By Sheeri Mitchell December 24, 2009 12:13 pmJohn 3:16-17 (New International Version)
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[a] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Matthew 25:40 (New International Version)
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
Although many people exchange or simply give gifts at Christmas time, most of us aren’t really sure why we do so. Is it custom? Certainly. But it did not start with Christians or Jews for that matter. The most ancient cultures display evidence of gift giving. So no one can credit Christians with inventing the act.
In our present culture when a birthday is celebrated, the gifts go to the birthday boy or girl. Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, the Christ, the One sent by God the Father to rescue all of humanity from its worst possible fate – life and eternity apart from the one true God, (who has revealed himself in the Bible as Elohim, Jehovah, Yahweh, “I AM WHO I AM,” and) who is the Source of all that is good, right, and beautiful.
This makes Christmas a birthday celebration (and no, it does not matter that historically speaking Jesus was most likely born in the spring – celebrating his birth in December is a choice to remember it – much like celebrating Communion is an act of remembering his death). So why give gifts to each other instead of giving them to the birthday boy?
The answer lies in the scriptures above. While there is much history behind how we arrived at exchanging gifts on Christmas day, the main reason is this: when we do so we are emulating God.
God gave the world the most precious gift in the person of Jesus Christ. God The Son laid aside his glory, humbled himself to become a human baby, to be born of a woman into poverty, to live the life of a peasant, to be rejected by the very people he came to save, to die a brutal an agonizing death on a cross, and to rise again in triumph over sin and death. Jesus’ sole motivation in coming, dying, and rising again, was to reconcile a lost world back to God the Father through himself.
“I am the way, the truth, and the life,” Jesus said. “No one comes to the Father but by me.”
We love because God first loved us. We give to each other because God gave us the best gift of all. Christmas is a season of sharing, giving, loving, and helping. Why is that? It is because at Christmas we take the time and make the effort to acknowledge our fellow man in the manner that we should all year long. This is particularly true as it relates to the poor, the hungry, the oppressed, the sick, the weak, and the disenfranchised.
“Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me,” is Jesus’ reminder.
We give to each other and especially to those who have less, because in doing so we are not only emulating God’s generosity, but we are giving to Jesus, the birthday boy.
Merry Christmas Family!
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