The period of December through New Year’s Day is now called the holidays. Even that term is an amendment of Holy Days so you really cannot get away from the religious significance. Historically, it has been dominated in our culture as Christmastime. We give gifts to each other, presumably in recognition of God’s gift of Jesus as a baby to grow up and become the perfect sacrifice atoning for our total inability to be reconciled to God.

But it has also been the time of Hanukkah for even longer. This year the Jewish celebration ended on December 15. This tradition commemorates the festival of lights, a continuing of candles’ light from oil God miraculously provided after Judah Maccabeus led the Jews back into Jerusalem in 164 B.C. It also relates to gift giving.

Yesterday I heard on the radio (showing how old fashioned I really am) the CBS story retold about the Secret Santa Club. Derek Brown, a Phoenix elementary school teacher, inspired his students by telling them of Secret Santas. Here in Jackson County, we had our own secret Santa from 1979 until his death in 2007, Larry Stewart. See his story at

I hope you have already seen a video clip or heard the Arizona story too, but it is worth a repeat. Without any official help from Mr. Brown or their school, the elementary students raised $8,000, turned it into cash, and roamed their area looking for regular folks who looked like they could use some help.

Obviously, the people who received a gift of cash were helped by the money. But perhaps they received an even more important gift–the encouragement from experiencing the caring by these pre-teenagers, strangers with nothing to gain by their giving.

The official accounts from CBS however focus on an unusual development, called “something remarkable: the more they gave, the more they got.” No, they did not receive participation trophies or their personal gifts for their efforts.

Instead, the students were amazed at how giving money away was making them feel. The students interviewed talked about how happy they were. One said the gift to them was the recipients’ joy! Read their story through Steve Hartman,

In my older age, I have come to understand that doing good, even giving money away, brings so much personal reward of joy that it is literally impossible to give without receiving in return. There are no truly unselfish acts we can perform.

We are to give ourselves away, but our money also represents us, our time spent in earning it or the value we place upon it. It requires faith in a gracious God to give. Everything we have received has come from his grace, even the brains, health, and ability to earn whatever we do.

Only if we believe God is faithful and that we are indeed a conduit for God’s giving can we turn loose of money. We might need it someday for ourselves! I believe this is why Jesus praised the widow giving her two smallest coins into the Temple treasury. It was not even enough to sustain her. She was believing that God would feed her that day.

Give until you have plenty of joy! (But remember, you will never outgive God.)