As investors, business leaders, successful and wealthy owners, we play a special role in God’s plan to care for people. What an honor. Let’s talk about Christmas, the hustle, rest, and keeping Jesus at the center of the big and small decisions we make this holiday season.
Well, hello, this is Chris McAlpin. Welcome to the Chase. I hope that wherever you're going, whatever you're doing right now, that you're going to go do it with excellence. I mean, go win; go absolutely kill it at whatever you are working on or whatever you do. I think that God has blessed you, God loves you and God is chasing you.
You know, when we look at our role in this podcast it's to look at the world, look at the financial world, look at economics, look at the markets and do so with a Biblical lens. But talk to successful people that are chasing and driving after that success, that innovation, that quite frankly, sometimes status that we all think defines us but know this, that God is chasing you with something that's far greater. And by the way, Merry Christmas! Hasn't it been a crazy year, how many of you are really just ready to get 2020 behind you?
This year has been one of those years that God has really demonstrated that He's still in control, that He is almighty and that He is good. And so what I'm really hoping is that you look at Christmas this year, no matter how hard this year has been and take some time and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. You know, that is what Christmas is from, right?!
Enjoy your family. At my house it's family parties, it's pecan pie and with a wife and three daughters it's a lot of Hallmark movies. Have fun, rest, celebrate Jesus and, you know, a part of Christmas is gift-giving and especially again with a wife and three daughters we give a lot of gifts in our life and that's what I want to talk about today, is just the story behind Christmas.
But I think that our society pushes the materialism side so much, the gift-giving so much, that I think it's important that we look at the story behind the gift-giving as well. I think that when we look at commercials, we see the brand-new cars with a bow on it every year. We see the trendy commercials (I kind of like the Coca-Cola commercials and the polar bears) and it shapes how we think about the holiday season. And if we're not careful, it's going to shape it in the wrong direction and it's going to shape it in a direction that leaves us empty and we won't know why.
First off, let me just be honest when I say gift-giving early in my marriage with my wife was hard for me, not because I begrudged giving the gifts, but it was because I had such a scarcity mentality. So for me, looking at this story helped me understand the source, the background of where the tradition started, and it's actually such a really cool story. So let's unpack the Christmas story for just a minute and I always want to get Charlie Brown from Peanuts to read Luke 2 because that's how I always remember it when I think of Luke 2.
Luke is an excellent historian (this is Luke in the Bible, by the way, that wrote Luke and Acts) and he really unpacks the Christmas story in Luke 2. We see that Mary and Joseph have left Nazareth and the Galilee area and traveled down to Bethlehem because of a census during that time. They're stuck in a barn, they're stuck in a manger. We never really think about it, but the God of heaven came to earth to be born in a barn, a feeding trough for sheep and cows. You know, that's a whole other story for another day.
And shepherds, the workmen of the Jewish society were summoned by angels to go and see this new baby that's been born and angels showed up in an empty field and they said “Glory to God in the highest.” “They said a Savior is born to the world to bring peace and salvation”. And these shepherds go and visit Him.
But now we get to the point in the story where Matthew picks it up. The Magi from the east, the three wise men have traveled and we all know the story because we see it replayed every year. But have you ever stopped and really taken a step back and said, OK, who were these Magi and what were they doing?
They were most possibly of the academic lineage of Daniel from the ancient country of Babylon and they would have been scientists, would have been academicians that would have studied the stars. They would have studied the physical world around them and they're seeing the star in the east. They also would have known with extreme historical accuracy, that a Messiah, a Saviour was prophesied from the Jewish scriptures, what we call the Old Testament. They would have traveled this long, hard, dangerous road looking for that Messiah.
So we pick up the story here and we think about this, this is in Luke 2. They've arrived in Jerusalem and they're seeing the Jewish king Herod, and they ask him, we've seen a star, we're looking for a king and where do the scriptures say that the Messiah is going to be born? And written hundreds of years earlier by Micah, this is what was said. "And you, Bethlehem, Land of Judah are by no means least among the leaders of Judah. For out of you shall come forth a ruler who will shepherd my people, Israel." So it's very clearly saying go to Bethlehem because that's where the Messiah is going to be born. Herod secretly tells them, listen, go to Bethlehem, do what you came here to do, come back and tell me where he is. That will be important in just a minute.
So the wise men as we call them, the Magi is often written, they take their gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh (these were gifts for a king) to a poor boy born in a barn. Even the gifts had meaning. Gold represented Jesus' kingship. The frankincense was a symbol of His deity, and the myrrh was used as anointing oil. In those days, a king would be anointed when they were anointed king.
And so these men came with the specific intent to honor the God-King that had come to Earth. Now when we say it like that in our day and age, especially full of the cynicism that we have, we think “Yeah right, God-King, that kind of sounds like a myth or a legend, right?” But that's exactly what they came to do. And the interesting thing is that history supports it. All of history pivots on this event. Our calendar pivots on this event. When you're looking at today's date, it pivots on this event. And these men came to worship God that had come to Earth.
