December 21, 1999
Some people celebrate Christmas without any idea why this holiday is on the calendar. They send cards, put up lights, go shopping. They play carols on the stereo. They cook turkey and exchange gifts. Yet thoughts of the birthday Child never enter their head.
Yesterday, while decorating our tree, I was almost at that point. My husband’s work would keep him from being here to help with the tree and other preparations. The children have homes and trees of their own. My parents are not well enough to enjoy the holiday with us. It was one of those bah, humbug days.
Later, we sat and enjoyed the twinkling tree lights but the spirit of Christmas still eluded me. This morning, the Holy Spirit put it back into my mind along with the reason it had left. He reminded me that I do not do this for the tree, or my husband, or children, or family. I do not do it for myself. Christmas is not for feasting, carols, cards and lights. Nor is it for giving and receiving, as delightful as gifts may be. Celebrating Christmas is our response to the reason this holiday is on the calendar; it is one way we remind ourselves of God’s gift to us.
Of course that gift was a baby, but more than a baby. The Bible says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . and the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.”
When God spoke the world into existence, that powerful voice was His Son. When God spoke to the prophets, those words were His Son. Now, Words made flesh, the ideas and thoughts and expressions of God became a baby. Yet more than words; this baby was God poured into a human skin. Jesus is God made visible, God Himself, God . . . a gift for all people.
The Bible says “He came to His own (the Jewish people) but His own did not receive Him.” They rejected the gift. For them, He could not be God so for them, He remained unopened.
God, through His servant Paul, sent Him to the Gentiles. Some received Him, those who believed in His name. To them He gave the right to become the children of God. They believed He was God. They opened their gift.
God’s gift, once opened, keeps on giving. Yesterday’s bad attitude reminded me of one reason I needed His gift. I was having a self-focused pity party. Only He can turn my eyes away from me unto Someone greater and worthy of my gaze. Only He can pull me out of the mire and replace my whine with worship. His gift did it.
Bob’s late hours and crazy work schedule reminded me of another. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Yet sometimes rest is impossible. For that, Jesus says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” His gift pours strength into weary bones. Without the gift, the load is far too much.
Who is eligible to receive this gift? Jesus says it is only for sinners. “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners.” The Bible makes it clear that we are saved by grace through faith and that not of ourselves. Salvation is the gift of God, not our own doing.
One would think that sinners deserve punishment from God and that is true. We do. Nevertheless, in sending Jesus, He sent a substitute, one who would take our punishment, which He did. The wages of sin may be death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Life, forgiveness and cleansing for sin, help with the hard stuff and much more besides . . . this is from God to us, with love.
Have you opened your gift yet?