It’s that time of year again that some lyricist described as “the most wonderful time” and as the calendar turns to the first day of December, we already see homes and businesses already decorated with glittering balls and lights. Beautiful Christmas trees are peeking out from the windows of some homes and our mailboxes (electronic and the old-fashioned kind) are filled with catalogs and ads of all sorts to urge us to get busy buying gifts for those whom we love and seek to bless. Children of all ages are making out wish lists of things they are hoping to find under the tree this Christmas.
With all of that it can be easy to get caught up in the whirlwind and forget that not everyone feels that way about this season. Some will be dealing with loss and grief and nothing that usually delights them during the Christmas season will have the same appeal. Others will be dealing with illness of all different kinds and will be focused more on trying to get well and overcome the maladies than heading out to shop or begin decorating. And still others will look longingly at all the trappings around them but be unable to consider any of them as attainable due to their own economic state. And some more religious folks will be reminding all of us that Christmas isn’t about all these trappings.
Over the course of my life, I have experienced many Christmases that have touched on each of these. Maybe it is important to not view any of them as right or wrong but rather to acknowledge that life happens moment by moment and those events do not stop happening at Christmas. Death, illness, nor job loss or poverty take a break for this season of the year.
Maybe there is another perspective to consider as we move steadily into this Christmas season. Maybe we forgot that we have already received some gifts that will not be wrapped under the tree. They come to us whether we are sad or happy, healthy or ill, rich or poor, old or young.
Let’s look at some of this in this series about “The Gifts of Christmas.”
As I reflect on this, one of the first gifts that comes to mind is that of sacrifice and that may seem an odd gift to some of us.
For some it will remind us that someone who cares about us sacrificed to provide us with what we enjoy this season. We may not have all the wrapped presents we hope for despite those who love us sacrificing to offer us the best they can as a reminder of their love and care for us.
But there is more…
We all experience Christmas because of the sacrifice that gave us the babe in the manger who is supposed to be the focus of this whole season. It’s not often we think about God’s sacrifice, Christ’s sacrifice, at Christmas. We do that most often at Easter. But Christmas is also about the gift of sacrifice.
God looked down on his creation and observed that ever since that day in the Garden of Eden when mankind fell in temptation, fellowship was broken between Him and them (not to mention with each other). Of course, He was prepared for that as well and had a plan to sacrifice. His son, Jesus, would lay aside all his authority and kingly trappings and take on flesh and become a helpless baby and live life among us, experiencing all the realities we face.
God didn’t choose earthly parents of high position, wealth, or education. He chose a young girl betrothed to be married to a man who committed to lead her and their children in the ways of God. The baby’s life would begin in a humble place – a stable, surrounded by animals rather than physicians. His earthly dad would be a carpenter, not a priest or ruler.
No one could have guessed on that starry night in Bethlehem that this tiny infant born to a poor young couple would be the champion to fight against all the powers of hell that sought to separate mankind from God. Yes, they had heard a Messiah would come but they were looking for a king with all the trappings of royalty, not a baby and not in Bethlehem in a manger of all places.
His first gifts would not be gifts usually a boy would get. No balls, trains, shields, swords, or blocks. Instead, He would receive the gifts suited for a king and royalty and the gifts would not come from relatives but strangers (wise men) who had followed a star and the story foretold of his birth.
God gave. Jesus sacrificed and left his Father, and this was the Christmas gift He came to offer one and all, no matter their station in life. His mission was to be reunited with the creation of mankind and show them the truth of the love He was offering.
Without the gift of sacrifice, there could be no Christmas.