I went through a time when I really struggled with the concept of celebrating Christmas. Most of my objection to the holiday has to do with the pagan origins of it and our modern-day commercialization of Christ. I could do without much of the baggage that comes along with the holiday, but find it very difficult to deny my children the experience of it.
Christmas is tailor-made for children. Wide-eyed wonder as they notice all the lights in the neighborhood for the first time, warm-hearted movies that make eyes misty, traditional hymns and carols, and gifts on Christmas morning are just a few examples of what a special time of the year it is.
It is the concept of a gift that I’ve been thinking about today. Christmas is a beautiful illustration of the grace of God. Grace means gift. The Father gave the gift of His Son at the incarnation. Of course, there is no mention of the concept of giving gifts at Christmas in the Bible. But I wondered, “What did Jesus, the gift of eternal life in His Person and Work, say about the concept of a gift when he was on this earth?”
- “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you,leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23–24)
- “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11; cp. w/ Luke 11.13 which says, “give the Holy Spirit” instead of “give good things”)
- “But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God…” (Matthew 15:5; cp. w/ Mark 7:11)
- “And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obliged to perform it.’ Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift?” (Matthew 23:18–19)
- “Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”” (John 4:10)
Jesus uses the concept of a gift to teach us the power of His grace to reconcile relationships and answer persistent prayer with good things (the greatest of those good things is His presence in the Holy Spirit).
But He also speaks of those who use the concept as a form of abuse. Religious leaders actually proclaimed certain property they possessed as a gift to God (corban) in order to default on their responsibilities to their parents.
These same religious leaders thought the gift was the important thing. But it’s God’s altar which sanctifies the gift. God makes everything valuable …eternally valuable.
John speaks of the infinite worth of the Father’s love gift in His Son, Jesus Christ. He is the Living Water. Once we drink from the cup of God’s grace, it is certain that we will never thirst again.