Christmas is a very exciting time for adults and children – for everyone. It’s a highlight of the year and part of the excitement is the giving and receiving of gifts. But it’s getting harder and harder to think of gifts to give.
It seems these days that our friends and family have everything they need and so we often take the easy way and buy a gift card, and leave the decision to them as to what to buy.
The kind of gifts given at Christmas has changed a great deal over the years. Gifts were often homemade – maybe some biscuits or jams. As children, it was the mystery of the gift that brought excitement. Seeing a few gifts under the tree – wrapped in Christmas paper – trying to work out the present from the shape. Somehow gifts mysteriously also appeared under the Christmas tree during the Christmas Eve service or while the children were asleep. It may have been a simple gift – a pair of knitted socks – a small bag of marbles for the boys and doll clothes for the girls.
Gift giving is a highlight of the Christmas celebrations. We know that the first visitors who came to visit the new born King of the Jews brought gifts. The shepherds who were watching over their flocks were poor but they brought the baby in the manger their love and adoration. The wisemen from the east brought expensive gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, but the more important gift for this baby was that they knelt before the little child and gave him honour and worship. Just as we give our gifts wrapped in paper to create a surprise, today God gives us the gift of his son, wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger. This child is God’s Christmas gift to us and the world.
Sometimes we focus on the giving and on the gifts so much that we miss the fact that what we are celebrating at this time of the year is God’s gift to us. Our gift giving is a reflection of the generous gift that God gave to us at the first Christmas – the gift of his Son. This gift from God is for all people – no one is excluded. It is a gift given out of extreme love – a love so immense, so deep, so wonderful and powerful that we struggle to understand what kind of love it is that would cause God – the creator of heaven and earth – to become a vulnerable and helpless baby born to human parents to experience all the hardships of life, including an unjust brutal death.
God came from heaven to earth; his first bed was a manger; his first visitors strangers. A new life had entered the world and he was Mary and Joseph’s to care for and to love. But he was God’s gift not only to them, but also to the world – and the world would never be the same again. This child is a gift for all humankind; he belongs to everyone and he will give everyone the greatest gifts of all – peace, forgiveness, reconciliation with God, and eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. And like all gifts, this child in the manger, brings joy. But unlike other gifts, he never becomes irrelevant or unneeded.
After visiting the stable “the shepherds went back, singing praises to God for all they had heard and seen.” But it was not only the people on earth who rejoiced, but also the angels of heaven rejoiced at this baby’s birth. “A great army of heaven’s angels appeared with the angel, singing praises to God.” The Christmas story is about a gift that brought joy to all people. This Christmas gift from God has changed everything. The gift that God gave us at Christmas is our Saviour. Christmas is a celebration of God becoming human, being born in a manger, for us. There are many traditions and customs associated with Christmas.
Giving and receiving of lots of gifts. Santa, Christmas parties, and Christmas Day celebrations with friends and relatives but in the end the only thing that really matters and makes a difference is the gift we receive from God. The gift of a Saviour – “God with us” in all the sin, the trouble and death of this world.
This is the gift that brings peace. This is the gift that saves. This is the gift that lasts. In David’s town our Saviour was born for you – Christ the Lord.