There is a lot of pressure at Christmas time to come up with great gifts for people. The catalogues that come in my mail box only add to the pressure to find the right gift. One catalogue says “Give a little fun this Christmas”; another says “The more the merrier”; “Make this Christmas magic” and “Give the Christmas feeling” says a third and a fourth. Sometimes it seems to me that if I get the gift wrong then Christmas could be ruined for everyone (especially the retailers)!
So what makes the best Christmas gift? Surely, it’s the kind of gift that just keeps on giving? Wouldn’t it be great to receive a gift that is not just perfect when you receive it but one that remains great every day from that moment on? There aren’t too many gifts that fit that bill! If someone gave me a Ferrari then I suspect it would give me pleasure for many days – but eventually I’d have to pay registration and insurance and one day the thing will simply rust away. The same is true for almost any gift we humans might give one another. No matter how wonderful a gift may seem at first, it will eventually rust or perish or lose its shine.
However, there is one Christmas gift that will never lose its shine. One way to explain it is to go back many years before the very first Christmas when the book of Lamentations in the Old Testament was written. It was a terrible time of suffering when God’s people had rebelled against him and abandoned His ways. In the midst of those troubles one person found a reason for daily hope – he wrote:
Because of the LORD’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! I say: The LORD is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him. (Lamentations 3:22-24)
The author of Lamentations understood that humanity regularly turns away from and abandons God. He knew the consequences of that rebellion were terrible and that the only place for hope was to throw yourself upon God’s mercy. This was an incredible insight – that despite our human rebellion against God - He can be trusted to show us mercy.
Fast forward several hundred years and that hope of mercy is what Christmas is really all about! At the first Christmas Jesus came into the world. Because of God’s mercy he sent his Son, born as a baby in this world for us. Thirty-three years later Jesus died on a lonely cross for us. The book of Romans in the New Testament describes how this showed God’s merciful love:
God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! (Romans 5:8)
This love of God for us sinners is why Jesus is the greatest Christmas gift of all time. In coming and dying for us Jesus dealt with the consequences of us rebelling against and ignoring God. Jesus is God’s mercy towards us – a gift of grace and an assurance of hope available not just on Christmas day, but it is a gift that keeps on giving every day.
The author of Lamentations was one of very few in his day that understood the Lord is who you turn to in your time of need. Today, we have the annual reminder of God’s mercy each time we celebrate Christmas. However, the offer of mercy from God is not only a Christmas-day offer – it is a free gift available every day to anyone who will put their trust in Jesus. Jesus is the Christmas gift that keeps on giving to humanity!
The question for you is: have you accepted God’s wonderful gift to you?