Summary: Like the Wise Men of old, we come to the Savior and present ourselves to Christ and leave with inner treasures that will last throughout eternity.
THE EXCHANGED LIFE
ONE OF THE THINGS THAT WE GENERALLY ASSOCIATE WITH THE CHRISTMAS SEASON is the exchanging of gifts. When I was a boy we celebrated Christmas twice---once with my immediate family of six and the other at my paternal grandparent’s home. The exchanging of gifts took place at both homes, with one notable difference. You see, at our home most of the gifts were one-way, from parents (more specifically, mom) to us four.
Back in those days we got the usual toys and clothes. But that’s not all. For some reason, gifts always included fruit of the ground---oranges, nuts, and popcorn balls. I could never figure out what that was all about. I mean you couldn’t wear them or play with them. Maybe it was our parent’s way of drawing our attention to the blessings that this great land produces.
Then mom and dad would open my one gift to them---usually something I had made at school---a ceramic doo-dad of some sort, you know, crooked and twisted book ends or a mug (at least it was supposed to resemble a mug). So there was an exchanging of gifts to some extent.
However, when we went to Grandma’s farm, there were just too many people, so we drew names and exchanged gifts. I always hoped I would get a gift from Uncle George because he was a big spender (especially after he had a few eggnogs). When it was time to distribute the gifts, Uncle George would go upstairs, put on his Santa suit and hand them out. Most of the kids knew it was Uncle George under that red suit, but we went along with the whole charade. After all, he was the only adult that was missing from the crowd.
When you come right down to it, why shouldn’t gifts be exchanged at Christmas? Think back to that first Christmas when the greatest Gift of all was given to the world. He gave Himself and all He asks in return is that we give ourselves to Him. We’re not talking about cheap grace, however. Calvary was the price He paid. We must give Him our pride and our rebellious ways in order to receive His gift of love and salvation.
I like to think of the visit of the Wise Men as an example of the theme of this message. They presented their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh and left with inner treasures that cannot be seen but felt. What an exchange!
Think of it! We can exchange….
(1)Fear for faith. That’s what the shepherds did. When panic grips us, we too can hurry to the Savior. It is there that we will find strength and courage.
(2) Sorrow for joy. There was plenty of sorrow to go around on that night, what with the Roman occupation. It was a dark time in Israel’s history. But our God specializes in bringing joy to the sad heart. We are told that He will turn our mourning into dancing as we place out trust in Him. As the chorus goes, “If you want joy, real joy, wonderful joy, let Jesus come into your heart. If you want joy, real joy, wonderful joy, let Jesus come into your heart. Your sins, He’ll wash away, your night He’ll turn to day, your life, He’ll make it over anew. If you want joy, real joy, wonderful joy, let Jesus come into your heart” (Joseph D. Carlson).
(3) Despair for hope. It is no accident that we describe lives without Jesus Christ as “empty.” But that’s exactly what they are. The world today is suffering from what Dr. Carl Jung calls “a neurosis of emptiness.” He says, “When goal goes, meaning goes; when meaning goes, purpose goes; when purpose goes, life goes dead on our hands.” Who wouldn’t want to exchange this way of living for the “abundant life” that Jesus promised to give those who will receive it? Emptiness is replaced with a purpose of the highest order, a future as bright as the promises of God, and an inner awareness that He is always closer than breath.
(4) Guilt for forgiveness. John 1:29 - The next day John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"
Mary Jane Hansen relates the following: “Several months ago, I was involved in a traffic accident while driving along a major roadway in a shopping mall parking lot. My car was hit by a driver coming out of an aisle, resulting in $2,100 damage to the rear right-hand door. When I reported the accident to SGI (Saskatchewan Government Insurance), I was very surprised to learn that I would likely be charged one hundred percent for the accident. I strongly believed that I was not at fault, and since my only recourse was to take the other driver to Small Claims Court, I proceeded with the process.