“For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you” (2 Corinthians 9:8, NLT).

This year, we watched as soil was tilled, seeds were planted, and farmers waited for seedlings to peek their tender heads out of the ground. We prayed for rain as corn and other plants struggled to grow without the precious water that they needed. We observed the heavy heads that took in a harvest much too small compared to what had been hoped for. And now the ground is frozen over, and the earth waits for another season of growth to come again.

Hope is a funny thing at Christmas time. Almost everyone wants a little taste of it. People want to capture the magic of a feeling that transcends the drudgery of the everyday. But the feelings that they muster up for a time usually fade away as crisp, white snow turns to slush, Christmas cookies are eaten, and family and friends go home, leaving a bleak reality behind. In chapter 9, Paul continues his encouragement for the Corinthians to give liberally to the hurting church in Jerusalem in what is perhaps one of the best passages on giving:

Remember this:  Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

Thank you, Paul, for taking the pressure off! No longer do I have to worry about performing and pleasing everyone. No longer do I have to feel like I give and give of myself with nothing leftover to fill my heart. Now, I see that God has designed me in such a way that does not always make sense to my world-bent mind. I am made full when I am emptied out. Do we really understand this radical concept? Just like the widow’s jars of oil, I can not experience God’s fullness in my life until I am ready to pour out everything I have and everything that I am. In chapter six, Paul was able to boast about pouring his life out for the believers because he witnessed God bringing the increase. He experienced God’s strength in helping him to keep going, time and time again, after being so close to starvation, death, and utter destruction.

Why does God call us to this life of sacrificial giving? Why can’t we stay in our comfortable, heated homes and watch what is happening to others on the evening news? Why, oh, why do we have to get involved in others’ lives when we ourselves might lose everything? “This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else” (verses 12-13).

Because, ultimately, it is about the glory of God.

This season, we can find hope in the truth that there is an everlasting Father who sent His Son as a gift that can never be earned or repaid. We can find salvation by trusting in the life that was poured out 2,000 years ago on a cross. We can find joy in a resurrected Savior who is coming again to gather those to Himself that have accepted His mercy. And we can share with others the unshakable faith that we have in a God who supplies all that we need, both physically and spiritually. This Christmas, we can give our lives in such a way as to make people say, “Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!”

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