The excitement and anticipation of opening gifts on Christmas morning is experienced by most children across Canada and the United States. Because our dad was a Detroit fireman, he often worked on Christmas day. We were used to opening our Christmas gifts on days other than the 25th. Sometimes we would open them on Christmas Eve before he left for work early the next morning. But once in a while it was the day after Christmas. From this we learned that it wasn’t the date we opened the gifts that was important but rather it was the act of showing our love to each other through gift giving that was the focus.
The practice of gift giving was probably inspired by the biblical account of the gifts brought to Jesus by the wise men from the east.
"Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”… And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 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 worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. (Portions of Matthew 2:1-12 ESV)
These men were scholars of scripture. They knew the prophecies that spoke about the coming King of the Jews, and had traveled for days, possibly months, following the star to find Christ. The purpose of their journey was to worship Jesus. Notice the words describing the emotions of the wise men. “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” When they found the home and saw young Jesus, they “fell down and worshipped him,” and then “offered him gifts”.
These men were filled with gladness because they had found Jesus. They believed him to be the promised messiah, sent from God. They worshipped him first, and then offered Him their gifts, most likely the best of their earthly possessions.
Today we have the benefit of reading the full account of Jesus’ life on earth. We are able to read of His miraculous birth, His powerful teaching and then of His sacrificial death and powerful resurrection. The whole purpose of Christ’s life on earth was for Him to die and take our punishment. His desire is to give us the best gift we could ever receive, the gift of forgiveness and freedom from guilt and shame.
This is a wonderful time of year to accept His gift of Salvation to you, and for you to give Jesus the gift of your love, and devotion.
A clear explanation of God’s gift of salvation and how to obtain peace with God is found at: http://peacewithgod.jesus.net/
My desire is that you will receive the Gift that Christ offers you today. My longing is that you will know Gladness like the Wise Men knew as they bowed before the King of Kings. And my prayer for you is that you will experience the Salvation Jesus has provided through His death, burial, and resurrection.
Christmas celebrations were filled with all of these in my childhood home. We attended family gatherings for both my mom’s and my dad’s side of the family. These family times occurred sometime during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, and in true North American tradition, included a tables full of delicious food. One aunt and uncle on my mom’s side had eleven children, and there were ten children in my dad’s family. I was surprised to learn, years later, that many families were not blessed with such large, noisy Christmas dinners.
Travelling with my friends in a caravan of cars to sing carols for the shut-ins of our church congregation is one of my favourite teenage memories. We usually visited the elderly who could not attend service very often. I trust that the carols we sang brought as much joy to their hearts as it did to ours. Each stop usually ended with a Christmas cookie or two thanking us for making time for them.
Our North American culture has fostered the desire for us to draw close to family and friends during the holidays. No matter what our spiritual beliefs are, it seems that being with family and close friends is the most important aspect of the Christmas Season.
Mary and Joseph, however, had to leave their families that first Christmas season. They had to travel away from what was familiar. They did not have the joy and comfort of family and friends around them to celebrate the birth of the new precious little one placed in their care. They were alone, possibly cold, hungry and very tired. Not in the state of mind for celebrating anything, let alone the birth of the Son of God, the King of Israel.
Not far away, on a hill near Bethlehem, there was a celebration underway that would soon spill over into the foul-smelling, dirty barn where Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus were spending the night. There were shepherds caring for their sheep just outside of Bethlehem, probably very tired at the end of the day. Some were probably sleeping, while a few stood guard against preying animals. Scripture describes the scene this way:
Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.” Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people He favors! “ Luke 2:9–14 (HCSB)
A multitude of angels raised joyful voices proclaiming the birth of Jesus. Their celestial choir delivered a heavenly message that penetrated the shepherd’s ears, and hearts. For hundreds of years the Jews had been waiting for their Promised Messiah, and the angels told these humble shepherds that He had finely been born.
Singing and music have been vital components of the Christian’s Christmas celebrations for centuries. But today there is an effort to silence the songs that speaks of Christ’s birth. Join me this Christmas season as we celebrate Christ’s birth with song and music. Don’t let the spiritual carols and songs be lost, and don’t let the message of Christ’s birth be silenced. The message of that first “Silent Night” is needed by each person today, just as much as it was needed at the time of Christ’s birth.
To those who feel desperately alone this season, I encourage you to go to God’s Word and read of Christ’s birth in the first chapters of Luke. Then read of Christ’s life in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Jesus Christ is able to fill the void in your life. He wants you to be part of His family. He wants to be your best friend. Scriptures declares to us:
“…but there is a friend who stays closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24 (HCSB)
Jesus can give you the family you need. He wants to be the friend you deserve. He wants to bring joy into your life so you will have a song to sing.
Debi Snider... more