So we continue on, these men have worshipped they've spent time with Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus and an angel came to them and warned them that Herod is threatened by Jesus. Leave another way, sneak out and be gone. Don't go back to Herod and tell him where baby Jesus is. This is where the story gets interesting and we talk less about this section of the story. Because Herod discovers that he's been tricked, or he feels tricked, and he decides he's going to go slaughter every child under the age of two in Bethlehem.
An angel visits Joseph in a dream and says, take the child, take his mother and run away. So think about this a minute, we got a poor man and we know they're poor because of the way they were treated when they had no room in a hotel for him, they had no room in the inn. We also know that they're poor because we see in Luke 2 that when they worshipped or sacrificed at the temple, they gave two doves...two pigeons - the gift or sacrifice prescribed for the poor of the society.
So how does this man take his family and run from the king? How does he sneak them out of the country when soldiers are chasing them? This is where it gets so cool! You need some wisdom, you need some street sense, right? And money helps, but where does a poor man that's far away from his network in support get money? Gold, frankincense and myrrh.
How cool is God that these gifts that were given to worship baby Jesus as God-King Jesus are now very practical for Joseph to take care of his family and get them out of the country and keep them safe in Egypt? And that's exactly what he does. They run to Egypt and he's a carpenter but it's not like he has his network around him. He didn't immediately get work, but he has money. He has goods that can be traded for food and for care. He runs and God looks after them.
We see the practicality of the gifts that both worshipped King-Jesus, but they also saved baby Jesus. I've always loved that aspect of the story of God looking after every need for this family. Which in turn looked after every need that we need today.
So how does this shape our thinking about gifts?
Some People Say I Love You Through Giving Gifts
First, as I said a second ago, we should recognize that some people give gifts because that's their love language.
My wife says 'I love you' by giving gifts and we first got married all I saw was this money that I had worked so hard on (because I had defined my success and who I was) going out of the door to buy some trinket that I didn't want or need. And yet my wife is screaming, I love you.
We need to take a step back and if you have somebody in your life that is just pouring gifts on you, say thank you, say I love you back, tell them you love them in the same language. And if you can't afford the gifts, say honey, let's do this a certain way, let's work together so we don't spend too much money to buy stuff we don't need or want. And even if you can afford to give, you have plenty of money, maybe you should say that anyway. Say hey, I'm glad we say I love you this way. Let's not temper how we say I love you, let's temper how much we buy or spend on trinkets and materialism. So that's number one, know that some people just say I love you by buying gifts and they hear I love you but getting gifts.
Don't Try to Keep Up with Your Neighbors
Number two, don't wreck the holidays trying to keep up with somebody. Do not rank your gifts. Don't try to keep up with your neighbors. Don't try to keep up with your friends. Don't try to keep up with some stranger on Facebook. Enjoy the time and the genuine meaning of what's going on and be generous. Listen, our country is in a terrible recession. At the recording of this, there's over 10 million people unemployed. That means there's millions of people there, they're not worried about gifts, they're worried about food and worried about paying bills, and you could go help them.
You know, you may not be able to help a whole neighborhood, a whole society but you can go help a person; go help a few people. Be generous, please be generous! You have excess, give some away to somebody and in that, tell them this story. Tell them why, tell them that God loves them, that you love them, and know that God loves you as well.
Celebrate What Matters
Remember, as you're celebrating this, to celebrate what matters. We get to have a lot of parties this time of year, we get to have a lot of fun, a lot of time off. There's a lot of excess, there's a lot of over the top partying that goes on, all right? This is the God-King Jesus's birthday - celebrate what matters.
But you know what I really want you to walk away with is this - the wise men were chasing something that counted, chasing something that was authentic. Yes, they took a long, hard road to get there. And, yes, they took a risk. We don't know their story, but can you imagine them telling their friends:
“I'm gonna go follow this star.”
“You're going to do what? We study the stars. We don't go follow them, OK?”
“Yeah, no, we're going to get on our camels and we're going to travel across the desert to see where this star is.”
“All right man, good luck. Have fun!”
They traveled a long, hard road to find something real. I encourage you to do the same as you're traveling your road in life, as you're traveling your road of ambitions, as you're traveling your road to success, as you travel on your road to do something cool or great, big, meaningful, excellent.
Be careful that you don't get enslaved to the road. Be careful that you don't get locked up like some chain gang and you're just stuck on that road for life. We have nicknames for that, like the rat race and it sucks, doesn't it? And be careful that what you're chasing matters. As you're going after this know that God is chasing you with something better.
Later in Jesus's life he says, "I've come so that you may have life and have it more abundantly". He's saying I was born, I lived, I died, I came back to life so that you can have a joyful, purposeful, strong, excellent life. I'm giving that to you. That's what God's chasing you with it.
So as we look at wealth, as we look at success, as we look at innovation, know that He created those ideas first. Those originated with Him and He is saying, I am chasing you with goodness and mercy and a status or position in my house and in my kingdom. How cool is that?
So you sit back at Christmas, you realize that we're celebrating the birth of this. We're celebrating the birth of our salvation. How awesome is that?
Merry Christmas, take care.