Summary: The gift of the Christ child, is the Ultimate gift from God--the ultimate cost, the ultimate impact that ultimate expanse.
Luke 2:1-14 “The Ultimate Gift”
Besides the story of Jesus’ birth, one of the most cherished Christmas stories was written by the author O Henry and entitled, “The Gift of the Magi.” Perhaps many of you have read this story and have been moved by its timeless message.
James [Jim] Dillingham Young and his wife Della are a young couple who are very much in love with each other, but can barely afford their one-room apartment due to their very bad economic situation. For Christmas, Della decides to buy Jim a chain which costs 21 dollars for his prized pocket watch given to him by his father. To raise the funds, she has her long and beautiful hair cut off and sold to make a wig. Meanwhile, Jim decides to sell his watch to buy Della a beautiful set of combs made out of tortoiseshell and jewels for her lovely, knee-length brown hair. Although each is disappointed to find the gift they chose rendered useless, each is pleased with the gift they received, because it represents their love for one another.
The story ends with the narrator comparing the pair’s mutually sacrificial gifts of love with those of the Biblical Magi:
The magi, as you know, were wise men – wonderfully wise men – who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.
One might call the gifts of James and Della the “ultimate gifts,” but their gifts (as well as all of ours) pale in comparison to the gift that was given to us in the person of Jesus Christ, the Christ child.
Dictionaries offer a variety of definitions for the word, “Ultimate.” The definition that I think best fits the Christmas story identifies ultimate as “the greatest possible size or significance.” A synonym for “ultimate,” is the word, “maximum”
The God whom we worship is a gift giving God. He is also a God who gives abundantly. Perhaps some of us struggle with this truth, as we wrestle with the banks about refinancing our homes, or wonder why a job won’t open up when we so desperately need one. At the same time, we have food to eat, shelter and clothing. More than that we have family and friends, and perhaps even greater gifts are the ones of faith hope and love.
Besides the everyday gifts, God has blessed the world with such wonders as the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Glacier. God has blessed us with ocean sunsets, mountain vistas, and monsoons, and that wonderful aroma after a rain shower.
None of God’s gifts, from the everyday to the spectacular, can come close to the gift of Jesus, the Son of God. Jesus is so much the ultimate gift that its cost is beyond our comprehension.
I know how deeply I love my sons. I know how difficult it was for Faye and me to see them leave our home in order to go off to college or even travel to foreign lands. I can only imagine the cost born by parents who watch their sons and daughters leave for the military knowing that their babies will probably be soon entering a war zone. I have no concept of the pain and sorrow if their sons and daughters are sacrificed in service to our country.
God sent his son. God bore the separation, and knew that the joyful moments of a birth in Bethlehem would eventually be replace the grief of Golgotha.
For Jesus it was the ultimate gift, also. He was God but did not count his godliness something to clutch, but emptied himself, became human, took on our form, and became obedient unto death.
Jesus is the gift with the ultimate cost.
One of the great things about giving a gift is to see the effect that the gift has on the recipient. How wonderful it is to see the joy in a child’s eyes, or the adoration in the eyes of the person we love. We know what it feels like, also, when our gift misses the mark, and we see the look of disappointment when our children open those boxes with “Fruit of the Loom,” in them. We remember the hurt we felt when dad wasn’t as impressed with the fish tie as we were, and mom couldn’t find a place for the Sponge Bob Chia Pet.