1 John 4:19 – We love because he first loved us. (NIV)
2 Corinthians 9:15 – Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (NIV)
Several years ago, during the opening of Christmas presents at our house, my son and his wife had bought a very special toy for their son, and they were very excited in anticipation of his opening it. He was only about a year and a half old at the time, and he needed a lot of assistance in tearing the wrapping and opening the box. After the toy was pulled out, he unexpectedly turned and began playing with the box, crawling inside it or tearing more paper off it. How disappointed they were when he disregarded the toy.
In many ways, our celebration of Christmas is exactly like that. God has given us a tremendous gift in Christ, and instead of enjoying Him, we turn and concentrate our attention on the box and the wrapping paper: Christmas concerts, decorating, and housecleaning, baking, entertaining, shopping, and travelling. In so doing, we often wear ourselves out, and even begin to approach this time of year with dread in our hearts. Imagine how disappointed God must be!
In our household, we follow a tradition that my father started: before we open our presents to one another, we read the story of Christ's birth from Luke 2:1-20, and have prayer. It's our way of reminding ourselves that the reason we give gifts to each other is that God first gave us the gift of His Son. We thank Him for being born into a lowly estate on this earth, coming as a baby like us, and becoming subject to the same conditions of life that we face. All of this was so that He would be able to give His perfect life as a sacrifice on the cross for our imperfect lives and sins, and set us free from guilt and shame. What a gift it is to have a good relationship with our Creator!
Whatever it takes, and whatever method we may use, let us devise ways to remind ourselves to focus on God's gift of Jesus at this time of year (and always!) and to avoid focussing solely on the box and the wrapping paper.
Prayer: Lord, thank You for first loving us and giving to us, so that we can be motivated by Your love to pass on that love and giving to others. Help us in our desire to honour You as our first priority within all the festivities of this season. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.