Published December 13, 2011

Paul's Epistle...
"The Greatest Gift"

What is your favorite Christmas Scripture? Most likely the first thing that comes to mind is Luke Chapter 2. It is, indeed, the most direct and beautiful telling of the Christmas story:

"So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn" (vss 3-7).

But, although the story is told beautifully, it is about what happened – not why. So, if we step back from the "what" to the "why," we find another verse that sets up the story. And it's a verse you probably know by heart – John 3:16:

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."

There, in that one verse, we find out the whole reason behind Christmas. We find out why it happened – "for God so loved the world." We find out what happened – "He gave His only begotten Son." And we find out the outcome of it all – "that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."

If it were not for the truths of John 3:16, there would be no Christmas. If God would not have sent His Son, there would be no hope for any of us. We would each face eternity separated from God – doomed to eternal punishment for our sins. But....God.....loved!

Max Lucado, in his book "3:16," puts it this way: "Look at the belly of the pregnant peasant girl in Bethlehem. God's in there; the same God who can balance the universe on the tip of his finger floats in Mary's womb. Why? Love. Peek through the Nazareth workshop window. See the lanky lad sweeping the sawdust from the floor? He once blew stardust into the night sky. Why swap the heavens for a carpentry shop? One answer: love. Love explains why he came."1

"For God so loved the world that He gave..."  He gave!

There's where this whole gift-giving tradition at Christmas got started, yes, even before the Magi gave their gifts to the infant Jesus. God Himself was the first Christmas gift-giver. And what a Gift it was! Many hundreds of years before it happened, Isaiah prophesied the Gift: "For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given..." (Isaiah 9:6).

Oh, that we could give our Christmas gifts as lovingly as God gave. Christ does, of course, want us to show love: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34-35). Someone has noted, "You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving."

But, hard as we might try (and we should), no gift that we can give will even come close to God's gift – a gift for all who believe, a gift of life eternal for all who will simply and earnestly accept that free gift of salvation. That's what Christmas is all about – God's gift of His Son, who brings us the amazing gift of eternal life with Him.

The great thing about God's gift is that it's a gift we can share with others. It's not like the common practice of "re-gifting," in which a gift we've received is repackaged and given to someone else (because we didn't want it anyway). This gift – God's gift – is a gift that can be shared with everyone. It's a gift that is as big and as plentiful as everyone who will ever receive it! It's a "whosoever" gift!

Is there someone with whom you can share this amazing gift this Christmas?

"Thank God for His Son — a gift too wonderful for words!" (2 Cor. 9:15 NLT).

- Paul

1. Max Lucado, "3:16," pps 38-39.

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