Thursday, December 25, 2008

Sanctified Extravagance

For our nearly 13 years of parenthood, my wife and I have rarely splurged on something for either of our kids. This has largely been due to the fact that we simply couldn't afford it. But it's also because we sincerely seek to live a simple lifestyle. We don't want our life to be made up of things for a man's life does not consist of his possessions (Lu. 12:15). In addition, we want our children to learn the virtue of contentment and not get caught up in the covetous culture that abounds in our society. All of this made it quite a departure from our normal practice when we made the decision to get our children a big ticket item this Christmas.

I can't say exactly why I wanted to do it. I just did. My wife did too. We were both thinking the same thing when we finally talked about it. Finding the gift was a problem because they are in great demand and hard to find. But we finally did find one. Was it providence, the grace of God?

The surprise and joy of our kids upon opening this gift made it all worth it. And that is why we did it. We don't spoil our kids. I hope I'm right in saying that they understand the difference between receiving nice things as an act of love and expecting nice things because that's what will keep them happy. We did the former, not the latter.

Love doesn't need a reason to give. True love looks for opportunities to give, and to give extravagantly. Love gives even when it can't afford to; even when it "hurts". One can give without loving, but one cannot love without giving.

I began to realize that some of my efforts at frugality were really selfishness in disguise. Love could never stand to hoard mere money at the expense of the opportunity to tangibly express itself to the beloved. This is not to say we should be irresponsible spendthrifts, or to defend the repugnant materialism of our society. It is simply to say that love gives whenever it has opportunity.

I realize in all of this that it is exactly what we celebrate on this Day. Christmas is about sanctified extravagance. Because God loves us so much, He gave extravagantly. He gave all He could. He gave well beyond what He could afford. He was not cautious in His gift. He was extravagant. He gave it all. The gift of His Son tells us continually of the immensity of His love.

Christmas foreshadows Good Friday. Our Lord loved us so much that He gave all He had. He gave His own life so we could have life. There was no limit to His extravagance. Love cannot be contained.

Again, I am not promoting materialism. There are a lot of ways to give. Some of them involve money. To have the means of blessing those we love and to refuse to do so is simply to turn our backs on love. The real issue is that we love our money more than the people in our lives. When we don't have the means, we demonstrate extravagant love in other ways; by using our time and our talents to bless those whom we love. Either way, love continues to find its rightful expression in the extravagant giving.

This Christmas I am brought to see the great love of our God by re-discovering the natural expression of love in my own life. I have chosen to be extravagant in a particular manner to bless my children. The gift is not the blessing. The message of love it conveys is. However, as I look at God's gift, both gift and giver are the blessing.

I serve a God of sanctified extravagance and I want to imitate this action. May God bless us all with such sanctified extravagance this Christmas and always.

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