- Eldon Peterson
The Gift of Christmas
Christmas is a time when we celebrate our love for family and friends by the giving and receiving of gifts. While there are other times when we express our love through gifts, Christmas is different for at Christmas our attention is on God’s love for us as we remember the child in the manger.
We may celebrate our love for others by giving gifts at Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, birthdays and anniversaries, even on Valentine’s Day. Yet, Christmas is different because it does not celebrate anything about us; it is not about me. You may give me gifts for MY birthday and you can express your love for ME at Valentine’s Day, but at Christmas, we express our love for Christ by giving one another gifts.
It is best for us to remember what God has given us as we give gifts to each other at Christmas. If we make Christmas about the presents under the tree, then we miss the point of Christmas. The reason for the season is about something far more glorious than a nicely wrapped present. Christmas is about the gift of life that God has given us in Christ. Jesus says it best in the familiar words of John 3:16, “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” It is likely that we are familiar with these words even if we do not go to church. However, do we understand why God gave the world His Son?
There are many reasons why we give gifts at Christmas. Sometimes we will give someone a gift because they gave us something. At other times, we give a present because it is the right thing to do. However, the gift that God gives us in Christ was not like this, and when we understand that God sent his Son to die so that we might live, it will causes us to recognize two things. First, we will see the priceless nature of the gift that God has given us, and second, we will be struck by our own unworthiness to receive the gift.
We know that the practice of “re-gifting” is birthed out of cheapness not generosity. A gift given out of love will cost me something; time, money, thought. A gift given without these lacks meaning. Because God is generous with his love, we too are to love generously. When the people of Israel brought God gifts that they did not want or need, he condemned them saying, “When you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly?" says the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 1:8)
The gift that God gives us in Christ should humble us because of its great cost and our unworthiness. At Christmas we remember how God gave the world His son knowing that Christ’s birth would lead him to the cross where he would die for our sins, “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5:8) Our freedom from sin and death was purchased with the precious blood of Christ. This may cause us to cringe thinking, “It is too expensive, I am unworthy of such a gift!” Yet, if we needed to be worthy to receive it, it would not be a gift but a wage.
The real reason we should celebrate Christmas is to remember that through this child God has given us the priceless gift of life. Just as the shepherds stood in wonder as they looked at the child, so too should we knowing that, “God made the Christ who did not know sin to be sin on our behalf, in order that we could become the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) Is there any greater gift than this?
The only thing left us for us to do is to receive and unwrap the “free gift” of eternal life that the Father has given us in Christ Jesus our Lord. I pray that this Christmas as we exchange our gifts with those that we love, that we will remember the priceless gift that God has placed a before us. Your name is on it; will you unwrap this gift of grace?