Summary: CHRISTMAS, YEAR C - The Christmas Gift sent to us from God above
Take in a big breath, now let out a big sigh. Christmas is almost on us. As adults, Christmas can be a stressful time. There’s so much to do, with so little time to do it. And yet, Christmas still holds for many of us some of our fondest childhood memories. Dr. Ralph F. Wilson recently wrote of one of his treasured Christmas memories. “Christmas morning of my fifth year I woke to find a wooden rifle under the tree, carefully carved by my dad, complete with a dowel barrel and a hole for my trigger finger. I can almost smell the fresh paint mingled with the fragrance of pine branches. And though I don’t recall playing with it, I remember the awe I felt in knowing my dad made it just for me.
We have all received wonderful gifts like that. I remember one year when I was big into dragons. As I was about to open a present from my oldest sister I blurted out, “I hope this is a shirt with a dragon on it.” Then to the amazement to all of us gathered there, as I opened the present there was a blue long sleeve shirt with a dragon embroidered on it’s back. To this day my sister still won’t believe that I had just made a lucky guess.
Not all gifts, however, are so personally intended. Last year Fed Ex cashed in on this type of giving with a commercial that showed a fruit cake being opened, repackaged, and then sent on to yet another poor soul as a gift for the holiday season. Fed Ex then closed their commercial with the warning, “don’t get stuck with the fruit cake this year”.
Then we have that delightful game played at Christmas parties. The game of giving white elephant gifts, those horrendous items no one is quite sure what to do with. A few years ago my father gave Rosemary a pair of white knee high socks, which were very nice considering we like to hike. Until that is she read on the label that they were dry clean only. Now what do you do with socks that are dry clean only? Why you give them away next year as a white elephant gift.
Then there are those gifts that takes all the joy right out of giving. Those obligatory gifts. Such as the expected office exchange, or that box of candy you keep by the door to hand the Smiths when they come to call as you know they will, each and ever a year. And don’t forget that gift for your great Aunt Florence or Uncle Bob whom you really don’t like, and never want to visit, but you still send them a token of your affection, like a crocheted doily or an gaudy tie.
Then there are those really difficult gifts. Those gifts that come with long invisible strings dangling from them; gifts so very expensive that you could never afford to reciprocate. Last year a friend gave Rosemary and me a set of exquisite crystal wine goblets, with gold banding around the rime. It was a tremendously expensive gift, and one we felt awed by. But how are we to give them a gift that demonstrates the same value? You feel like a young woman who unexpectedly is given gold and diamond jewelry from unwanted suitor.
You don’t want to hurt his feelings, but ....
And so as one writer has put it “Each and every Christmas season, we all spend money we don’t have on gifts no one needs for people we don’t even like.” And the truly sad fact is that in the midst of all this giving and receiving. We can at times forget the real reason for the season. We can overlook the greatest Christmas gift of all. That gift that few among us would ever expect to receive. That present from heaven above that none here below deserved to receive. But received it we have. Though unworthy God has offered us this gift in spite of ourselves.
“When the fullness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that he might redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5)
This gift from God above to we here below is the most special gift of all. A baby born in a stable, wrapped up for the season in swaddling cloths. A gift so wonderful that some very interesting people would come to see what God had sent. Poor out-of-town shepherds come in from their fields and some peculiar men covered with dust from head to foot gathered on a long journey that was begun by a star.
Mary, when she visited her cousin Elizabeth, recognized that the child to be born by her was a miraculous gift. And so sang out in praise to God that this child, this tiny bundle would be God’s gift, not only to Israel, but also to the whole world. And because of this gift the world would never be the same again. So unbelievable was the coming of this gift that on the night of His birth God had to send Angels to proclaim that the gift of this child “will bring great joy for all the people, for to you is born this day... a Savior who is Christ the Lord”.