John 3:16 (NKJV) 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
In my last post we talked about using the last few days of 2015 to evaluate where we are in our Christianity and to ask some questions about what we might need to do in order to make next year better than this year. We took our direction from Paul’s words in Philippians 3 where he said he did not dwell on the past but instead pressed into the future. That does not mean we do not learn from the past. It means we cannot live in either our successes or failures from the past. Doing either will keep us from making the changes and receiving the encouragement we need to go forward.
Today I want to look at the gift that God gave to us at Christmas. This is one thing we need to think about this week that will help us prepare for the coming year. The scripture I am using is one of the most familiar and beloved verses in the bible. Although we usually do not associate it with Christmas, it really is about the essence of the truth of Christmas.
What is the real gift of Christmas? What is the gift God gave to the World when he gave it Jesus? Jesus tells us in this famous verse. He gave his only begotten son. The amplified calls Jesus God’s unique son. God had no one else like him.
Many have a problem with the virgin birth. This description of Jesus is a direct reference to that reality. Jesus was the only human being ever born in such a way that he could be called the unique son of God. Peter tells us how he was conceived by telling us how the new birth works.
1 Peter 1:23 (NKJV) 23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever,
When we received Jesus, we were born again. Paul says we became a New Creation in Christ. The seed that caused the new birth in us is the same seed that fertilized the egg in Mary’s womb. It was the Word of God.
Jesus was the unique or only begotten son of God because he was conceived by a supernatural seed, the Word of God. This angel said that Mary was “of child by the Holy Ghost.” The Holy Spirit and the Word of God interacted with her physical body and a child was produced. This child was both fully human and fully divine. There had never been one like him and there never would be another like him.
I am a father. There is nothing more precious to my wife and me than our children. True parents would much rather go through difficulties than see their children go through them. We would much rather give our own lives than that of our children. God is no different.
When this verse tells us that God gave his only begotten son, it is telling us that he gave the most precious thing he had and that he gave it for a world who did not know him and did not appreciate what he really is. Jesus was his only child at that time. He had no guarantee that anyone would receive his gift and be “born again” making them sons and daughters as well. He sowed the only one he had in faith believing there would be many more to come.
Romans 8:29 (NKJV) 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
As I think of how this relates to me and to the new year, I have to ask myself, “Am I giving my best for the Kingdom of God?” God did not hold back his best even though he had no guarantee beyond his faith that anything good would come of it. Am I giving my best to the Lord even if I have no guarantee, except my faith, that anything good will come to me because of my gift?
I cannot tell you what that question means in your life. I can only evaluate my own answer. I do encourage you to meditate on God’s gift to you and ask yourself if your gift to Him and his kingdom measures up to that standard. I am not just talking about our wealth, although that can be part of it. I am talking about our time, our gifts, our emotional treasure and all the things that are truly important to us. God did not withhold his best, help us to let go of ours.
Let me tell you before you start that your gift does not equal his. Do not be condemned when you realize how far short you are falling from what God did for you. That is inevitable. He is God and you are not. What you should do is ask him to help you be more like him. You can begin to give more of what is precious to you and worry less about what you will get in return. Just trust him and you will not be disappointed. That I can guarantee because the more you give to him the more of him you will receive.
There is something else that he gave. He gave himself. Jesus said, “I and my father are one.” (John 10:30) This is something that can be hard to understand and has spawned many heated debates in the church world. What is not open to debate is what Jesus said. He and the Father are one. That means that when God gave Jesus, he gave himself.
As an adult, I have always thought of Christmas in terms of what I could give to those I love, not in terms of what I will receive. This has put pressure on me because anything less than what my kids really want is just not satisfactory to me. As children grow, what they really want becomes very expensive. As I was looking at this verse, I was reminded that the best gift I ever gave my children was myself. I believe if you asked any one of the six they would agree with me.
God did not stop with what was most precious to him. He gave himself as well. I believe this is another thing we need to look at as we begin the new year. As parents we want to give our children nice things. We want to give them education to prepare them for a better life than we had. We want to give them health, stability and security. All those things are valid. However, do not forget to give them the gift of your time, your attention and your love. That is more important than any of the rest.
This year, for the first time, we did not have the Christmas morning chaos in my living room. We went to one of my children’s houses. (The one with the youngest kids since they are the most fun!) Our tradition is that we read the Christmas story before we open any gifts. I think the Lord was helping me transition as my son-in-law said he had a headache and asked me to read. I did it gladly, but I made him pray. It is far more important that his children see him pray than that they get the wonderful gifts he provided. That is giving yourself.
What about the local church? I encourage you to give your money. However, Paul told Timothy to tell those that were rich not to stop with money (1 Tim. 6:17-18.) He said to encourage them to give their service and time as well. We need to give ourselves to the local church.
Finally, what about the world? There are all kinds of programs and plans available to reach out for Jesus. It is very popular now to make sure our churches are equipped to handle those who may not understand our Christian ways. That is a good thing but the most important thing you can give those around you is like the gift God gave at Christmas. He gave himself. You can give them yourself. That is what God did and that is how we will reach the world for Jesus.
John 17:18 (NKJV) 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.