When I was 8 years old, my parents got my brother and me the original Nintendo gaming system. Our friends and a few family members already had it, and we had been asking for it for some time. The excitement, wonder, and eagerness rushes back after 29 years when I think on ripping the paper off of that present. I’m not sure we went to bed that night trading turns pointing that silly gun at the TV screen during Duck Hunt or bouncing with Mario on all those goombas (think moving mushrooms) and koopa troopas (turtles). As childhood Christmas’s go, that Nintendo system tops the list of favorite Christmas gifts.
It may sound cheesy or trite, but it’s nevertheless true: we get to give gifts at Christmas because God gave the greatest gift of all to the world. While I believe it’s important to guard against all the hoopla and distractions the Christmas season may bring, I believe it’s just as important that we see the underlying foundation of all the hoopla is ultimately Jesus. The tiny baby wrapped up in whatever towels (or rags) that Mary and Joseph could muster became the most beautifully wrapped present of all. In the incarnation of Jesus Christ, God himself enclosed his very essence, power, and holiness in flesh and bone. That gift would be broken open three decades later on the cross so that humanity could receive all he had to offer. Following his death, that gift would be wrapped up again, this time in burial clothes. He would be placed into another container, the tomb. Only, those clothes and that tomb couldn’t hold him. This Jesus, wrapped neatly and set carefully in that crafted cave in death would burst out from these weak trappings. In the resurrection, the greatest gift unwrapped himself! But God didn’t stop giving there. Only a few short weeks later, Jesus would go back to God the Father and send his helper, the Holy Spirit, as his ever-present present to live in us and be with us.
In Jesus’ incarnation, God gave us the gift of himself to become the perfect example of humanity. In Jesus’ death, God gave us the gift of forgiveness for our sinfulness by placing the punishment for the sins of the world on Jesus on the cross. In Jesus’ resurrection, by defeating death and rising to new life, God gave us the gift of eternal life for those who would receive him and believe on him. In sending the Holy Spirit, God gave us the gift of his continual presence living out his salvation through us each and every day.
And he keeps giving gifts! When Christians give to church plants, international missions, or the needy, they become the very hands of God giving his goodness out into the world. When Christians serve in their churches or communities, they give the gift of kindness to those in need. Most importantly, when Christians go on mission, they take the ultimate gift of Christmas, the redemption of the world, to those who have yet to receive Jesus. In each of these, and so many more, God gives his goodness through them. Every one of these gifts sits like a beautifully wrapped and expertly bowed present awaiting an eager, bright-eyed boy or girl to rip it open.
This Christmas, you’ll probably enjoy taking the time to remember your favorite gift you’ve been given along the way. Then, remind yourself that the true and better Santa, God himself, has given you Jesus. That gaming system years ago sure was fun, but against the backdrop of Jesus, it’s hardly anything. He’s become my favorite gift by far. The greatest gift of all! And he’s a gift God’s perfectly fine with us regifting.