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Christmas lights twinkle along sidewalks and glitter in store windows. Christmas carols softened the rush of shopping as people began to mimic the wise men who followed the star in the east and came to worship He who was born in Bethlehem. They brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Centuries later, we bring trinkets of every shape and size, wrapped in packages tied up with brilliant shining bows, and place them under the shimmering Christmas tree to remember those we love.
When the shopping is finished and we gaze at the tree laden with gifts, a thought sneaks into our mind: “What will I get for Christmas?” It is a selfish thought, and we squelch it immediately, but it lingers until our minds can find higher thoughts and deeper meditations about what Christmas really means. Christmas is not about giving at all. It is about receiving God’s love and sharing it with the world. The three wise men were not the first to give gifts on Christmas. It was God the Father, and His gifts keep on giving century after century.
The first gift was given to Adam and Eve. The Garden of Eden was the finest and most perfect of all God’s creations. The beauty and order of that place must have been magnificent. Trees of every kind, streams tumbling through lush green meadows dotted with myriads of flowers dancing in the breeze; it must have been glorious. We can only judge by what we know.
Our world is only a cheap imitation of the Garden of Eden, but it is far beyond our ability to comprehend its grandeur. God’s gift of nature can never be wrapped and put under a tree, but it is gift worth remembering on Christmas. Think of the ocean with white foamy waves ever rolling to the shore. Think of the towering snowcapped mountains reaching heavenward against the stark blue of the endless sky. Think of the rivers winding ever to the sea. See the meadows strewn with the new flowers of spring or the sparkling whiteness of winter. Look at the sunset painted in glorious orange and pink across the western sky silhouetting the inky blackness of the trees. Oh, what a sight! What a gift! And we wonder what is under the Christmas tree for us.
The first gift from God was the creation. We were part of that great creation. In the image of God, we are created. As the world is a cheap imitation of the Garden of Eden, we too are only a replica, but we indeed are his children, imperfect and mortal. We are subject to disease and death. God’s body is glorified and immortal. We cannot comprehend what He must be like, but we can look at the magnificence of our own bodies and know that He is wonderful!
Some bodies are less perfect than others are, but we can all see the glory of God in our bodies. Consider eyes that can see, minds that comprehend, and ears that can detect the slightest sound, hands that move and legs that can run! What a magnificent gift! Our bodies are blessings beyond measure, and we look for the Christmas trinkets that are here today and gone tomorrow.
God’s gifts are innumerable. I think of the scriptures and the truths that thread through the pages. The scriptures, if followed, are truly are a plan for happiness. The scriptures teach us to pray, which is a direct line to speak with our Heavenly Father. Through prayer, we can influence the outcomes of our lives and bless the lives of our fellow men.
The scriptures teach us about faith. Faith is a powerful tool in shaping our destinies. Faith has the power to move mountains. We are babies in our ability to use faith, but our lives are shaped by it. Someone once said, “What we believe we can achieve.” I have found that to be true. The scriptures teach us that we are created in God’s image, therefore we have his attributes and abilities, perhaps only in the embryonic state, but nonetheless, we are much more powerful than we ever imagined.
The scriptures teach us that every problem is solvable if we turn to God in humility. The story of Moses is one of those stories. Through the power of God, Moses was able to destroy the entire Egyptian army, and was able to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt through the manifestation of miracles.
The scriptures also teach us that God can and will direct our lives if we seek him. The story of Joseph sold into Egypt is a classic example. God knows the beginning and the end of our lives, as a father knows what will happen if a child touches a hot stove, even if the child does not. By obeying God’s eternal laws, men and women do not have to suffer the excruciating consequences of wrong choices. The scriptures are full of people who disobeyed and were miserable. We can learn from their examples. We don’t have to make every mistake to find happiness. I am so grateful for the gift of the scriptures. Tinselly Christmas gifts pale in comparison to the wonderful gifts of God.
Finally, God gave us the greatest gift of all on Christmas. He gave His son. We can all make the cliché statements about Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, but the statement that Jesus “gave his life for us”, can never be taken lightly. It is the most profound statement in history. No matter how many times we say it, we can never comprehend the magnitude of what He did for us. Can you imagine a world where death was the end? When a loved one passed on, it was final. You would never see him/her again. What an empty existence and awful fear of death there would be!
Death is hard enough to bear even when we know we will be with our loved one again, but it would be unbearable to know death ended everything. Jesus was born, lived and died to make it possible for us to be resurrected. He overcame the grave that we might follow Him into life eternal. He lived a sinless life, to show us the way we should live. He became the very embodiment of charity, and gave His last breath to show us how we should treat those who “despitefully use us and persecute us.” He said, as He hung on the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
His death was not the only gift Christ gave. He gave us the chance to change. What would it be like to sin and never be forgiven? There would never be a chance to erase a mistake. It would be an eternity without ever being able to say, “I’m sorry.” Hurts of the heart would never go away. God the Father, through Jesus, gave us the gift to be able to “walk in newness of life.” Because of Jesus, we can be born again. What an amazing gift; that gift will never be wrapped and put under a Christmas tree, but it is the most glorious gift in this world.
The trappings of modern Christmas fill our homes, the stores and the streets with tinsel, glitter, fragrance and hope for a better Christmas than last year. Lights twinkle on the snow and shimmer on Christmas trees. In all of our getting and giving, let us remember the Light of the World, who is Jesus Christ. He is truly the greatest gift of all. Let us remember to walk His path and do His work, in return for all of the splendid gifts He has given to us. Let us make sure we make a place for Him on His special day. PD