Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "O Holy Night"1 (Lyrics)
Isaiah 9:6 – For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (ESV)
On the first Saturday of this month, after a year off, I was again being dressed up as Father Christmas, although this year, his white beard was more mine than in past years, and it seems that he gets a little less spritely every year when bending down to greet the children.
As I reflect upon the 200 or so children whom I saw, I was mindful of the mixed messages from Father Christmas and Jesus. I wanted to encourage love, peace, and acceptance without distracting from the real story of Christmas. Father Christmas — this strange, mythical character giving temporal gifts — is running cheek-by-jowl with the real gift giver, Jesus — the giver of life eternal for all those willing to accept the challenge of discipleship.
Recently, as thanks for a favour done, I was given a bag with a variety of chocolate confections within, each one individually wrapped. As I handed one of these tiny chocolate gifts to each of my children, I was reminded of my earlier prayer time, when I had thought about our Christmas giving and receiving, in contrast to Jesus' giving and receiving. Jesus' gifts are eternal, lovingly given, and to be remembered, in contrast to Father Christmas's giving of sweetmeats and stuff, which are often forgotten or cast aside after a day or two.
By Mary's willingness to receive a gift from God, she received the gift of Jesus, Who came into the world as a child through Mary. What an amazing gift to receive! Through her acceptance, Jesus still ministers eternal gifts to a world that is largely unmindful of the gifts that He is giving. Jesus provides a way back to God, allowing humanity to revert to the pre-fall plan of living in harmony together with God.
Without the gift of incarnation celebrated at Christmas, there would have been no Easter with its opportunity today to empower the gift of grace to believers. Without Jesus' first gift of grace, there would be no access to Pentecost's giving of gifts.
When we seek first the kingdom of God and His forgiveness, His gifts will be given for the common good — ones to share, not to clasp tightly so as to melt away in our hands or stay unwrapped, unused, but ones to for us open and to give from freely.
Are we prepared to receive — and to give?
Prayer: Lord, Immanuel, Jesus, we give You thanks, honour, and praise. We celebrate Your birth that started the process that led to Your exaltation and, by Your grace, to our salvation. We rejoice that You turn no one away. Amen.