There was a time when the kitchen was filled with the smells of Christmas cookies, candies, and pastries. That was ten years ago. All of us are trying to eat a little healthier, and a lot of the product would go to waste now, so the girls generally spend a few hours baking a few dozen cookies for friends and family.
As I have mentioned earlier in this marathon, family is a most important part of our Christmas. Family is an important part of life itself. For most people family is a safe place. We get encouragement, counseling, discipline, support, and love from our family. Unfortunately, that is not true for everyone. The one place where all of these things are always available is Jesus Christ. The Gospel of John tells us that as many as receive Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God. It is a humbling thought to realize that God Almighty loved me enough to offer me the gift eternal life and live in His presence forever, but the choice is mine.
Salvation does not come through simply believing the fact that Christ is the Son of God. Christ tells us we must receive His gift. We are required to place our lives in His hands and trust Him to lead and guide our path through this world. We are never promised that the path will be smooth and without difficulty. We are promised that He will be with us every step of the way. Life has four requirements to be sustained, light, air, water, and food. Christ tells us that He is the bread of life (John 6:48), He is the Living Water (John 4:10), He is the Breath of Life (Revelation 11:11) and He is the Light of the World (John 8:12). Everything we need to live the Abundant Life is found is Jesus Christ.
This decoration sits in the office. The pieces are new this year. I just dropped a piece of black cardboard behind the scene for photography purposes. Yes, my wife is responsible for all interior Christmas decorations. I just get to enjoy them.
What has been the best and most memorable Christmas gift you have received? Was it that first bicycle, that first BB gun, a puppy or kitten? As a Christmas gift, it was probably my bicycle. It allowed me to travel further than ever before. In my childhood it was not unusual to ride anywhere within one square mile of my home, and I lived in a city (Tulsa, OK). I rode my bike almost two miles to school while in junior high and thought nothing of it. We don’t live in that world anymore.
In this world and at my age, I can truly say that the best gift is my family. They have provided me with more joy, tears, hope, happiness, and support than I could ever have imagined. But the greatest gift of all is the gift of salvation and eternal life through my faith in Christ. Jeremiah 29:11 God Himself tells me that He knows the thoughts that He thinks about me and they are thoughts of peace, not evil, to give me a future and a hope. I am not promised a life without sorrow, or difficulty. I am promised a future, a hope and a peace that surpasses the understanding of those who don’t know Him. I am promised a home in paradise that He creates just for me to spend eternity in His presence. Christ requires that I be honest enough to admit to Him that I am a sinful soul and not worthy of salvation. I am required to acknowledge that Christ alone is the Son of God and able to forgive me of my sin. I am required to place my life in His hands and follow His will for my life. He is the gift, the sweetest gift.
The earliest Scripture reference to a Savior is found in Genesis 3:15 when God tells the serpent (Satan) that he will crawl on his belly. God says that the seed, or offspring of Satan, will bruise the heel of the seed of God, but the seed God will bruise the head of the seed of Satan. God stepped out of heaven in the form of an infant, conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, to be born of woman.
Old Testament prophets like Isaiah told of the coming of the Messiah. Isaiah 9:6 ‘For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Child is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father Prince of Peace. The prophet Micah told us that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem 700 years before the event. When Herod asked the chief of priests and scribes where this new king was born, they replied “In Bethlehem of Judea”, and quoted the words of Micah.
Christ proclaimed “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.” That word “believe” means much for than believing a fact. It means placing your trust, faith, and life in the hands of a Savior. The birth of Christ did not automatically save the world. It is a personal relationship based on an individual decision to place our life in the hands of the one who created us. In the book of Revelation Christ says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him and he with Me.” There is a God sized void in the heart of every human and only Jesus Christ can fill that void. We have to make room for Him. He is the Hope of Christmas.
Every time I read all of the Scriptures concerning the birth of Christ I learn something new. In Luke 1:26-38 Mary has a conversation with the angel Gabriel. Gabriel announces to the teen that she has found favor with God Almighty. God has chosen her to bring the promised Savior into this world. Mary has a few questions. Since she is a virgin, Mary doesn’t understand how it is possible for her to have a child. Gabriel explains that conception will come through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Mary responds with a beautiful answer in verse 38, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be according to your word.” Have you ever volunteered for something only to wonder what the consequences of your decision might be?
When it became obvious that Mary was expecting, many people turned against her, thinking that she had been unfaithful to her fiance, Joseph. Friends of Joseph advised him to walk away from the relationship but another angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and explained the situation to him. I was struck by the fact that no one traveled with them from Nazareth to Bethlehem since Mary was ready to deliver her child at any moment. These two young people were alone.
The second chapter of Luke tells of the birth of Christ. When angels appeared to shepherds in nearby fields, they ran to see the promised Savior. After their visit they told everyone they knew what had taken place but Scripture tells us that Mary kept all of these things and pondered them in her heart. Mary took time to reflect on what had happened and probably wondered what the future would hold for her and her husband. God had entrusted them with His only Son…let that sink in.
As Christ matured and began His ministry I am sure some people asked, “Mary, did you know?” What about Joseph? After all, it wasn’t his child.