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Summary: Christmas comes every day of the year for those who will open their eyes to God’s gracious hand at work.

"God’s Perfect Gifts"

James 1:16-17

As a child we make our Christmas lists and make sure that all of those who truly love us get copies for their shopping excursions before Christmas morning. I can still remember going through the catalog and marking the things that I wanted most, the things that would make my Christmas truly meaningful. Beside each hoped for gift I would put a star, but beside the one item I wanted most I would put stars all around it so that there would be no way that mom or dad could possibly forget to tell Santa about the one thing that I wanted most to see under the tree on Christmas morning.

The family I grew up in wasn’t rich by any means. My dad worked two jobs most of the time while I was living at home to pay our bills and keep the family fed. When I was young my mother did other people’s ironing so that she could stay home with her kids and still make money to contribute to the family. Later, she took a job working at an elementary school so that she could be home when my younger sisters got out of school. My parents had to work very hard to keep our family going and I know Christmas had to be pressure packed with three kids running around with an "all I want for Christmas" list sticking out their back pockets.

Every Christmas morning we three kids would wake up early having not slept the night before. When we would run down the hall our hearts raced as we hoped that Santa had gotten the message from our parents of the one can’t-miss-present that we thought we just had to have -- and each Christmas morning mom, dad, and Santa came through for us. Without fail, the one Christmas gift that we had longed for, hoped for, prayed for, and done everything but hire a skywriter to broadcast to the world our desires was always under the tree.

Oh, the feeling was magical. The moment was beyond a "Kodak moment" for a little kid. I can still remember some of the items that I wanted and found on Christmas morning, but as I have grown older I have learned some new lessons about gifts. Some of the most priceless gifts that we receive don’t come at Christmas, but they are given to us each and every day from the gracious hand of Almighty God. Some of the most precious gifts that we receive never make our "All I want for Christmas" list. As a matter of fact, we never even give them a thought until after we receive them and realize what a blessing they truly are to us. Only then do we realize how precious and priceless the gifts are to us.

One of the season’s new movies is a vivid illustration of this lesson that I have learned. In the movie, Family Man, Nicholas Cage, has everything that he thinks he wants from life until one Christmas Eve his life is interrupted by an unexpected and unwanted gift. Chuck Colson wrote about the lessons we can learn in life from this wonderful movie this past week in his Breakpoint Commentary. Chuck writes,

The Family Man follows the story of Jack Campbell, the president of a Wall Street investment firm. He’s a single man who has it all -- the best suits, a great car, and a fantastic Manhattan apartment. He’s even about to close a $130-billion merger deal. And, he thinks he’s truly happy. But when Jack encounters an angel on Christmas Eve, he’s forced to consider what’s truly important to him. The angel gives him a glimpse into what his life might have been like if he had made different choices, prompting Jack to come to a startling conclusion. Well, this is not "It’s a Wonderful Life." Jack isn’t shown how good his life really is; rather, he’s shown how good his life could be. When Jack wakes up the next morning, he finds himself next to his former girlfriend -- the one he would have married if he hadn’t sacrificed their relationship for his career. But now she’s his wife. He also lives in New Jersey with two kids and a dog, and he sells tires for a living. Far from Wall Street, this is Jack’s worst suburban nightmare. He doesn’t like this glimpse one bit. He grows frustrated with the crushing blandness of this life that "might have been" and the wasted potential. He just can’t figure how anyone could possibly be content with such an existence. In the end, however, Jack comes to his senses and learns an important moral lesson in the process. He had everything he thought he wanted, but he realizes what the Bible teaches us: that a life without love is empty. In his new life, Jack lacks power and wealth, but he has the blessings of a great family and a wife who really loves him. This, he learns, is what really makes life meaningful. The film makes it clear that the love between Jack and his wife flourished precisely because of the sacrifices they made -- which is the exact opposite of Jack’s real-life choice to sacrifice love and family for the sake of his career. And that’s why "The Family Man" is such a great Christmas story. Sacrificial love is what Christmas is all about. Only when we give of ourselves, just as Christ gave himself for us, can we find meaning and redemption in life. (Copyright (c) 2000 Prison Fellowship Ministries)

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