The Thanksgiving holiday has now passed and we are now in the throngs of the Christmas holiday season. Christmas brings overwhelming emotions for me, as I’m humbled by the manger child, the Savior of the World, who is God’s own son, who was sent to earth so that I may be in heaven one day – for eternity! That is a huge blessing to comprehend; one I don’t fully understand, but one which I am more than willing to accept as the greatest gift ever given.
I grasp that this is the season we celebrate Jesus’ birth, and I want to be an avid worshipper in that celebration. However, and more importantly, I think, I want to celebrate and worship Him every day of my life. The only gift I can offer to my Savior is my life, my gift of worship - not just at Christmas, but all throughout the year. As I thought about Christmas and Christ and how I can make this season a significant time of true offering from me to my Lord, I started researching the birth of the King Jesus. It led me to some interesting discoveries.
I discovered that, while December 25th may not be Jesus’ actual birthday, it is the day we, as believers in Christ have set aside to honor Him and His birth. We could never honor Him enough, so I’m all for there being a special time of year when we all celebrate His birth and all that it embodies in relation to the prophecies of the Old Testament. Isaiah 7:14 speaks of the imminent birth of the Savior:
"All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means 'God is with us')."
Wow! God with us – the word “gift” cannot do justice to that. It made me wonder how the gift giving tradition began at Christmas-time. And how it has gotten to the point it has gotten to in today’s culture.
The tradition of giving gifts in this season can be traced to the Magi (aka the Wise Men) who came from the east of Jerusalem to greet the Babe in the manger with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The gold offered to Christ was symbolic of what one did in ancient times to offer tribute at the reign of a new King. And frankincense, the aromatic incense used in sacred rituals, was offered to the Christ child according to tradition as a token of his being the Son of God. And finally the Magi's offering of myrrh, often used to prepare a body for burial, was a foretelling of the destiny of the Christ child as the suffering servant who would be crucified and die.
So how did we get from the original intent of honoring the Savior with our gifts to where our culture is today? I’m afraid, for many, the Christmas season has become one of commercialization and, often, greed. It’s possible that many of us have evolved into celebrating merely a season instead of its reason. We go into debt to buy gifts we can’t afford for children and people that don’t truly know how to appreciate or value them. It looks like we may have gotten things backwards. Not totally unusual for us humans, really. We tend to do that a lot.
So, am I the only one that would really like to make the main thing the main thing at Christmas time again? I don’t think so. I’m impressed that many of you would like a simple Christmas; a kinder, gentler Christmas where we focus on what God did for us through bringing us a baby in a manger to save the world. As we ponder the awesome scope of that, let us give the only gift that really matters. O COME LET US ADORE HIM!