’s joy in Jesus.