The Gifts of ChristmasRelated Media
Christmas is hard work and expensive! We celebrate Christmas because it is tradition and part of our culture. God doesn’t command it, nor do we earn brownie points for doing so. Is it really worth the trouble?
For those of us who are Christ followers, if we are going to spend the effort and money, it seems that we should do so with purpose and not just follow tradition. And, it’s more fun when we celebrate because of gratitude as we remember God’s gifts to us embodied in our Christmas celebrations.
Several years ago, I hosted a neighborhood Christmas luncheon. When I got out my decorations, I asked myself, “What message do I want to give to the women as they come into my home?” Decorating is work; I wanted it to be meaningful! Over the years, I had collected a bunch of odds and ends stuff—mostly things given to me by my mom, our kids, or found in the attics of houses we bought. Recalling a book I read years ago called The Gifts of Christmas by Rachel Hartman, I remembered the author had taken the parts of the biblical Christmas story and considered them to be gifts (music, wonder, love…). Then, she related each gift to the traditions we have for celebrating Christmas. Her book had seven gifts—too many for me to use! So, I took three of the gifts—love, life, and joy— and put my decorations in groups matching the gift along with a descriptive card.
The first gift is that of love—God’s love. Christmas is the celebration of God making good on a promise He had made hundreds of years earlier that a child would be born who would be both God and man. God delivered on that promise when Jesus was born. We don’t know the date. The early Christians celebrated the resurrection, not the birth of Jesus. But by the 4th century, they celebrated Jesus’ birth when the Romans were busy with their own feasts—Dec. 25 in the West, Jan. 6 in the East. (The 12 days of Christmas connect the two dates.)
God made a promise and kept it. Love keeps promises. It was God’s idea to come to earth and live as a man—Jesus—fully man yet fully God. Now, why would God do that? Was it for His sake? No. It was for ours. It was God’s gift of LOVE to us.
“For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son…” (John 3:16).
Because God lived as a man (Jesus), He could pay the penalty of death that He as God had imposed on man because of sin. His death on the cross opens the way for us to have a relationship of LOVE with God. Titus 3:3-7 describes this well.
For we too were once foolish, disobedient, misled, enslaved to various passions and desires, spending our lives in evil and envy, hateful and hating one another. But “when the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared, he saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us in full measure through Jesus Christ our Savior. And so, since we have been justified by his grace, we become heirs with the confident expectation of eternal life.” (Titus 3:3-7)
We can have confidence that He understands what we’re feeling and experiencing as humans on earth. Because He’s has been here, He knows what it’s like to be tired, hungry, sad, surrounded by cranky people, and having someone dependent on you day and night. He showed His LOVE to women, so we know He LOVES us as women. God’s LOVE gift is expressed in nativity scenes, red bows, giving gifts, and serving one another.
The second gift is one of LIFE—real life that God promises to those who love Him. This same Jesus who died to pay the penalty for our sins so we could be totally forgiven of them also rose again from the dead—alive with a new body. And, he’s in a human body still in heaven. Do you think of Him that way? God offers this same LIFE to us who believe in Him.
“…so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).”
This new LIFE richly fills the longing in our hearts for a relationship with God our Creator. He adopts us as His children.
But to all who have received him -- those who believe in his name -- he has given the right to become God’s children -- children not born by human parents or by human desire or a husband’s decision, but by God. (John 1:12-13)
We get to call Him Father, even Daddy. This gift of LIFE that never ends is represented in evergreen trees, wreaths, lights, and candles. I love evergreen wreaths with red bows and white lights at Christmas—LIFE!
The third gift is JOY expressed in celebration. The angels announced the good news of Jesus’ birth with JOYFUL praise. The shepherds responded by going to investigate for themselves, seeing the truth of the message and telling others.
Suddenly a vast, heavenly army appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among people with whom he is pleased!” When the angels left them and went back to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, that the Lord has made known to us.” So they hurried off and located Mary and Joseph, and found the baby lying in a manger. When they saw him, they related what they had been told about this child, (Luke 2:13-17)
JOY is a sense of well-being apart from circumstances. The world seeks happiness and is devastated when things go wrong. God’s gift of JOY transcends such “happenings.” JOY is the infallible sign of the presence of God. It comes to us through our relationship with Him.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28-29)
When we experience His gifts of love and life, joy follows. Traditions expressing joy are music, angels, and bright colors.
Maybe dwelling on these 3 gifts of Christmas will make your celebration more meaningful and give more purpose to your decorations. What message do you want to convey to those in your household or to those who come to visit you? Having this focus in my decorating has made a huge difference for me. May God bless your Christmas celebration this year.