The Best Gift You’ve Ever Received
What is it that made that gift so special to you? Maybe it was the person who gave it. Maybe it was handmade. Maybe it was something you really needed, or wanted. Maybe there’s nothing special about the gift itself, it just reminds you of a special time in your life.
I was born four days before Christmas. My parents brought me home from the hospital on Christmas Eve. (Back then, new moms stayed in the hospital for a full week, but mom didn’t want to be in the hospital on Christmas Day.) My mom called me as her “little Christmas angel”. (Definitely not a fitting image of me…but I digress.) Early on, she started buying collectible porcelain angels for me. Every year I got a new one. At Christmas time, I would set my collection out in my room, arranging them carefully on my dresser. I used little boxes to elevate some of them – tall ones in the back, small ones farther forward, my favorites front and center.
A Brother’s Gift
One Christmas when I was in high school, my little brother found a vintage angel at an antique show in the local mall. He used his own money to buy it for me. He was so excited that he had found such a special gift to give his big sister. He continued his Christmas shopping, setting his little bag down now and then as he shopped; banging it into check out counters as he moved through the stores. When he got home, he was crushed to find that his special little gift had gotten broken while he shopped. One of the angel’s wings had broken off. My mom helped him glue the pieces back together and assured him it would still be OK to give it to me.
On Christmas day, he watched nervously as I opened my gift. There, inside a small box, was a pretty ceramic angel with a delicate face, hand painted gold leaf trim, and one wing that had been glued back into place. Mom gently explained how badly he felt when he got home and discovered that his treasure had broken. I can still see the look my brother had on his face when I took my little angel and put it in a prominent place on my dresser: that grin – such delight, such a sense of pride. It meant so much to him to give me that gift; and that made the gift very special to me. Somehow, the fact that it had been broken and restored made it even more special. That angel is still one of my favorite Christmas gifts ever, and still one of the favorites in my collection. My little brother is gone now. He died a few years ago. I still have my special little angel with the patched up wing. It means even more to me all these years later. It represents the sweet love a little brother had for his big sister, and I’m so grateful for the reminder.
At Christmas, we traditionally express our love to family, friends, and neighbors by giving gifts – just as my little brother expressed his love with that little angel. Giving and receiving gifts as a token of love is a universal phenomenon. The English word ‘gift’ comes from the Greek word charis or charisma, which means ‘grace’ or ‘an undeserved gift’. The idea behind this is that if the gift is deserved or earned, then it’s payment, not a gift. A true gift is not payment but is a freely given expression of love.
God gave us an amazing gift over 2,000 years ago; one that we didn’t earn and didn’t deserve. He gave this gift to us freely, simply because he loves us – more than we could ever imagine. John 3:16 tells us that God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son. Jesus.
Wrapped up in that one gift, God gives us so much. It reminds me of those little nesting dolls. When you open one, there’s another inside, and another inside that, and another inside that.
What do we receive in Jesus?
Let’s take a look at what’s really inside our gift.
PEACE – We were once at odds with God. Now we can be at peace with God because of Jesus.
“Therefore since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ..” Romans 5:1
FORGIVENESS – Jesus brings us forgiveness.
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.” Ephesians 1:7-8a
HOPE – In Jesus, we find a hope that will not be disappointed.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23“In him was life, and that life was the light of humankind.” John 1:4
SALVATION – Because of Jesus, we will be saved from the consequence of our sin.
“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21
And so much more.
It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of Christmas – the decorations, the shopping, the parties, and the food – and lose sight of what Christmas really brings to us: the greatest gift the world has ever known. Jesus.
John 3:16 tells us,
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
The real gift is Jesus.
The real gift is a restored relationship with God.
The real gift is forgiveness of sin.
The real gift is the hope of salvation.
The real gift is eternal life.
The real gift is the coming of God’s kingdom.
The real gift is God with us.
As we go through the holiday season this year, let’s not lose sight of this great gift that God has given us. Let’s open it, cherish it, and keep it with us all year.
Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! 2 Corinthians 9:15