The gifts have been received and opened;
The recycling bin is filled with gift wrapping that once made an ordinary gift seem extra special.
Our family and friends have come and returned home.
All that is to come as a reminder of Christmas is the Credit Card statement.
Soon we will start counting down again till next Christmas
The past month has included the busiest days and weeks of the year for many of us.
It is no wonder if we feel tired today and maybe there is a sense of relief that it is all over for another year – and a bonus, it’s a leap year next year so we get an extra day’s relief.
It has been a hectic couple of weeks but slowly our lives will return to normal, as we settle back into our regular routines.
We have celebrated Jesus’ birth which is always a special time despite the stress and pressure of trying to get everything done in time.
Christmas is special because it reminds us that God has not forgotten about us and never will.
Jesus is God’s gift to each one of us – Immanuel – God with us.
But what will we do with that gift?
We have 3 options:
First Add it to the pile of gifts
We seem to live in a time when we have everything we need.
With credit cards and ready access to cash, if we want something we go and buy it.
While that’s handy, it makes it very hard to buy things as gifts these days as the people we buy for seem to have everything.
So we either buy them some sort of novelty gift with no real use, or we buy them a gift card from the many hundreds of places that offer them.
In fact when you go to Coles or Woolworths they have all the companies available.
You just pick the one you want and take it to the checkout so you don’t have to go out of your way to buy one.
This way they can get their own present to the value that you place on the card.
The problem is that many of those gift cards just get put away because we don’t need them straight away – and we forget about them.
That’s often how we treat the gift of Jesus.
We have so much in our lives, do we really value what Jesus brings to our lives.
Do we really need him?
We put him away and forget about him.
We get on with life and just take him out if we need him.
Or we just leave the gift card lying around unused.
A gift card that is not used is just a piece of plastic.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a $5 gift card or a $500 gift card – it’s the same amount of plastic if it’s not used.
Likewise if we don’t use Jesus in our life then he is just as useful as that bit of plastic.
Sometimes when we do actually receive a gift, we don’t really value the gift or use the gift as the giver intended.
If we know the giver of the gift is going to visit, we madly scramble to find their gift and put it on display.
That’s often how we treat God’s gift of Jesus to us.
Bring him out at Christmas and Easter, but for the rest of the year we’ll pack him away.
God gave us Jesus to bring hope and peace and meaning to our lives.
Not just at Christmas, but every day of our life.
Are you using Jesus in your life or is he just lying around unused like many of our bibles?
Second Return it
Probably the 2nd busiest day in the retail calendar is the day after Christmas.
But it’s not just at the checkout for the Boxing Day Sales but the returns counter.
People who have received a gift that is the wrong size – the wrong colour – or just not wanted.
So too God comes to us at times in ways that we don’t like or expect.
Israel certainly didn’t expect their promised King to come born in a feeding trough in the back shed, born to an unmarried commoner.
And remember John the Baptist a few weeks ago was looking for a refund.
Are you the one or should we be waiting for someone else.
Many today have returned God for a refund.
They have neglected their baptism and confirmation vows.
They have lapsed from worship.
But that is because we expect God to be a certain way.
We were created in God’s image but we try to recreate God in our image.
But that’s exactly what God did at Christmas.
He sent his Son in our image.
Born as we are born.
Living the life we live.
Struggling – experiencing pain and rejection.
All this so we have a God who understands what we go through so he can give us hope.
If anyone should be seeking a refund, maybe it’s God.
But he doesn’t because he loves us.
When you receive a gift, the value is in the love that purchased that gift for you.
If you return it, the gift you receive or the refund you receive don’t have the love.
When we replace Jesus in our lives, we might find something that gives us pleasure but we don’t have the love that Jesus offers.
Jesus may not always be or do what you are looking for, but he loves you more than anyone or anything else can.
Third Use it
The third option we have is to use the gift given to us.
To cherish it and honour it.
There is no greater joy to the giver of a gift than to see a child’s eyes open wide and the smile beam as the wrapping comes off the gift.
And then to see the child run off and play with the gift.
They may be so excited that they run off without saying thank you.
But you don’t mind.
The smile and enjoyment is the thanks.
Sometimes I forget to say grace before a meal.
Sometimes I go to bed and I am just so tired that I fall asleep during my prayers or before saying them.
Sometimes I’m just not in the mood to read a devotion.
But God doesn’t mind.
He looks at us with so much joy and pleasure.
He’s not up there like a strict school teacher who is going to slap your hand if you don’t remember to say please or thank you.
He is there to be with you wherever you go and whatever you do.
And he has given to you his Son Jesus to be with you – to support you – to guide you – to use in whatever way you need to use him
To speak with him – to unload your frustrations on him – to just have someone at your side when you need him.
He is Immanuel – God with us.
Jesus is God’s gift to you.
May you receive Jesus with joy and use him for your needs and your enjoyment and share the joy with others.
And unlike other gifts, you can’t break him.
You can’t wear him out.
And wherever you go, he will be with you.
Enjoy God’s special gift to you – Jesus Christ his Son.