A lot of times, our gift giving is the result of strolling down the aisles of a gift store, and looking for that "right gift." We don’t quite know what the gift should be… but we’re sure we’ll recognize it when we see it. Have you ever done that? Of course you have.
But, God’s gift wasn’t like that… His gift was planned out from the beginning of Creation. This gift had been planned from the beginning of time. This gift had been announced again and again throughout the Old Testament prophecies because this gift was lovingly prepared and willingly given.
A wealthy man and his son loved to collect rare works of art. They had everything in their collection, from Picasso to Raphael. They would often sit together and admire the great works of art. One day the son died and the father was so grieved that in just a few months’ time… he also passed on. There was to be a great auction of his paintings and a great many influential people gathered, hoping for an opportunity to purchase one of the great masters for their collections.
The auction opened with a painting of the rich man’s son. The auctioneer pounded his gavel. "We will start the bidding with this picture of the man’s son. Who will bid for this picture?" There was silence. Then a voice in the back of the room shouted, "We want to see the famous paintings. Skip this one." But the auctioneer persisted. "Will someone bid for this painting? Who will start the bidding? $100, $200? The son! The son! Who’ll take the "SON?"
Finally, a voice came from the very back of the room. It was the longtime gardener of the man and his son. "I’ll give $10 for the painting."
"We have $10, who will bid $20?"
The crowd was becoming angry. They didn’t want the picture of the son. They wanted the more worthy investments for their collections.
The auctioneer pounded the gavel. "Going once, twice, SOLD for $10
A man sitting on the second row shouted, "Now let’s get on with the collection!"
The auctioneer laid down his gavel. "I’m sorry, the auction is over. When I was called to conduct this auction, I was told of a secret stipulation in the will. I was not allowed to reveal that stipulation until this time. Only the painting of the son would be auctioned.
Whoever bought that painting would inherit the entire estate, including the paintings. The man who took the son gets everything!"
At the very first Christmas, many people missed it because they were too busy looking for other things. The politicians missed the first Christmas. The business community missed the first Christmas. The innkeeper missed the first Christmas. In fact, even the religious establishment missed the first Christmas! That day is best expressed in the most popular verse in the Bible.
"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." --John 3:16
If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent an educator.
If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent a scientist.
If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent an economist.
If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer.
But our greatest need was forgiveness, so he sent us a Savior.
You know our problem? We're always trying to save ourselves. We think we can work our way into heaven. We say, "Oh God, my good works are this high, and my bad works are this low. Look at the balance here." The only problem is that God doesn't grade on a curve. But God doesn't judge you against anybody else. So you need a Savior. And that is provided. It's a free gift; just accept it.
The Bible says Jesus came to seek and to save. While you've been seeking, he's been seeking you. You see, the miracle of Christmas is not on 34th Street; it's in Bethlehem. He says, "I offer you forgiveness for your past, peace of mind in the present and a solid future in eternity." Those are the gifts. You say, "How do I find those gifts?" They're all wrapped up in Christ.
He showed that achievement was not in success. He didn't climb up; he stepped down. He wasn't after the chair at the head of the table; he took the lowest place. By being born as a helpless baby and placed in a manger, Jesus Christ demonstrated the most potent lesson of all time: the way up is the way down. If we are to help others best when we should first be willing to serve.
More and more I am becoming troubled with the way we celebrate Christmas, because it -seems like a glorified excuse for indulgence rather than a HOLY-day.
I like what pastor John Beehler said, “We participate in the holiday hustle and bustle of shopping, parties, etc. while raging against the system. Our priorities are all tangled up just like our tree lights when we get them out each year, no matter how hard we try to keep them neat and orderly. So we close our eyes and try to focus on the reason for the season, but when we open them the world keeps getting in our face.”
I was reading the other day about a little boy who was more honest than we are. He had received a Christmas present; he was writing back to his grandmother. He said, "Dear Grandmother, Thank you so much for the wonderful Christmas present. It was almost as good as the one I really wanted."
C. S. Lewis hit the nail on the head when he said, "We really celebrate two holidays on December 25th. One we call ’Xmas’ & the other we call ’Christmas.’"
Perhaps we should separate them and see the real difference, because most people today celebrate Xmas while few truly celebrate Christmas.
1. XMAS offers frivolous gifts – CHRISTMAS offers forgiveness.
2. XMAS can get you stressed – CHRISTMAS can give you peace.
3. XMAS is celebrated annually – CHRISTMAS is for eternity.
There are two facts of life which we all need to remember. First, we're all going to die someday, and second, you're going to spend more of your life on that side of death than you will on this side. This is why God allows you to board with His son for the trip that is out of this world.
Can you imagine being given a gift at Christmas and never unwrapping it? It would be silly. I mean, if you gave me a gift at Christmas and a year later you came over and I still hadn't un-wrapped it, you'd think I was a little nutty. "Why haven't you un-wrapped it?" "Oh, I love the wrapping paper. I'm sure I'm going to love it." "Well, I'm going to get to it one of these days." And yet, many continue this Christmas after Christmas after Christmas after Christmas. You've celebrated every Christmas for as many years as you are old; you know the songs and the stories, and you know what it's all about, but you've never unwrapped the gift. Now what gives? What's the logic behind that?
Do you have somebody that you have to buy a gift for, and you haven't bought the gift yet because they have everything? There's somebody like that in every family. Whatever it is you can think of, they already have it.
We sometimes think that about God. What does he want of us? What gift could you possibly give God at Christmas? God has everything as we try to excuse ourselves. God doesn't need anything; God is all and in all.
God doesn't NEED anything, but God WANTS something.
There's something you can give God that He wants and doesn't have: your whole heart, your whole being.
"You will find me when you seek me with all your heart." --Jeremiah 29:13