What Does Jesus Want For Us and From Us This Christmas?

The Annunciation to the Shepherds. 12th century. Unknown painters.

2 Corinthians 9:7, 8, 12-15

As I sat to prepare a message for this second day of the Twelve Days of Christmas, a question came to mind: what gifts would Jesus want? That pondering opened on to more questions about the nature of gifts and the gift that is Jesus. I finally arrived at a title for the message: What Does Jesus Want For Us and From Us This Christmas?

As I began my research, I quickly discovered that I’m not the only one asking questions along these lines. Christmas is, after all, Jesus’ birthday. So what’s on His list? For what does His heart yearn? It’s easy, in the frenzy of Christmas activity, to overlook the longings of the One who got this whole Christmas thing started in the first place.

So what does Jesus want for us and from us this Christmas? We could come up with one very obvious answer and say, simply: He wants us. He wants you. He wants me. That’s what the whole baby in a manger thing was about. The Creator desired relationship with the created and made the first step to initiate that relationship. The God of Heaven and Earth humbled Himself and took on flesh and blood to walk among us, to know us more intimately, to embrace us fully.

Jesus came as a gift, wrapped in swaddling cloths and the Apostle Paul refers to Him as the “indescribable gift.” God, the first giver, selflessly gave Himself to us in the Person of the Son, and all true Christian giving is a response of gratitude for that gift that is beyond description.

Charles Swindoll, in addressing our passage for today, asked the question, “how do you wrap an indescribable gift?” He suggests that the baby Jesus came wrapped, not only in swaddling cloths, but in prophecy. As I noted in earlier entries on this site, more than 300 prophecies were all fulfilled in Jesus.

Some 600 years before the birth of Christ, Isaiah foretold that God would give a sign to indicate the arrival of the long-promised Messiah. In Isaiah 7:14, we read that the sign would be a virgin who would be with child and would give birth to a son who would be called Immanuel (which means God with us). And, this Child, Isaiah said, would be born in Bethlehem and would be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. And so it was.

But the baby Jesus wasn’t wrapped just in swaddling cloths or in prophecy; He also came wrapped in history and in mystery. Our faith is based on fact and Charles Wesley’s hymn, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, speaks powerfully of the mystery of the incarnation: “Christ by highest heaven adored; Christ the everlasting Lord! Late in time behold Him come, Offspring of the virgin’s womb; Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail the incarnate deity. Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel.”

So Jesus—the everlasting God, God who took on flesh—came as a gift. Let’s take a moment to consider what comes to those who receive this gift. Well, first, of course, there is the gift of existence itself. The gospel writer John tells us that the world was made through Jesus. In Him was life and that life was the light, holding out hope, bringing salvation. From Jesus, as well, come the gifts of mercy, forgiveness, healing, cleansing. From the Lord we also receive, as gifts, the weapons of spiritual warfare: the breastplate of righteousness; the belt of truth; the sandals of peace; the shield of faith; the sword of the Spirit. All these are given to those who follow Him so that we might be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.

Then there is the gift of the Lord’s presence, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus has sent to guide us into all truth, to empower us for service, to bring to remembrance His words, to comfort us, to abide with us.

And then there are all of the spiritual gifts: preaching, teaching, hospitality, administration, and prophecy among them. Each individual, upon receiving Christ, is granted at least one spiritual gift that is to be used for the building up of the church.

One of Ripley’s Believe it or Not items helps us understand spiritual gifts. A plain bar of iron is worth about $5. That same bar of iron, if made into horseshoes, would be worth $50. If the bar were made into needles, it would be worth $5,000. If it were made into balance springs for fine Swiss watches, it would be worth $500,000.

God has given us spiritual gifts but we must use and develop them. This gift-emphasizing season offers us an opportunity to take another look at our gifts, not the material ones, but the spiritual gifts under God’s tree. And we might think of God’s tree as the Cross of Calvary. In First Peter 2:24 and 25, we read that Jesus bore our sins in His body on the tree that we might die to sin and live for righteousness. The tree, that played its part in the condemnation of humankind in the Garden of Eden, has been redeemed through Christ’s work on it. And we are told in Revelation 22 that the redeemed ones of God will be given access to the Tree of Life and will enter the Holy City of God.

The grandest of gifts we are able to place under our Christmas trees fade in comparison with the gifts of God.

God invites us to open His gifts to us at Christmas. First, the gift of salvation and then all the others He has given to us. Imagine a child on Christmas morning leaving presents unopened yet millions of people are doing something just like that by ignoring or rejecting Jesus Christ as Savior.

To experience the joy of this season, folks don’t have to blot out daily problems, family difficulties, and individual struggles. Difficult situations do not deter Christ. He shows up where there is no light and takes up residence where there is no music. What Christ offers cannot be experienced by whipping ourselves into an escapist trance, in which we see nothing but candles and hear nothing but silver bells. Christmas comes only with Christ. And Christ wants us to open up and use our gifts.

And, when you give gifts, what do you look for in the recipient? A response signaling joy and gratitude. It’s what makes gift giving so satisfying. And what is our response to the gifts of God? What does Jesus want for us and from us: that same joy and gratitude and the giving of ourselves in return. It’s what He really wants for Christmas. This is the season that’s all about gift giving.

Jesus wants us to give cheerfully of ourselves in gratitude for all He has given us. Jesus wants us to love honorably, to set our hearts on Him, to follow Him and serve Him and love Him all our days. Our service—our words and deeds, our confession of the gospel of Christ—will lead others to praise God for His grace and mercy. This is what makes for a Merry Christmas. And this is what makes for joy all the year through.

What might some of that joy and gratitude look like at Christmas?

This Christmas let us not expect or attempt utter perfection.
Let’s not ask if the pies are homemade.
Let’s choose to be happy.
Let’s not care who gets the credit.
Let’s give up playing the martyr or the victim.
When in doubt, let’s keep quiet. And, sometimes, when we know what we know, let’s keep quiet.
Let’s not sweat the small stuff.
Let’s focus on what’s really important.
Let’s give Jesus contrite and yielded spirits, loving and giving hearts.
Let’s give Jesus minds that are focused on things above, minds that are being renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Let’s give Jesus mouths that speak forth His praises, tongues that confess Him as Lord, tongues that are held on a tight rein. Let's speak words that build up, not words that hurt.
Let’s give Jesus our hands reaching out to heal and to love and to bless, feet that are ready to travel to share the message of peace, bodies that are dedicated as temples to the Lord, lives that witness to the truth and the power of the gospel.

Let us continue to reach out to the oft-neglected that are of such concern to Jesus: the poor, the hungry and thirsty, the sick, the imprisoned. Let us continue to reach out in practical ways, confident in the knowledge that whenever we minister to one of these, so readily overlooked, so ignored, we are ministering, we are giving to the Lord.

Let us give the gift of prayer. Let us resolve to walk more closely with and to walk more in the ways of Jesus. Let us give time we don’t think we have. Let us extend our celebration of Christ beyond Christmas.

Let us honor Jesus by giving gifts of the intangibles. We might define an intangible as something that you cannot touch with your hands. Instead, it is something that touches you—your spirit, your emotions, your imagination. The intangibles are the gifts that we should never forget to give at Christmas. The intangibles are also the more precious gifts that lie behind and give meaning to the tangibles.

Let us truly seek to touch the heart of Jesus by giving Him our joy and gratitude and, in so doing, let us have a Merry Christmas season as we devote ourselves to the One whose birth we celebrate.


(Note: I have done my best to make proper attributions, but--as this entry was composed using notes in my files--these attributions may not be complete. I apologize for any and all omissions.)

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