The Greatest Gift
Christmas is the season of giving, but why do we give and receive gifts at Christmas time? After all, it’s not our birthday. We give gifts at Christmas time in honour of the greatest gift ever given. For “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” John 3:16. Freely we have received, freely we must give. It is far more blessed to give than to receive.
Getting versus giving
Yet, we still have many people who have not grasped this most basic truth of Christmas. To many Christmas is the season for getting, not giving. Many have their hands out asking where is their Christmas box? “What do you have for me?” “Gimme, gimme, gimme!” Complete strangers seem to have no shame in demanding some gift for themselves on Christmas Day; we need to remind them whose birthday we are celebrating.
The first ‘Christmas’ gifts
The very first Christmas gifts were given by the wise men from the East. They travelled great distances, across difficult and dangerous terrain, in order to worship the Greatest Person ever born. And they presented extraordinary gifts: Gold for the King of kings; Frankincense for the High Priest of all priests; Myrrh for the sacrifice that would end the need for any other blood sacrifices.
These men from the East were wise. They recognised when the Messiah would be born. And they discovered where He would be born. As they came from Babylon and Persia, where Daniel had served, they were no doubt aware of the prophecies made by Daniel, which clearly identified when the Messiah would be born. And the gifts were most appropriate. They recognised that this was not merely an heir to the throne, a prince, being born! “Where is He who has been born King?” They recognised that gold was most appropriate for the King of all kings.
Frankincense is symbolic of prayers and worship, so in presenting frankincense they recognised that the Messiah would be the High Priest over all priests.
Myrrh was an ointment used for burial. Jesus Christ was coming as the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world through His death.
The Crib, the Cross, the Crown
At Christmas we remember the crib, but we also need to look beyond the crib to the Cross. The wood of the crib should remind us of the wood of the Cross on which our Lord would die, a willing sacrifice for your sins and mine. But the wise men looked beyond the wood of the crib and of the Cross to the gold of the crown. For we no longer worship a babe in a manger, or even a suffering Saviour on the Cross, but a risen, ascended Redeemer reigning on high who will return to judge the living and the dead.
The crib reminds us of the incarnation. Jesus is Emmanuel – God with us. The Cross reminds us of why Jesus came. He lived the perfect life that we should have lived and He died the death that we deserve. The crown points to the return of the King of kings and the eternal Judge. The first time Jesus came as the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world. The next time He will come as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah to conquer and to judge.
When will you bow to Christ?
The question is not: will you bow to Christ, but when will you bow to Christ? Will you bow to Christ today in the day of grace when forgiveness is freely available? When the door to Heaven is wide open? Or will you bow on the Day of Judgement, when the door to salvation is firmly closed, when the day of grace is ended? We will either bow to Christ as Saviour today, or we will bow to Him as Judge on that great and dreadful Day of Judgement. As we remember His birthday we should ask: What gift will you give the One whose birthday we are celebrating? What can you give to our Lord Jesus Christ? What gifts would be appropriate for the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Creator and eternal Judge? Our Saviour and Redeemer?
What gift will you give?
Andrew brought a little boy to Jesus and the little boy gave Jesus his lunch – five loaves and two fish. And with that little boy’s lunch, Jesus fed thousands with the food He multiplied. Jesus can do a lot with a little. Similarly, our Lord Jesus pointed out that the widow gave more than all the rest. Her mite may have looked very small in the eyes of those around, but the Lord, knowing how little she had, recognised that she had actually given everything she could.
Gifts others have given
Mary gave Christ the gift of expensive perfume, anointing Him for burial. “Then Mary took a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus feet and wiped His feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume”.
Zachias hosted Jesus and honoured Him by making restitution and donating much of his riches to the poor. Jesus said; “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” John 14:15. What can you give the Lord Jesus Christ? You can give Him your attention. Study His Word. Learn His Law. Get to know the Word of God and the God of the Word. Meditate on His Word, the Bible. Determine to put first things first. Bible before breakfast. Scripture before supper. Psalm before lunch. Read through the whole Bible this next year. That will only take ten to twelve minutes a day to read four chapters of the Bible each day.
There are 1187 chapters in the Bible. If you read just four chapters a day, you will be able to read through the entire Bible in a year. How can you know His will unless you study His Word?
The sacrifice of obedience
“To obey is better than sacrifice” 1 Sam 15:1-23. Determine to obey God. Dedicate your life to obeying the Cultural Mandate of Genesis 1:28. Care for and improve God’s creation. Plant trees, care for the environment, cultivate gardens. Adopt animals and treat animals with the care and diligence of those who must give an account to the Creator and eternal Judge. Don’t waste food. Think of your pets, wild birds and other animals who can benefit. Do not litter, recycle and be thoughtful and considerate.
Make Christ’s Great Commission your supreme ambition
Make it your goal this Christmas season to re-dedicate your life to making disciples, teaching obedience to all things that the Lord has commanded. Introduce others to Christ. Witness for Christ. Be alert to evangelistic opportunities. Give Christ your love, your devotion, your worship and adoration. Give Him your heart, mind, hands and feet. Devote your time, talents and treasure to Christ and His Kingdom. Use your initiative and energy to advance the Kingdom of God. Be whole-hearted and persevere to the end.
