Friday, 17 December 2010

The best Christmas gift is ourselves

It’s the last week before Christmas. Many of us are probably stressing about last-minute Christmas gifts.

But really - why worry so much? The best Christmas gift isn't stuff. Most of us have more things than we know what to do with anyway.

The best Christmas gift is – yourself. Christmas is a time when we can meet family members and friends, and catch up and chat and joke and laugh and share our lives with them.

And that makes sense because on that first Christmas day, God gave us a gift. Not a thing; not a toy. God gave us – himself.

The Apostle John says, at the beginning of his gospel:
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John 1:14a The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
Jesus is God. And in giving us Jesus, God gives us – himself. On that first Christmas, he came to live with us. Not just visit - to live, to make his "dwelling", his "home" with us.

It’s the difference between tourism and immigration. When we go somewhere as a tourist, we just look at things, take photographs and souvenirs - and leave. We don't form any lasting relationships.
But if we immigrate, then we're here to stay. We have to find a house, and a job, and a school for the kids, and everything else.

God didn’t come to earth as a tourist. He immigrated.

But even that isn’t enough. Not only did he come as a human. Not only did he live with us. He gave himself, as a human, to death for us.

We worry about the cost of our Christmas presents. Is it too much? Is it too little? If it's too much, we'll embarrass the person we're giving it to. If it's too little, we'll insult them.

Jesus didn’t think about the cost. He paid the ultimate price, to give us the ultimate gift. He gave his own life, on the cross, so that we could have eternal life.
You can't love anyone more than dying for them. You can't give yourself more completely to someone than dying for them. So, seeing as Jesus is God, we have, in the cross of Christ, God giving himself - absolutely, completely, without holding anything back - to us.

And it wasn’t just any death. It was death for our sins. Because we rebel against God, reject him, tell him to get out of our lives.

The Apostle John says:
John 1:10-11: He was in the world, and though the world was made
through him, the world did not recognise him. He came to that which was his own,
but his own did not receive him.
Jesus made us. But we don’t receive him. We lock him out of our lives.

Imagine visiting someone for Christmas lunch. And the host goes outside for a moment. While they’re outside, we lock them out. Then we keep partying inside: eating their food, unwrapping their presents, while our host is outside, banging on the door, saying “what do you think you’re doing?”

This is what we do to God. We insult him, lock him out, and cut ourselves off from life with him. That's what the Bible calls 'sin'.

But even in the face of this, God still gives himself to us.

John continues:
John 1:12-13: Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
Jesus died so that we could be God’s children; part of God’s family. He died so we could come into God’s presence with that same confidence and acceptance that we have when we visit our parents for Christmas lunch - or that our children have when they come round to us. Jesus made a home on earth, so that we could have a home in heaven.

It’s the last week before Christmas. Time to be thinking about last-minute Christmas gifts.

First, let’s think about the gift God gave us on that first Christmas. God gave us himself, in Jesus. Jesus gave himself to death on the cross. So that we could be at home with God.

Then, having considered that, let’s think – what gift are we going to give – to God?

Jesus told us to ‘love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength’. He said, if we wanted to be his disciple, we must deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow him.

God doesn’t want our time. He doesn’t want our money. He wants us. Our selves. Heart, soul, mind and strength. Because, on Christmas day, that’s what he gave to us.

The famous 17th century composer J. S. Bach got it right:
Beside thy cradle hear I stand,
O thou who ever livest,
And bring thee, with a willing hand,
The very gifts thou givest.
Accept me: 'tis my mind and heart,
My soul, my strength, my every part,
That thou from me requirest.

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