Eldon Peterson

Eldon Peterson

‘Tis the Season…

Now with Thanksgiving in the rearview mirror, we can fully embrace the Christmas season. For some this will mean putting up Christmas lights, for others a Christmas tree, and certainly for most, it means Christmas shopping. And yet, the unfortunate truth is that in the midst of all of our Christmas preparations we can easily lose sight of the real meaning of Christmas.

For generations the real meaning of Christmas has been replaced by a commercial one. Earlier generations will remember grabbing the annual Sears Christmas Wish Book to circle everything they wanted for Christmas. It is no wonder that Christmas has become synonymous with giving and receiving presents, and yet there may be a biblical reason for this.

At Christmas Christians remember how God gave us the priceless gift of salvation through the child born in the manger. Jesus describes it saying, “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) Here Jesus is telling us three things about the first Christmas gift given.

First, the gift was given out of love not obligation. For God so loved the world. While at Christmas we can be guilty of giving gifts out of obligation rather than love, God’s love is revealed in His gift, “God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8) The gift God gave the world in Christ was EXACTLY what was needed. If fit perfectly; it did not need to be returned for in Christ we were given the gift of forgiveness.

Second, what God gave us was priceless – The Father’s love is seen when he gave His Son to die for our sins. Seeing his sacrificially gives us confidence that he will give us all that we need. Paul testifies, “God did not keep back his own Son, but he gave him for us. If God did this, won’t he freely give us everything else? (Romans 8:32) If God gave us the priceless gift of grace through His son, how can we not trust that he will keep all His promises giving us everything else that we need?

Finally, God gives us the gift of eternal life, the gift that we need more than anything else. We will perish unless we receive the gift of forgiveness that Christ brings to all who trust in His death and resurrection. In in Romans 6 Paul presents us with the problem that we all face as well as the solution, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (23)

Paul’s words remind me of Santa Claus’ naughty and nice list where those who are naughty will receive a lump of coal while the good children will receive presents. While the story is familiar, few see themselves as being naughty enough to earn the coal. We reason that while we may not be perfect, we don’t deserve a lump of coal! However, the gospel tells us that because of our sin we’ve all earned something worse than a lump of coal, we’ve earned condemnation and death. The gift of the child at Christmas tells us that because God loved the world, He gave his Son so that those who believe in Him can receive the “free gift of eternal life.”

The child in the manger is God’s gift to the world. Jesus was born to die so that we need not perish but have eternal life. It is at the cross that the payment for our salvation is made and it is in His resurrection that he claims eternal life for all who believe. Christmas without Christ’s death and resurrection is like the beautifully wrapped empty box under the tree. Full of promise, full of hope, but unable to deliver either.

To be given a priceless gift is humbling. We may say, “I’m not worthy of such a gift!” But of course, that is the beauty of a gift; if it is based on worthiness it ceases to be a gift and becomes a wage. Any attempt to turn salvation into something that must be earned empties it of all meaning. The gift that God offers you at Christmas is just your size and priceless. I pray that you will unwrap the gift of eternal life that Christ purchased for you and that this Christmas season you will share it generously.

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