Several years ago, I hosted a neighborhood Christmas luncheon. When I got out my decorations, I asked myself, “What message do I want to give to the women as they come into my home?” Decorating is work; I wanted it to be meaningful! Over the years, I had collected a bunch of odds and ends stuff—mostly things given to me by my mom, our kids, or found in the attics of houses we bought. Recalling a book I read years ago called The Gifts of Christmas by Rachel Hartman, I remembered the author had taken the parts of the biblical Christmas story and considered them to be gifts (music, wonder, love…). Then, she related each gift to the traditions we have for celebrating Christmas. Her book had seven gifts—too many for me to use! So, I took three of the gifts—love, life, and joy— and put my decorations in groups matching the gift along with a descriptive card.
The first gift is that of love—God’s love. Christmas is the celebration of God making good on a promise He had made hundreds of years earlier that a child would be born who would be both God and man. God delivered on that promise when Jesus was born. We don’t know the date. The early Christians celebrated the resurrection, not the birth of Jesus. But by the 4th century, they celebrated Jesus’ birth when the Romans were busy with their own feasts—Dec. 25 in the West, Jan. 6 in the East. (The 12 days of Christmas connect the two dates.)
God made a promise and kept it. Love keeps promises. It was God’s idea to come to earth and live as a man—Jesus—fully man yet fully God. Now, why would God do that? Was it for His sake? No. It was for ours. It was God’s gift of LOVE to us. “For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son…” (John 3:16). Because God lived as a man (Jesus), He could pay the penalty of death that He as God had imposed on man because of sin. His death on the cross opens the way for us to have a relationship of LOVE with God. We can have confidence that He understands what we’re feeling and experiencing as humans on earth. Because He’s has been here, He knows what it’s like to be tired, hungry, sad, surrounded by cranky people, and having someone dependent on you day and night. He showed His LOVE to women, so we know He LOVES us as women. God’s LOVE gift is expressed in nativity scenes, red bows, giving gifts, and serving one another.
The second gift is one of LIFE—real life that God promises to those who love Him. This same Jesus who died to pay the penalty for our sins so we could be totally forgiven of them also rose again from the dead—alive with a new body. And, he’s in a human body still in heaven. Do you think of Him that way? God offers this same LIFE to us who believe in Him. “…so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).” This new LIFE richly fills the longing in our hearts for a relationship with God our Creator. He adopts us as His children. We get to call Him Father, even Daddy. This gift of LIFE that never ends is represented in evergreen trees, wreaths, lights, and candles. I love evergreen wreaths with red bows and white lights at Christmas—LIFE!
The third gift is JOY expressed in celebration. The angels announced the good news of Jesus’ birth with JOYFUL praise. The shepherds responded by going to investigate for themselves, seeing the truth of the message and telling others (Luke 2:13-17). JOY is a sense of well-being apart from circumstances. The world seeks happiness and is devastated when things go wrong. God’s gift of JOY transcends such “happenings.” JOY is the infallible sign of the presence of God. It comes to us through our relationship with Him. When we experience His gifts of love and life, joy follows. Traditions expressing joy are music, angels, and bright colors.
Dwelling on these 3 gifts of Christmas gives more purpose to the decorations I use every year and makes our family celebration more meaningful. May God bless you in the coming year with a greater understanding of the love, life and joy He gives to everyone who is willing to take Him at His Word.
Read more about "The Gifts of Christmas" in this article.