What do we tend to get occupied with most during the Christmas season? If you turn on to the TV or tune the radio every one is enticing us to buy cool gifts even Christian stations are not exempt from this over commercialization. They advice us to buy gifts to impress others and use money you don’t have. To make matters worse some magazines like “The real simple magazine” offer costly advice in regards to buying gifts. I was shocked to see how expensive some items are in what is supposed to be a real simple magazine. One hand bag costs, $999. I wonder who wants such an expensive, outlandish hand bag? Honestly with that kind of money we can do a whole lot more sensible things. So don’t fall for all what you see, hear or read in the ads, use your God given commonsense. The right gift is not necessarily the most expensive, glamorous or the coolest gift. A right gift is something that would meet a particular need or a want. For example giving a thick leather jacket or a woolen sweater to some one living in Africa or India won’t meet their need, right?
What is the greatest gift of all times? The greatest gift must meet the greatest need. Some one said, “If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator; If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist; If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist; If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer; But our greatest need was forgiveness so God sent us a Savior. Christmas is not all about the material gifts but it’s about forgiveness, it’s about peace and joy. A recent Christmas card I received contained three profound truths: “A Light to follow, A savior to Love and a King to worship.” I believe these are the three indescribable gifts of Christmas. During this Christmas season let’s pause and reflect on these precious gifts.
I. A LIGHT TO FOLLOW: (Mat 4:16, Isaiah 9:1,2)
In Isaiah, 9:1,2 we read, “But there will be no darkness for those who were in trouble. Earlier he did bring the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali into disrepute, but the time is coming when he’ll make that whole area glorious the road along the Sea, the country past Jordan, international Galilee. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. For those who lived in a land of deep shadows light! sunbursts of light!”
The prophet Isaiah prophesied these words around 690 BC. What does the prophecy actually mean, when it says, “the people living in darkness have seen a great light? Was the prophet referring to John the Baptist who came as a witness to the light? Or Thomas Edison who after many years invented the light bulb? No! neither! He was referring to the true Light of the world Jesus Christ, God’s gift to humanity.
Many scriptures in the New Testament refer to Christ being the light of the world. On the eighth day of his birth in the temple a man called Simeon who had been waiting for the arrival of Messiah, upon taking the boy Jesus into his arms and said, “For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” In John 1:4, we read “In him (Christ) was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” Listen to the very words of Jesus: John 8:12 “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." This scripture provides an opportunity for every one to walk in the light, in other words you don’t have to keep living in sin, but the reality is that many love darkness instead of light because their actions are evil.(John 3:19)
Jesus was, is and continues to be the Light of the world sent by God to deliver people who are living in darkness. In other words to set people free from their sin, but it is up to us wanting to be set free from sin. How does sin enter our bodies? In most cases sin enters through our eyes, by what we see. Numerous examples in the Bible indicate the fact that people fell into sin by what they saw before they actually committed it. Gen 3:6 “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.” Genesis 37:4 “When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.” They were Jealous of Joseph and their jealousy has blinded their sound judgment. King David has commit adultery with Bathsheba, because he lacked control over his eyes.
Is there a direct correlation between what we see and what we do and how it affects our bodies? In Luke 11:34-35, “Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good (pure, and content), your whole body also is full of light. But when they are bad (greedy, lustful, and spiteful,) your body also is full of darkness. See to that the light within you is not darkness.” In other words, keep your eyes open, your lamp burning, so you don’t get musty and murky.
Who else can dispel the darkness of our soul other than the one who said at the creation “let light shine out of darkness”? The same God makes his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge o f the glory of God in the face of Christ.(2 Cor 4:6) Once we receive this gift of light how can we continue to live in the Light.? By keeping our lives according to God’s word because his word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path then we won’t stumble and fall. That is why reading, understanding and living by God’s word is so important. Scripture tells us that the unfolding of God’s words gives us light.
During this Christmas season my prayer is that we will say, “The LORD is my light and my salvation whom shall I fear. The LORD is the stronghold of my life (Ps 27:1). Let’s unpack the second gift: A savior to love.
II. A SAVIOR TO LOVE: (Luke 1: 39-46 Matt 1:18-21)
Just imagine for 400 years; No visions! No revelation, and No angelic visitations from God? In other words God was silent; the heavens were shut. The whole earth and God’s chosen people Israel were desperately waiting for the arrival of the messiah. All of a sudden the heavens were buzzing with activity again. On the earth some extraordinary things began to happen. Who would have thought that Elizabeth in her old age would give birth to a Child? Or a teenage girl Mary would become pregnant without human intervention? What logical explanation can we give to such supernatural events other than to say is there anything impossible with God?
