by Linda Montgomery
“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.” —2 Corinthians 9:15
Is this the Bible verse that you normally think of when you think of Christmas?
Probably not . . . . Traditionally we go to the second chapter of Luke and begin with, “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.” (Luke 2:1)
But it makes a wonderful study to look throughout the Bible for verses which point to the coming of God’s gift of Jesus Christ! We can even look at the verses as far back as Genesis 12:2-3 as a promise of the coming of Jesus’ presence on earth:
I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you;
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. (Genesis 12:2,3)
This promise to Abraham can be traced throughout the generations of Israel and finds fulfillment in the truth that all people on earth are blessed through the Messiah, Jesus Christ. What an indescribable gift of grace!
Another well-read part of the traditional Christmas story is found in Matthew 2—the visit of the magi. The gifts offered to the Christ child are recorded as gold, frankincense and myrrh. When my friend Jenny returned to the States after her family’s military assignment in Germany, she heard a radio broadcast about these three gifts which gave her an idea. It was during their Germany assignment that she and her husband had adopted two Russian orphans, a sister and brother, bringing the number of their children to six. Buying Christmas presents for six children—well, she was looking for help! The radio program made this suggestion—to give your children the same gifts that the wise men (magi) gave the baby Jesus. Here’s the idea:
Gold—gold is valuable, so this is an age-appropriate and valuable gift that the child actually wants, needs, or asks for. Jenny puts a price limit on it and even wraps it in gold paper—which she buys on sale the year before. This is a great reminder that gold was a gift fit for a king. . . . and Jesus is our King of Kings.
Frankincense—frankincense is used in worship, so this gift is something spiritual . . . perhaps a new Bible, a devotional book, a CD from a Christian singing group, a video which teaches a spiritual lesson. Jenny wraps this gift in white paper. This is a great reminder that frankincense was a scent used in the temple by the priests . . . and Jesus is our perfect High Priest.
Myrrh—myrrh is an ointment meant for the body, so this gift is something for her kids’ bodies—like new pajamas, clothes, or even something from the mall store for lotions, etc. Plain brown paper wrapping conceals this gift under the Christmas tree. This is a great reminder that myrrh was a valuable perfume and used for preparing a body for burial . . . and Jesus was born to die as our Savior for the forgiveness of our sins.
Get the idea? Jenny reports that her Christmas shopping has been simplified and that their tree looks so beautiful every year with gold, white, and brown wrapped packages underneath. She has passed this idea on to other military friends, and we’re all grateful for the idea. Perhaps you can imagine the opportunities for discussion concerning the true meaning of Christmas because of this method of gift-giving.
At the beginning of Lee Strobel’s book, The Case for Christmas (an excerpt from his book, A Case for Christ), he gives his testimony of how he discovered the true meaning of Christmas—in the gift of Jesus Christ. Strobel had been part of a local project to give gifts to a poor family in Chicago. When he visited the family (a grandmother named Perfecta Delgado and her two granddaughters) on Christmas Eve he was surprised by the family’s reaction to the outpouring of Christmas presents from the community:
“’This is wonderful; this is very good,’ she said, gesturing toward the largess. ‘We did nothing to deserve this—it’s a gift from God. But,’ she added, ‘it is not his greatest gift. No, we celebrate that tomorrow. That is Jesus.’ To her, this child in the manger was the undeserved gift that meant everything—more than material possessions, more than comfort, more than security. And at that moment, something inside of me wanted desperately to know this Jesus—because, in a sense, I saw him in Perfecta and her granddaughters.
“They had peace despite poverty, while I had anxiety despite plenty; they knew the joy of generosity, while I only knew the loneliness of ambition; they looked heavenward for hope, while I only looked out for myself; they experienced the wonder of the spiritual while I was shackled to the shallowness of the material—and something made me long for what they had. Or, more accurately, for the One they knew.’” (The Case for Christmas, pages 8,9)
At the end of the book, Strobel concludes with his decision to accept Jesus Christ as the greatest gift of all:
“I had come to the point where I was ready for the Christmas gift that Perfecta Delgado had told me about years earlier: the Christ child, whose love and grace are offered freely to everyone who receives him in repentance and faith. Even someone like me.
“So I talked with God in a heartfelt and unedited prayer, admitting and turning from my wrongdoing, and receiving his offer of forgiveness and eternal life through Jesus. I told him that with his help I wanted to follow him and his ways from here on out. . . . I know that some people feel a rush of emotion at such a moment; as for me, there was something else that was equally exhilarating: there was the rush of reason.
“Over time, however, there has been so much more. As I have endeavored to follow Jesus’ teachings and open myself to his transforming power, my priorities, my values, my character, my worldview, my attitudes, and my relationships have been changing—for the better. It has been a humbling affirmation of the apostle Paul’s words: ‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.’
“And now, what about you?” (The Case for Christmas, pages 90,91)
The best gift of all is the indescribable gift of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world—“For God so loved the world, that He GAVE his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) May the presence of Jesus Christ in your life be the very best gift for you this Christmas!
“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10,11)
Strobel, Lee, The Case for Christmas (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998)
Questions to share:
1. Have you thought of Jesus as a gift of salvation that you receive? Timothy writes, “I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on Him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:16)
2. Are you feeling alone during this deployment? Read Psalm 16 to yourself, or maybe even to your spouse. His presence can be very real to you this Christmas.
3. If you are ready, like Lee Strobel was, pray the same prayer that he did (highlighted above) in repentance and faith. May this be the best Christmas ever—one you will never forget!