You may be wondering why a post about Christmas shows up two days after Christmas. Well, there is a reason. A roundabout reason of His current work in me, and a call to give additional time and attention to this Holy Season.
It began with the Advent devotional by John Piper used in my local congregation for 2020, Joy to the World. As a member of the leadership team that selected this work as a study approaching Christmas, I offered to write additional thoughts and questions based on the devotionals to help participants go a little deeper.
Deeper is what I experienced! What I learned writing add-ons for John Piper’s devotionals brought me to this place of giving Christmas additional attention.
Ultimately, the message I received is the reminder that Christmas — celebrating the birth of God as a Babe laid in a feed trough in Bethlehem — was the first step in His journey to the cross. Too often, I think, we tend to separate this part of His story from the rest. We fail to linger long enough at the manger to consider the impact of what He did for us.
So I feel the need to sit in Christmas a while longer. Continue to process its importance in the good news story. Also, the work of revisiting and rewriting past posts from Jeremiah’s Menu brought me back to 12 Words of Christmas offered a few years ago.
Fleshing them out further with what I’ve learned since then.
Hoping you continue with me on this journey of giving Christmas time to linger.
Now back to where I began…
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. …”
John 3:16-17 ESV
Give rooted deep.
The Christmas tradition of giving is rooted deep in the Nativity story.
God gave Mary the blessing of bearing His Son, and she gave herself for His use.
“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word.”
Luke 1:38 ESV
Joseph gave up his reputation to give the Savior a flesh and blood dad.
…Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. …”
Matthew 1:19-20 ESV
The shepherds encouraged Mary and Joseph by going to see what the angels announced. They gave them their account of all they saw and heard in the fields.
And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. …Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.
Luke 2:17, 19 ESV
And the wise men who traveled, they gave gifts.
When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshipped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.
Matthew 2:10-11 ESV
The gifts from the wise men were an outpouring of worship to the newborn King.
The gifts of worship we give Jesus find their roots in what He already gave.
Give rooted in forgiveness.
God wrapped up His Son — really Himself: the Infinite Uncontainable Creator — into a crib-size gift, a Babe. He gave this gift to bless the world with a Savior. Because He loves us so much, He refuses to leave us in the mess we made, lost in the darkness of sin and death.
Wrapped up in this small bundle, God made flesh, is the gift of His redeeming love offering the way of forgiveness.
It always costs us something to give, especially forgiveness. Someone has to bear the price of what was stolen, broken, or lost.
When we forgive, the forgiver bears the burden of the loss.
Give rooted in love.
The costliest gift rooted in Christmas is the forgiveness God chose to give through incarnation. God the Son becoming a man, beginning as an embryo. A conscious decision driven by love.
Even before one word from the Creator spoke anything into being, He knew what would happen. He knew in advance the events that would lead to rebellion and evil. What would overshadow the good He created.
Yet, He chose to create anyway. To breathe life into ones who would choose death.
A choice He knew full well would lead to loss.
Give rooted in loss.
I wonder at all Jesus gave up to bear the debt of our offense against the Father, what losses He incurred to give the gift of forgiveness.
Imagine what Jesus felt and anticipated as He waited for the moment in history we call Christmas. When it finally happened, how do you think He felt in the confines of a womb? Endless light exchanged for complete darkness. Continuous angelic praise traded for the constant whoosh-whoosh of circulating blood. Previously unbound by time, He constrained Himself within time.
The Giver of Life reduced to total dependence on a life He created.
Can you imagine?
And what about growing up? From infancy to childhood and adolescence, how did He come to know who He was and what He came to do? How did He discover His purpose?
I wonder, did all creation speak truth into His heart and soul? The Creator Himself walking about wrapped in flesh, untainted by sin, could He see and hear things to which we are blind and deaf?
When He heard the Rabbis read and teach Scripture in the synagogue, for Him, were the words filled with Spirit-infused inspiration? Did they remind Him of His purpose?
Did He realize it would cost Him His life to defeat sin and death?
Consider what losses He faced, incurred, to take His place in a manger, the costly gift He offers to ungrateful, rebellious, self-centered creatures.
Many will never even accept His gift of forgiveness and love.
Give rooted in questions.
What does the extravagant highly-priced gift of forgiveness say about the love of God?
What does it reveal about what the world calls love in comparison to God’s love? And what about what you call love?
Then God asks Believers to love like Him, to choose loss and a completely other-centered life. He asks them to believe losing their life for His sake is the way of real life, the way of joy and peace.
Does this make any sense to you?
Give rooted in grace.
Only God’s grace and love make sense of the weighty cost of forgiveness.
We only love because He loves us first. Seeing His love in the light of truth, we humbly receive His grace.
In awe and wonder, knowing we deserve nothing, faith opens our hearts to receive His forgiveness. Then we turn around and offer it to others.
Give rooted deep in the grace-giving forgiveness of Jesus.
Give rooted in desire.
Once we receive the grace of forgiveness, we desire to give our lives to Him.
No longer does the high cost of giving impact us in a negative way. Our desire for Christ far outweighs any loss.
The magi’s gifts were intensifiers of desire for Christ himself…John Piper, Joy to the World
We can never give Him as much as He has given us.
Allow this truth of Christmas to feed your desire to give your life to Him.
Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him.
Philippians 3:8-9 NLT
How does your heart respond to the deep roots of giving in Christmas? Name the emotions stirred.
Have you ever noticed the gift of forgiveness wrapped up in the Babe in the manger?
Consider ways you can make room for forgiveness to take root in your life. Ask God to prepare your heart to receive.