Mary, upon receiving God’s orders went to see her aunt Elizabeth and greeted her. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting something amazing has happened. Just imagine how it must have felt for these two mothers carrying two unusual babies in their wombs. The baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaped for Joy. An unborn baby, jumping for Joy have you ever heard that before? In some mysterious way the Holy Spirit produced this remarkable response. Elizabeth and Mary both recognized that the child in Mary’s womb is no ordinary child but indeed the savior of the world. Mary could not control her Joy so she began to sing, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.” In the hustle and bustle of Christmas, busy buying gifts it is so easy to become weary and sullen and forget to enjoy the pure beauty of this season. When was the last time you were filled with unspeakable Joy by what has God done in your life and began to sing songs of Joy?
When the fullness of time came both the mothers delivered their boys and named them as they were instructed. Elizabeth named her boy John later came to be known as John the Baptist and Mary named her child Yeshua, or Jesus which means the LORD will save his people from their sins. While all this was going on an angel appeared to a group of shepherded who were tending their sheep at night, and said, “I bring you good news of great joy, which will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. He is the Christ the Lord. Suddenly a great company of angels appeared praising God saying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Don’t we all need that heavenly peace?
The first night of Christmas was any thing but a silent night as we are used to singing “Silent Night, Holy Night” There was jubilation and celebration because the savior of the world was born. The shepherds must have been thrilled to hear the angelic choir so they hurried to go and see the savior. In any nativity drama the scene of the shepherds and angels sends the audience into laughter and joy. I can tell it by experience because I acted as a shepherd on several Church Christmas celebrations. Oh how I grieve today because by and large we have lost that innocence and eagerness of the shepherds. We became so technically advanced but spiritually impoverished, nothing seems to spark the joy of Christmas any more.
The Bible tells us that God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. God loved the world he gave his Son so that the world might be saved and Christ loved us so much, while we were still sinners He died for us on the cross so that you and I might have eternal life. In return what does God expect from us? Nothing much, only two things, one is that we love him with all our heart and with all our soul and with all your mind and loving our neighbors as we love ourselves. We have no problems in loving God, but loving our neighbors? That is a tough call.
My life has been profoundly impacted when I received God’s free gift of salvation. I love him today because he first loved me. You may receive all kinds of gifts during this Christmas but nothing can make you as happy as much as the gift of Salvation does. Let’s unpack the third gift.
III. A KING TO WORSHIP: (Mat 2:1-11)
In the Christmas nativity drama one of the most glittering and glamorous scenes is when the wise men enter with gifts in their hands. All of a sudden there is a royal touch added to the story. The scripture calls them Magi means wise men, probably they were astrologers, doctors perhaps from Persia or southern Arabia, both of which are east of Palestine. They came to Jerusalem and asked where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship Him. If the wise men traveled a great distance to worship Jesus, How are we to worship Christ our savior, the light of the world and the King of Kings? They offered gifts as a way of worship to Jesus. What do these gifts signify? The gold represents that Jesus is the King, the frankincense represents Christ’s priestly role and myrrh represents his ultimate sacrifice upon the Cross.
The wise men offered gifts to Jesus not to one another, what could we bring to Jesus this morning? Is he expecting any material gifts from us? No! Frankly in my opinion Satan has succeeded in distracting and confusing the masses about Christmas with fables about Santa and unbridled materialism. In all our preoccupation with gifts, decorations, parties and food we end up stressed and harassed. It takes discernment and wisdom for us to be able to know when enough is enough. We don’t want our children to get the wrong notion that happiness is store bought. We want to make sure that Jesus is at the very center of all our celebration. What can we learn from the wise men? Jesus Christ is the King of Kings and he deserves our Worship.
In Psalm 95:3-6, “For the LORD I s the great God, the great King above all gods…. Come, let us bow down in worship let us kneel before the LORD our maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture the flock under his care.” On the first Christmas day God gave three great gifts to the world. A Light to follow, a savior to Love and a King to worship. These same three gifts can be yours today. All you need to do is to unpack these three indescribable gifts and receive them by faith. Only when you receive these gifts, your Christmas will be truly meaningful and you can bring a smile to others by your gifts, again not by the material ones.
I would like to suggest a few gifts that you can give to your family, friends and neighbors during this Christmas season. Most of them don’t cost you a world. Mend a quarrel, dismiss suspicion, stop spreading gossip, and tell someone, "I love you." Give something away--anonymously. Forgive someone who has treated you wrong. Turn away wrath with a soft answer. Visit someone in a nursing home. Apologize if you were wrong. Be especially kind to someone with whom you work. Encourage someone who is discouraged. Give as God gave to you in Christ, without obligation, or announcement, or reservation, or hypocrisy. Again you can’t give what you yourselves haven’t yet received. May the Lord help you to receive Jesus as your light, as your savior and as your King. Amen