Great question, and should always be open to criticism. I think the original reason (I was taught) was to commemorate Christ’s gift, as well as perhaps the gift of the Magi, and the blessings of the priests.
@beaglelady may be able to tell me if she’s read if there was a pagan origin of giving at the time, that was appropriated by Christians, as well.
In Hebrews 10:24, the writer recommends spurring one another on to love and good deeds
24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Jesus certainly approached a specific misuse of public giving and prayer. However, while I pray alone often, we have a prayer meeting with our children every night–a short one after reading a fun book together. We start with thanks and then pray for both ourselves and others. Currently, we’re praying not only for a less fearful day at middle and elementary school, or for a way to encourage other kids at class, but also for Afghanistan’s starving, the children and adults kidnapped in Nigeria, and a missionary child we know is dying of incurable cancer.
I had a talk with my oldest (13 year old) son the other day of how everything is a shadow of what is ultimately more important. We realize as we get older that a computer game, or a gathering, is ultimately unsatisfying in and of itself.
Jesus reminded us that we give good things to our children, yet, that is a foreshadowing of what really matters.
In my family and friends, many don’t need a gift. Yet, it’s a tradition to show we think of each other by giving. So as not to waste money on a white elephant that winds up in the garage, on a rare occasion, I’ve decided to start giving to someone who really needs it. I tell my family and friends that in the spirit of giving, I’ve redirected the money for them that way. Usually, they are delighted, and it spurs them on to giving, too.
Most of the time, we actually give to people we know are hurting, anonymously, through aid agencies like those above, or missions (my family are associated with SIM and ABWE). However, we have fun as a family choosing to give a goat, business loans, or sponsor a child at Christmas. Again, these are only models of things we hope that our children will do as adults; but also model what Christ has done for us.
Everything is a shadow of how things should be. Nothing’s perfect yet.
John Patrick, a Christian physician and worker for UNICEF, wrote about various levels of happiness–the first is animal pleasure, where we eat or enjoy something good. The next is to give to others. That may, as James 2 says, be closer to God’s heart when we give to the poor who can’t give back to us, as opposed to the rich who are at or above our level of reimbursement. The last is to meditate on and delight ourselves in the Lord. As Jesus said, if we give a cup of cold water to a child, we’ve done it to Him.
Commercialism’s not all bad, if it puts food on the plate of someone who needs it. During the financial shutdown of the early pandemic, we spent more than we should have on takeout, to help others keep their doors open.
I find it very attractive to attend a retreat of silence. One acquaintance of mine does it fairly regularly. However, it occurred to me–why go to a retreat to be silent? Why not do it on your own?
Perhaps it’s to spur each other on to good deeds–to compare our experience. I’m not sure.
Thanks. I would like to hear what you think. I appreciate your insightful discourse.