Summary: I guess we’ve all been in a position when we have received that indescribable gift – then been lost for words when we opened it in front of a doting relative! As someone perceptively said, “Christmas is a season of emotional family ties – especially when
SermonCentral Editor’s note: J.John, a Greek Cypriot, has been described as "The Billy Graham of Great Britain," speaking to more than 300,000 people in person each year. He has authored 21 books and has more than one million copies in circulation. You may learn more about his ministry at: http://www.philotrust.com/
I love Christmas; it’s a time of magical sparkle - I even love the annual tradition of Christmas shopping and present hunting!
One wisecracker has commented, “Christmas is a time when we exchange a whole lot of gifts we really like – for a load we don’t want!”
I guess we’ve all been in a position when we have received that indescribable gift – then been lost for words when we opened it in front of a doting relative! As someone perceptively said, “Christmas is a season of emotional family ties – especially when you have to wear them!”
I see all this as a challenge and adventure – especially when it comes to shopping for my wife Killy.
It hasn’t always been easy, though. There has always been plenty to learn. When we got engaged, I remember trying to buy Killy a dress for Christmas. I didn’t know her size so the lady serving me asked if she was bigger or smaller than her…ummm…what could I say…eventually, the shop assistant tried on the dress!
After many years of marriage, however, and many miles spent trawling up and down shopping centres, I have developed four criteria when it comes to buying a gift for Killy. It’s more of an art form than a precise science, perhaps, but nevertheless, these four things steer me away from the ‘panic buy’ and towards something more soulful and meaningful.
In the process, my four criteria remind me of the gift God has given each of us.
Two millennia ago, the apostle Paul wrote this:
‘Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!’ (2 Corinthians 9:15), or as one translation puts it “a gift too wonderful for words!”
What then are the four aspects of my gift-buying for my wife Killy at Christmastime?
1) The Personal Gift
First, then, I want to make sure my gift for Killy will be personal – I want to find something that she can really appreciate. These days, I’ve stopped buying her what I want; after many years of marriage, I now know what she likes.
After all, it can be very disheartening to receive a present that doesn’t have the magic of that personal touch. Last Christmas a friend of mine received a bag of part-eaten sausages for Christmas that his mother-in-law had left over from a recent visit!
One of the greatest gifts in life that we can receive – especially at Christmas time – is the revelation and realisation that God knows each one of us personally, and wants us to know him personally, too. In the Bible, Psalm 139 is a startling and beautiful reminder of this fact:
‘Lord you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise. You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.’
When you stop to think about it – and it’s important to do just that – then it’s a mind-blowing thought: God knows us intimately. He is not an abstraction or a mystical ‘higher power’. Instead, he relates to us on our level. He couldn’t possibly have made himself bigger to impress us, so instead he made himself smaller to get alongside us.
The Tiny Hand of God
Consider for a moment: Have you ever placed your finger inside the hand of a little baby and felt its grip? If a baby tugs at your finger, it also tugs at your heart.
Christmas is the powerful grip of a tiny hand reaching from a bed of straw. It is love, tugging our hearts back to God. As the Bible says, ‘God, invisible in his own nature, became visible in ours. Beyond our grasp, he chose to come within our grasp.’
And this is the intimately personal nature of Christmas: God gave us his son for our sake. ‘For God so loved the world,’ says John’s Gospel, ‘that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16).
He loved the world so much that he gave us a life-giving gift of such a personal nature that we couldn’t begin to dream such a story or such a gift into being.
In fact, the breadth and depth of God’s love is hard to fathom. A young father, whose wife had just died, took his daughter on a cruise to begin the recovery process. As they huddled together on the deck of the ship, the little girl asked her father, “Daddy, does God love us as much as Mummy did?”