For most of us, Advent is not a season of peace. It's an extraordinarily busy, often stressful season. That is not necessarily a bad thing. The first Advent was certainly anything but peaceful. It began with a contemplation of divorce, was accompanied by numerous confusing, unplanned detours, and was consummated in a stable of desperation. The Prince of peace brought a lot of turmoil with him when he came. And I think this implies that, in God's judgment, what we may need at Christmas is not less turmoil, but more trust.
The Beautiful Busy-ness of Love
It really is a beautiful thing that the season of Advent is a season of giving. And as Jesus demonstrated by his life and his death, true giving, the kind of giving born of love, is costly. It makes life more complicated and messy and busy. But that's okay, for there is a profound blessing in the busy-ness of love: "it is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). And God loves a cheerful giver and promises to make all grace abound to us when we cheerfully give grace to others (2 Corinthians 9:7–8).
What to Give This Christmas
That's what we want especially to give to others this Christmas: grace. And one particular grace to focus on in our Christmas giving this year is encouragement. What if we seek not to merely ask what our loved one or neighbor would like, but what would most encourage him or her?
Courage is our resolve to face a fearful threat. And courage comes from hope — a hope in something stronger than what we fear. Discouragement sets in when our hope is leaking out. It’s a surrender to our fears. When discouragement happens, and it happens often, what we need is an infusion of hope. That’s what encouragement is — a hope-infusion that helps us keep fighting the fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12). To give another the gift of encouragement is extending to them a kindness that seeks to point them to the God of hope (Romans 15:13).
[Read the rest of the article at Desiring God.]