By now it is likely that all of the gifts that were once under your Christmas tree have been distributed, opened, and enjoyed. The wrapping paper is in the recycling bin and the house put back in order after the joy of exchanging gifts. Christmas gifting has been a tradition since before our existence and it recalls the story of the Magi who came to worship the Christ-child and to present the newborn King with royal gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Nowadays, we give gifts to our children, spouses, relatives, friends, and coworkers not as an expression of reverence or act of worship, but as a sentiment of love.
Imagine for a moment that you are a child on Christmas morning. You’ve just unwrapped and appreciated all of your Christmas gifts when your parents suddenly hand you a detailed bill for all of the items you just received, plus the cost of wrapping paper and bows. Unfortunately, the money you have in your piggy bank is not enough to cover their expenses, so you tell your parents you’ll do your best to work around the house to pay back the remaining balance – you’ll rake the leaves, clean the garage, take out the trash, and wash the car. But, every time your parents incur an expense for you, you’re handed another bill – your birthday present, your school supplies, your clothing, room, and board. As hard as you try to work to pay them back, you just can’t seem to make any progress and your debt keeps piling up.
This is often how we view our relationship with God. We make mistakes in life, we act in ways that are offensive to Him and we try our best to make up for it, but things go from bad to worse. Despite our efforts to do good and to love others, we continue to fail and our sin-debt accrues. Our only hope of ever being free is if someone else can pay our debt for us, someone who has no debt of their own. Friends, this is precisely why Jesus came. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21 ESV) Jesus, God incarnate, came to free us from the consequences of our sin. This freedom is not something that can be earned (Eph. 2:8), but is offered freely. You see, that’s the very definition of gift – something given voluntarily, without expectation of payment. Jesus is the greatest gift we have ever received and His life was sacrificed on a cross not out of obligation or responsibility, but out of love. As you reflect on all of the gifts that have been shared, I pray you will wonder at the gift of God’s grace offered to us through His Son, Jesus Christ.
Rev. Timothy Wilmetti – Bluffton First & Rockport UMCs