I recently talked with a few friends and they all echo the same sentiment; this year has been hard. Some would go so far as to label it a time of unraveling. We all thought we were headed for a smoother ride, with COVID in the rearview mirror. Unfortunately, the year has presented all the angst as the last 2 years. The only difference being, fewer mask requirements.
One woman shared she received one of those early morning calls that change the trajectory of your day. Her sister had just learned her diagnosis was the worst-case scenario. A friend said goodbye to both of her parents – first mom and then dad. And then there was a couple whose prodigal child is still wayward and their hearts ache for reconciliation. There are lost daughters searching for their identity in activities that only bring heartache and sons who’ve lost their hope, hiding in the abyss of video games. Illness took its toll, some lives were fully restored, others face lifelong challenges, and still, others remain with us in body but their minds have died from the grip of addiction. And our world, our world is more divided and angrier than ever before. There is so much sadness encircling our lives this Christmas season.
You may be asking yourself what does any of this have to do with this post’s title, Uncovering the Best Gift this Christmas? Perhaps you were hoping for a sweet story that spurred a childhood memory or caused a smile to creep across your face. And all my opening lines have done is cause you to question if you will continue reading. Well, I’m going to ask you to hang in there, keep reading. I promise to end this piece by offering you the best Christmas gift you could ever unwrap.
I’ve been studying the Old Testament. It’s been an interesting journey, following our forefathers from a perfect garden, to Egyptian captivity, through the desert, and into the promised land. Vicariously watching them try to have a relationship with God all while attempting to maintain control. They practiced the letter of the law, embracing a system of sacrifices, yet with each act of forgiveness came the need to repeat their efforts over and over again. All their faithful rituals proved futile as soon as they touched the forbidden, ate the prohibited, or had an offensive thought. And what I am finding is that all this history, all the sacrifices, all the attempts of being self-sufficient point to one thing, as humans we can’t fix our sin problem or the world’s brokenness.
The thing that started this cascade of sin and separation was a simple act of pride. Eve, in a moment of “I’ve got this God”, defies His instruction, His attempt to protect. And from that point forward, we have lived with the consequences of our desire to be the gods of our lives. Over the ages, all of our self-righteous choices have and will continue to result in a distancing from God and the best He desires for us.
But God knew the problem would take more than our inconsistent ability to obey or the shedding of innocent animals’ blood. God knew our brokenness could only be repaired through full restitution. We needed a Savior, someone, perfectly capable of paying for all that is broken in our world and within our hearts – past, present, and future. Someone to bring hope amid heartache, comfort in place of loss, and purpose to lost dreams. Someone that can provide the answers to our loneliness and aimless wandering.
All through the Old Testament, the picture of a perfect mediator was etched into stone tablets. And God used His faithful servants to remind us, show us, that we aren’t enough in our power.
God sent us a solution, the baby Jesus, swaddled in a manger, His One and Only, that Christmas day. The fulfillment of the law, in flesh and blood, once and for all. Yet, His birth alone would never be enough to save us from ourselves. It took the living and the giving of His life.
And this is where my promise for the best Christmas gift you could ever unwrap is fulfilled.
Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life so that He could take on the sin of every man, woman, and child throughout all space and time. He carried our sin and the world’s brokenness, on his back to the cross. And as He died, He paid the restitution needed to cover us through eternity. A few days later, Jesus’ life was restored. He walked this earth, proving His power over the grave and fulfilling all of God’s promises throughout history.
I’ve come to see Jesus’ birth as one critical part that makes up this powerful redemption story. His sacrifice on the cross and resurrection from the grave makes the story complete. And the outcome of this combination of truths is the gift I give to you.
Jesus loves you this I know because he lived and died for you and me. I hope you open this precious gift this year, hold it close to your heart, and allow it to transform your mind. It is the very best gift you will ever receive for Christmas.