“Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!” (2 Cor 9:15).
“For to us a child is born, and to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:5-6, emphasis mine).
As I drove I-75 and then I-40 returning from visiting family recently in Kentucky, I reflected on two questions:
- What is the Gift of Christmas?
- What does the giving of this Gift say to us?
Christmas is a time of giving and receiving gifts. Few in the Christian or non-Christian realms would disagree. But perhaps it escapes some as to why we give gifts during this holiday. More tragically, far too many fail to ponder the true Gift of Christmas.
Humanly speaking, we often assume the nature of a gift says something of the value or worth of the gift recipient, at least in the eyes of the gift-giver. In other words, if I give someone an extravagant (either financially or otherwise) gift, it means I think they are worthy of whatever the gift cost me. I sacrificed because I valued the recipient. And, it is expected that the recipient would respond to me with gratitude.
But what of God and Christmas? First, what is the gift of Christmas? Isaiah prophesied of the Gift of a Son 700 years prior to the birth of Jesus. This son would not be ordinary by any stretch. This Son would be none other than the “Mighty God, Everlasting Father.” So, for 700 years, all who had been given spiritual eyes to see were looking for God to come as a son, a ruler, a king on earth!
But Isaiah was merely echoing Moses, and Moses was merely reporting on God’s promise made all the way back in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:15). God declared war on Satan and sin after Adam’s trangression. God promised to fight and win this war, to crush Satan’s head, and He said He would do so through a child (offspring or seed) of Eve. What? A human baby would conquer Satan and sin? Yes, He would, and He has (Gal 3:15-29). This He could do because His humanity served to conceal, as it were, His majesty.
As the story of redemption unfolds in the Bible, it becomes clear that the promised “seed” is Jesus, and Jesus is no ordinary baby boy. He is the “Word made flesh” who made the worlds and had glory as God before the worlds existed (John 1). He is Immanuel. God with us. Jesus came to “save His people from their sins” (Matt 1:21). Jesus – God in the flesh – He is the Gift of Christmas.
And wow, what a Gift! Jesus is the greatest gift the universe had to offer, and Father God gave Him up for wretched sinners like you and me. We cannot even dream up a more extravagant Gift than the grace of God in the face of Jesus Christ. This “inexpressible gift” comes to us by the hearing of the gospel – the mesage that Holy God has made a way for unholy sinners to be reconciled to Himself through the person and bloody cross-work of His Son, Jesus.
Typically, a costly, extravagant gift speaks to the value of the recipient. But we must approach with caution if we attempt to apply the same logic to the Gift of gifts – the Son of the living God. So, what does the giving of Jesus say to us? Let me offer a few thoughts that I pray spur you to deeper reflection this week. God giving the Gift of gifts, Jesus, says . . .
- God loves sinners. While I do not think this is the primary lesson of Christmas, I cannot escape John 3:16, nor do I wish to! When the Bible speaks of God’s holy hatred towards evildoers (Psalm 5:5), I can easily understand. But friends, I shall never grasp why God also chooses to set His love on sinners. God so loved . . . that He gave. He gave the Gift of gifts. Clearly, the Lord does value His human creatures, His image-bearers, and His love proves intensely personal and worship-inducing to those of us who have been wooed to faith in Christ by His amazing merciful Spirit. Christmas is expressed succinctly in Romans 5:8, isn’t it?
- We need a Savior. We need a Substitute, a Redeemer, a Divinely-initiated atonement, a Mediator, a King. You and I are fallen sinful people. If this is not so, then the giving of Jesus was the most absurd and useless act in all of history. God sending Jesus, the Treasure of treasures, makes no sense at all; that is unless we are truly “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1) and helpless to stand justified before Holy God on our own two feet (Psalm 130:3). God gave Jesus because we need Him!
- God takes sin seriously. Jesus was not sent to live in the lap of luxury. Oh no, Jesus was given as the One and Only perfect Law-Keeper, the Wrath-bearing Redeemer of sinners. Jesus was crushed for our sins. God gave His Son to drink from the cup of His wrath, instead of visiting our filth on our own heads. Were God not absolutely, severely and inflexibly holy, Jesus would not have had to come and die on a tree between two hated criminals. But, God is holy. His holiness demands all sins be punished. And all will be punished. For those God saves, their sins were punished in the body of Christ on the cross, and God’s wrath was fully satisfied there (Rom 8:1; 1 Peter 2:24). For those who do not repent and trust in the righteousness of Christ, God’s wrath will fall on them forever (2 Thess 1:5-11). The Gift of Jesus says God is holy and serious about sin.
- Jesus is risen from the dead and lives forever to save His people from their sins. Isn’t it ironic how many people get enamored with the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger? Yet, these same people gag at the thought of the bloody, battered Jesus hanging on the cross because of how much God truly hates the sin in their hearts and lives. Even more revealing is how many of these same people who put up manger scenes at Christmas really do not believe Jesus rose from the dead. But friends, if Jesus did not rise, Christmas is not worthy of ever mentioning again (1 Cor 15). But, because this Son that was given was indeed “Almighty God,” the grave was helpless to hold Him. Thus, our final enemy as mortal sinners has been crushed by this “seed of Eve.”
- God is forever determined to see His Son, the Gift of gifts, exalted and praised and adored and worshipped as the Sovereign Lord and King (Col 1:18). This is why God planned in eternity past to give this Gift (Eph 1). God has always purposed to see Jesus have “preeminence in all things” (Col 1:18). God will not be denied! He will get glory by saving sinners through the life, death and resurrection of His Son. This is where the rubber meets the road for Christmas. The Gift was given to ensure “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:10-11).
Here’s praying God grants you grace to receive the Gift of Christmas, the Life of Christmas, the Treasure of all treasures. His name is Jesus. God gave Him for wretches like me, not because I am worthy, but in order to reveal to me how vastly and immeasurably worthy He is and ever shall be. “He who has the Son has life” (1 John 5:12).
I love you Jesus, and only because You first loved me (1 John 4:10).