Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Greatest Christmas Gifts

“The greatest Christmas gifts aren’t wrapped in paper.”

  Do you remember Christmas gifts that you received as a child? Was there that “one gift” you just had to have? One Christmas gift that sticks out in the corridors of my mind was a Hot Wheels set I received one year. I must have been 8 or 9 yet I still remember even that day, after playing with it for a bit – feeling disappointed. I think I played with it a few times over the course of the next few weeks and then it was retired to some shelf or box in our basement, rarely, if ever to appear again.
  Are other Christmas gifts all that different than my Hot Wheels set? Some of the “must have” gifts for women this year are: Tiffany Signature Pearl Earrings, A Vitamix Ascent Blender, Personalized Luggage, An Audible Subscription, A Monogrammed Cashmere Throw. For men it’s…a Casper Nap Pillow, Temperature Control Ceramic Mug, Square Portable Bluetooth Speaker, Touchscreen Italian Leather Driving Gloves or The Modern Snap Backpack. Then, commercials on TV tell us that the “must have” gifts are traveling or a cruise, or jewelry, a new car or even the latest perfume.
  If we’re honest, we’ll admit that none of those things bring fulfillment. They’re nice for a moment, but not a very long one. The gifts with true meaning and significance, money can’t buy because they’re priceless! But Jesus wants to give us gifts that bring true meaning and fulfillment.
  Jesus came to give us the gift of peace. It’s what the angels said that first Christmas Eve: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom [God] is pleased!” Outside of the U.N. there’s a renowned bronze sculpture “Let Us Beat Our Swords into Ploughshares,” by Soviet artist, Evgeny Vuchetich, and presented to the U.N. on December 4, 1959. In nearly 75 years, the U.N. is no closer to bringing about world peace than it was on the day it was born. There’s little peace in our own country. Crime is a major concern. The workplace is not a place of peace with conflict between management and labor, or inner office squabbles. For many, the home is not a place of peace. 2 million couples have used a lethal weapon on their spouses in their lifetimes. Another 4 million wives are beaten by their husbands each year. Some 3 million children are beaten, maimed or murdered annually in our country. While the majority are not places of violence, yet what most marriages and families have is far from peace. More often, it’s a cold war. Many seek to find peace in workaholism or some other addiction. Anything to quell the volcano in their own souls. There’s no peace “out there,” which is why the Prince of Peace came to bring us peace. It’s only in a relationship with Him that we have what the world longs for – peace. Longfellow, in his poem, Christmas Bells, later turned into one of our favorite Christmas Carols caught the picture of our true source of the gift of peace as he penned:

“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

  Jesus came to give us the gift of joy. “And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people’.” How many do you know that have joy? Do you have joy? C.S. Lewis called joy, “The serious business of Heaven.” Joy is the difference between merely existing and truly living. The presence of joy upgrades survival to being. I’m not sure because I love so many of them, but I think that my favorite Christmas carol is “Joy to the World.” It’s just brimming over with joy! Remember those first words: “Joy to the world, the Lord is Come! Let earth receive her King!” Yet, until that only Child of God…the One who came from eternity into time…that Child of God Who grew up and died for you…until He comes into your life, you won’t know joy. It won’t be “Joy to the world the Lord is come…to ME.” Joy is directly connected to Jesus. It comes from inviting the Christ of Christmas into your life. It begins when you ask Him to forgive you of all your sin that He died to pay for on the cross for you. Do you want joy? Decide today to follow Him as your Savior and Lord. Joy comes when He rules MY world.
  Jesus came to give us the gift of hope. During World War II, six pilots took off from an aircraft carrier in the North Atlantic to look for enemy submarines. While gone, the captain of the carrier was forced to issue a blackout alarm. The ship went totally dark. When the pilots tried to return, they couldn’t find the ship. They radioed, “Give us some light, we’re coming home.” The ship’s radio operator replied, “Order: blackout. I cannot give you light.” In turn, each pilot desperately radioed the same message: “Just give me some light and I’ll make it.” Each time, the operator had to radio back, “No light—blackout!” Because there was no light from the ship, those six pilots perished in the North Atlantic. Ours is a dark world that desperately needs light. The birth of Jesus Christ brought the light that offers hope to a world in darkness. He came to give us hope.
  When Aaron left for East Asia on a missions trip some years ago, he asked, “Dad, what if something happens to me?” I answered in confident hope in the cross that I knew Aaron had trusted in for his salvation, “Then, I’ll see you later.”
  When you accept God’s gift of hope, as beautifully written of in Romans 8:35-39, NOTHING can separate you from the love of God and hope!
  The greatest gifts aren’t under a tree. God’s gift was nailed to a tree so we could have peace, joy and hope. Have you opened God’s gift to you?

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