(Given Christmas Eve)
Many of us approach this time of year with mixed feelings. On the one hand, we enjoy getting together with friends and family. We enjoy having a break from school or work. We enjoy the lights, the decorated trees and singing Christmas carols. We especially enjoy the feasts and the special snacks which seem to only come out this time of year.
On the other hand, we deplore the commercialization of Christmas. Somehow the joy we feel when we celebrate the birth of our Savior is a little tarnished by everyone trying to make a buck off of the celebration.
Of course, a lot of the money which changes hands at this time of the year goes for buying gifts. What is a gift, anyway? A gift is something we grant or bestow on someone else without any compensation. It is not something which is earned. It is not something the recipient has to pay for. It is not something provided out of a sense of duty. It is something we give, because we want to honor the other person or provide him or her a bit of pleasure. We give because we love – not expecting anything in return.
Why is it traditional to give gifts to one another at this time of year, when we celebrate Christ’s birth? We do it in memory of the greatest gift of all – the gift of salvation which God gave us through Jesus.
Now in our household we have a time-honored tradition of trying to guess what the gifts are before we undo the wrapping paper. We will shake the box. We try to smell the contents. We try to decipher the clues written on the tag. Sometimes we can figure out what we’re getting. Other times, we can’t – the gift is indescribable until we unwrap it. Even after we see what the gift is there are still things we don’t know about it. We often don’t know how much it cost or where it was bought. More importantly, we don’t know how much the one who gave it to us had to sacrifice in order to get it for us.
It’s the same way with the gift God has given us. We know in general terms what it is. Those of us who have devoted our lives to Christ experience the benefits of the gift in our daily lives. Yet, we really don’t know the full meaning of the gift. The Apostle Paul urged the Christians in the church at Corinth to give a monetary gift to the church in Jerusalem. After talking about the gift he wanted them to give he referred to the gift God has given us. He said, “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV)
Even when we try to describe God’s gift to us, our words fall short. Writing to the Ephesians Paul said, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:4-9 NIV)
Yes, we know in general that God has given us new life. But we really don’t know what that means. We won’t know until Christ comes again and He takes us to live in the new heavens and earth. Similarly, we really don’t understand the cost of the gift and the sacrifice God made in order to give it to us. Do we really comprehend what Jesus suffered when He cried out from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34 NIV)
Though we really don’t understand, we do give thanks. We do remember the gift. Every Sunday we celebrate the gift as Jesus asked us to do. We eat some unleavened bread which reminds us of how He sacrificed His sinless body for us. We drink some juice which reminds us of His blood by which He bought our salvation.
Today as we eat and drink, let’s give thanks for God’s indescribable gift!