Summary: God's best gift isn't the one He's already given...it's the one He's going to give.
The Best Is Yet To Come
The world is certainly changing. Who would have ever thought that in Canada it might be inappropriate to wish someone “Merry Christmas”? Lot’s of fuss & nonsense in recent years about whether Canadians should wish each other “Merry Christmas” or simply say “Happy Holidays” out of fear of offending those who either don’t hold the Christian faith or don’t celebrate Christmas. To all the secularists and politically correct types I say, “Bah, humbug.” To everyone else I say, “A very merry Christmas to you all.”
But the world is changing. So, we’ve while our movers and shakers are trying to get a handle on “Christmas or just Winter Holiday”, others around the world are beginning to celebrate Christmas. I mean, other nations who haven’t before. Like the Japanese. There aren’t many Christians of any variety in Japan, yet the Japanese are beginning to embrace Christmas. They buy presents, give gifts, and wish each other Merry Christmas. In Malaysia, which is a heavily Moslem country, hearing “Merry Christmas” on December 25 is quite common. The city state of Singapore apparently goes for Christmas in a big way…even though Christians are a small minority there. Even China…that totalitarian, police state that persecutes Christians…is going gonzo over Christmas. (And by the way, they actually call it “Christmas”) Weird, eh?
But before you start to think that there is some large scale, international conversion to Christianity going on via the celebration of the Christmas holiday, let me tell you what it’s all about. It’s all about shopping. Yep. These Asian countries I’ve mentioned are BIG on commerce, and they’ve seen the huge amount of spending that transpires over the holiday season in so-called Christian countries, so they’ve adopted Christmas. Christmas equals gift giving, and gift giving equals consumer spending, and consumer spending equals a better bottom line for stores and manufacturers. So, Merry Christmas to Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, China, and the others! And God bless us…everyone.
Hey, I’m not slamming gift-giving here. Even the most devout Christians I know give gifts and receive gifts. And we all take our cue for this from two very Scriptural ideas: the first from Matthew 2:8-11…
Mat 2:7 So Herod called the visitors from the East to a secret meeting and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.
Mat 2:8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem with these instructions: "Go and make a careful search for the child; and when you find him, let me know, so that I too may go and worship him."
Mat 2:9 And so they left, and on their way they saw the same star they had seen in the East. When they saw it, how happy they were, what joy was theirs! It went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.
Mat 2:10 (SEE 2:9)
Mat 2:11 They went into the house, and when they saw the child with his mother Mary, they knelt down and worshiped him. They brought out their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and presented them to him.
We give gifts because gifts were given to Jesus. And since He is no longer here physically, we give gifts to each other to celebrate His coming.
The second cue regarding gift giving comes from a very well known portion of Scripture…John 3:16…
Joh 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
For God so loved that He gave…and the gift He gave was Jesus. And when Jesus was born, angels sang in the sky, “Glory to God in the highest! And on earth, peace…goodwill to men.” And there He was! God revealed in flesh, Heaven’s perfect gift, lying in a manger. “Heaven’s best!” we proclaim. “The ultimate gift!” we declare.
But it wasn’t. Let me explain…
When I was a boy, my parents had this strange habit of gift wrapping absolutely everything that could be gift wrapped. For instance, if a toy required batteries, they not only wrapped the toy…they wrapped the batteries too. If a model kit required sandpaper, glue, an Exacto knife, and model paint, then they’d wrap the model kit, the sandpaper, the glue, the knife, and the paint all separately. (I think probably some of you have done the very same thing…)
I figured this out at a very young age. So, if on Christmas Eve (when we opened our presents) the first gift I unwrapped was a few sheets of sandpaper, I wasn’t at all disappointed because I knew that something else was coming. Even if I had no idea what it was, I knew that something else HAD to be coming. After all, what does a nine year old need with four sheets of super fine sandpaper? And as gift after gift was unwrapped…doled out by my grinning parents…my anticipation mounted! Wow! I’ve got sandpaper, a knife, a tube of glue, paint and brushes…whooohooo! The good stuff’s gotta be coming sooooon! Every gift, while useful enough in its own right, was in fact pointing me ahead to something really good and grand: a model of a B-17 bomber!