I really admire Franciscans and others who have taken a vow of poverty. Then there are people who do not make such promises yet somehow manage not to get caught up in the business of acquiring stuff. As for me, I like getting Christmas presents – I haven’t grown up, I am (in some ways at least) still a big kid.

But this is also the time of year when we may be reminded that “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians chapter 9 verse 7). Indeed, the letter box and inbox start filling up with requests that we be generous in giving to various charities during this season of “goodwill to all”. Even at church I may remind my fellow members that an extra donation here may help keep a roof over our heads and another one there may provide some comfort for homeless in our local area. There are lots of calls for our cash and it can be hard to be generous when we are feeling the pinch ourselves.

We are not the first generation to face this dilemma. In St Paul’s second letter to the Christian church in Corinth, he is trying to encourage his readers to be generous in helping out Christians who have been blighted by a famine. As part of his encouragement he tells them about a relatively poor congregation in Macedonia and about how generous they have been. What is significant is that the reason they were generous was not because they themselves were rich – they were not. Instead, what motivated them was that “first they gave themselves to the Lord”.

What does that mean? Well, I think it partly means that they dedicated themselves to Jesus Christ and to spreading his good news. And, to do that, they put everything that they had, everything they owned (time, talents, money) at God’s disposal. To be sure, some of what they had might be needed to feed and clothe themselves. However, by dedicating their money etc. to God, it helped them to resist the temptation to hoard on the one hand while on the other they could be generous in supporting another Christian community.

The upshot of all this is that I am suggesting that we give something special to God this Christmas – we give ourselves to him. This may or may not mean that you are able to give an extra donation but that is not the point. The Macedonians put all that they had at God’s disposal; when they “gave themselves to the Lord” it made a remarkable difference to their lives.

And I just wonder what difference it would make to this Christmas season if everyone did that.

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