Giving and receiving Christmas presents can be a risky business. It’s a wonderful feeling when you see the look of joy on a person’s face as they open the present you have gone to such trouble to find for them and it is just what they want. Yet, on the other hand, there is nothing worse than when you have gone to all sorts of trouble to find just the right present for someone, but then when they open it you can tell that it really is not what they wanted.
Of course, at Christmas time we remember that 2000 years ago in a little village called Bethlehem God gave us a present. It was the baby Jesus who was God’s gift to humanity. God had promised that he would send a saviour for humankind and that saviour was His own Son. The very name the baby was given, “Jesus”, was a statement of God’s intent as it means “God saves”.
They say that at Christmas it’s about giving not receiving. In one sense, you see what they mean, it’s a response to our greedy world and the awful consumerism that’s taken over Christmas. So, the sentiment is to be applauded. However, ultimately, for we human beings Christmas is about receiving not giving. That is, it’s about receiving the gift of God.
However, just as our reactions to the gifts we receive are varied, in the same way God’s present provoked a whole variety of reactions. The political leaders of the day hated God’s precious gift. King Herod tried to have Jesus killed. Herod was blinded by his desire for power and he violently rejected the gift of God’s Son. While there are very few who respond to Jesus like Herod, his reaction is a warning to us. Many people do not believe that they need God or his Saviour and so they reject Jesus out of hand. If not as violent, the modern equivalent to Herod is perhaps indifference to Jesus.
In a strange irony though, it is the unlikely people who recognise Jesus for who he is and accept God’s gift. It is the poor shepherds and the foreign Magi or “Wise Men” from the East who come and bow down and worship him. Instead of rejecting God’s gift, they received it thankfully. Of course, you don’t have to be too smart to work out which reaction is the one that God desires from people.
God has given us the wonderful gift of his Son. He longs for us to gratefully accept the gift, by placing our trust in Jesus and seeking to live for him. That is what the wise men did at the first Christmas and wise people still do that today.