The joy of receiving gifts is such a great part of the Christmas season, but it is also a great part of our lives throughout the year. In the days of the Bible, times of celebration were often accompanied by the giving of gifts. The custom of giving gifts has endured throughout history and is still a tradition in most nations today. The practice of gift giving in millions of family circles around the world, even where Christmas giving is not known or practiced, is about people sharing in the joy of giving gifts. In our Christian circles we most associate gift giving with Christmas time in the tradition of the wise men and the joyful announcement of the angels. We also recognize that giving of gifts is an integral part of our Christian faith and experience throughout the year.
In the Bible we read this about gifts, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning,” James 1:17. In the Old Testament, we are reminded that the gifts from God include His material blessings on our lives. Everything we have, including the basics of life, come from Him. “That every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labor, it is the gift of God,” Ecclesiastes 3:13. “Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God,” Ecclesiastes 5:19. So we know that we cannot take personal pride in our own abilities or our possessions, because they are, in the every way, gifts from God.
May I suggest that our material gifts are temporary, and many times forgotten in a very short time. The excitement that comes with receiving those things just doesn’t last. In contrast, spiritual blessings, that are available for those who have received Jesus Christ, are far more important than physical and material blessings, and will last eternally. The New Testament speaks often of, the “gifts of God.” As we begin a new year, I would like to challenge you to remember and give thanks for the spiritual gifts that come from God. The gift of eternal life is a gift no one but God can offer us. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord,” Romans 6:23. The religions of the world all have a path to some version of eternal existence, none of them offer it as a gift. For them eternal life is something that can be earned after following a list of rules or criteria which merits such a level of existence. Thank God our hope for eternal life is not in anything that we can do. That is why the Gospel is the “Good News,” and when received by faith brings assurance of the gift of eternal life in heaven.
The most amazing gift from God is the gift of salvation through faith. “For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast,” Ephesians 2:8-9. Most human beings naturally think that something of great value must be purchased or earned. We are suspicious when something is offered to us for free. Most of us grew up believing that nothing in life is free. But while salvation is free to us, the price was paid by God through His Son Jesus. Salvation is an incredible gift from God that requires nothing on our part but to believe that God can offer us this gift because of Jesus’ death on the cross, his burial and resurrection. By placing our faith in what Jesus did for us, we acknowledge that there is actually, nothing we can do to earn this most gracious gift from God.
By now most of the wrapping paper from Christmas is cleaned up, the boxes put away and the decorations stored. The gifts we shared with each other are in the closet or a drawer or maybe sitting on a shelf. They brought us joy and happiness, because they are from those who care about us. But may we remember that the gifts God has given us are the gifts that bring us true joy and happiness which truly last because they are from the One who cares about us more than anyone else. If you didn’t receive everything you wanted for Christmas, maybe you will still receive it for your birthday or a special occasion. But we all should be grateful that we have received the “good gifts” from God Himself. They are more precious than any material gift because they are from the eternal God who loves far above what we could ever imagine. Thank Him today for His “Good Gifts” that you have received from him.
Robert Andrews, Ph.D.