Give Christ all that you have
Does Jesus have all of you that there is to have? Jesus said that the widow gave all that she had. What have you given to God? Have you made promises that you have gone back on? Have you made commitments that you have not honoured? Are there people you need to make right with? Ask forgiveness from? Jesus said leave your gift at the altar and first go and be reconciled with your estranged brother.
This festive season, make that phone call. Write that letter. Forgive. Ask for forgiveness. Do restitution. These would be acceptable gifts and sacrifices of praise to present to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ on His birthday. Wise men seek Christ. What are you seeking? Fun, friends, fame and fortune? Popularity, prestige and power?
Have you noticed the impressive Christmas trees set up in many shopping malls? Have you noticed the beautifully wrapped presents piled up under most of these trees? You will see many children’s eyes widen as they look at these bright, shiny, shimmering presents, often with attractive ribbons around them? You hear little children ask, “What’s in those boxes?” And the answer is: absolutely nothing! They are beautifully wrapped and attractively presented, but the presents under these Christmas trees in the shopping malls are all empty!
The empty promises of the world
The world offers so much, but in the end it turns out to be empty. Over Christmas, stores and advertisers offer you everything you could possibly desire - if only you will buy their product or service. But like those alluring and attractive looking presents under the Christmas trees in the mall, the promises of the world turn out to be disappointingly empty. For those who pursue materialism they will find merry-go-rounds that get them nowhere, mazes that get them lost and dead-end streets that will frustrate their desires.
Hedonism and existentialism prove to be short-sighted, meaningless, empty and purposeless. What are you searching for? What is your purpose in life? What’s in the boxes you have been obtaining from the world?
Do not waste your life on the empty boxes of the world. Do not settle for less than God’s very best. God gives the best to those who leave the choice to Him. “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jer 29:30
Don’t miss the greatest opportunity of your lifetime
What are you seeking for in life? What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Christmas should remind us of the danger of missing out on what is most important. How must all those innkeepers of Bethlehem feel – that they turned away the Greatest Man ever to be born?
They had no room for Emmanuel. They couldn’t accommodate the Creator, the Eternal Judge before whom they will have to stand on the Day of Judgement. They missed the opportunity of all time. They could have welcomed the Holy family, but they missed out. “He came unto His own and His own received Him not.” John 1:11
At His birth there was no room for Jesus in any of the homes or inns of Bethlehem. Today there seems to be no room for Jesus at the U.N. Don’t be like those innkeepers. Welcome Jesus into your home. Don’t let Christmas turn into a time of commercial chaos. Use this festive season to reach loved ones with the Gospel message.
Take Christmas back for Christ
Today there are numerous attempts to hijack Christmas from its Christian origins and to replace Jesus with some secular Santa Claus. The original Saint Nicolas, on which Santa Claus is based, was a dedicated Christian who was generous to the poor. That was the inspiration for Santa Claus. However, today Hollywood has built up a huge mythology of a secular Santa Claus that is far more acceptable to secular humanists and atheists than the Lord Jesus Christ.
Contrasting Santa and Jesus
Use this Christmas time to teach your children and grandchildren about the Lord Jesus Christ. We can contrast Him with ‘Santa’ and ‘Father Christmas’ like so:
- Santa reportedly lives at the North Pole. Jesus is everywhere
- Santa rides in a sleigh. Jesus rides on the wind and walks on the water
- Santa comes but once a year, Jesus is our ever-present help
- Santa may fill your stockings with toys. Jesus supplies all your needs
- You have to stand in line to meet Santa. Jesus is as close as the mention of His Name
- Santa may let you sit on his lap, but Jesus lets you rest in His arms
- Santa has to ask you your name. Jesus knows your name and your address
- Santa has a belly like a bowl full of jelly; Jesus has a heart full of love
- Santa says you ‘better not cry’, Jesus says “cast all your cares on Me for I care for you”
- Santa needs little helpers to make toys.Jesus Himself gives life, heals wounded hearts, repairs broken homes and prepares mansions for us in Heaven
- Santa may make you chuckle, but Jesus gives you the joy of the Lord
- While Santa supposedly puts gifts under a tree, Jesus is the greatest Gift and He gives us the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Have a happy, Holy Christmas
Give Christ your time, talents and treasure. Your hands, feet, lips, heart and life. Give Him your worship, obedience, sacrifice, attention and adoration. To obey is better than sacrifice. Be reconciled to your friends and family. Be generous. Be grateful. Recognise the many evangelistic opportunities around you. Give God the very best that you have. And don’t waste your life on the empty boxes of the world.
Don’t settle for less than God’s very best. Whether you choose to celebrate Christ’s birth in December, or not, don’t waste this opportunity to share the message of hope for mankind through the birth and death of Christ. Don’t become so anti-Christmas, that you turn down wonderful moments to bring Christ into Christmas and explain the reason for the Season.
“Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matt 6:33