The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring good news that will cause great joy for all people. Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:10, 11 (NIV)
What was it again that the angels brought to the shepherds that first Christmas Eve? New sandals? New staffs? New robes? No, they brought none of these, not even a t-shirt to commemorate the occasion. To the shepherds, the angels unveiled something of far greater value than anything money could buy—the Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord, the One promised through the ages and now with us for eternity.
Two thousand years later, we still celebrate Christmas by giving and receiving gifts. It can be a season of surprise and joy, and it can just as easily be a time of disappointment, such as when we can’t afford to buy what we want to give or when our gift goes unappreciated. But have you ever noticed that the best gifts we ever receive are the intangible ones that touch us inside? They show up as acts of kindness and expressions of goodness, and they often come when we most need them and least expect them. It’s the genuine smile igniting in our heart the warm glow that spreads, in turn, across our own face. It’s the beautiful tone of the encouraging word that sets our soul to song. It may be the unexpected deed of a stranger or the dependable help of a neighbor that restores our depleted supply of hope. Like the announcement of the angels, these acts of love cannot be bought, but only given; they are free, yet also priceless.
There is something curious, yet consistent, about these intangible gifts of the soul: we cannot contain them; they overflow from the inside out, and we eagerly give them away almost as quickly as we receive them. Isn’t it true, for instance, that we love others most freely when someone has done something loving for us? Don’t we give most generously after someone else has first selflessly given to us? Aren’t we most inclined to offer encouragement when we’ve been uplifted by the affirming words of another? And when are we ever more forgiving than when someone has forgiven us for our own mistakes?
This is the gift of Christmas. Jesus, the Son of God, came to take upon Himself the punishment for all our sins; He loves us that much. God calls us to draw near to Him and to live life in His presence with confidence and joy; He forgives us that much. When we trust in His forgiveness of us—and in His love for us—we are free to flourish in life, free of guilt, free of shame, free of fear; we are encouraged. And as we experience in ourselves the love, forgiveness, and confidence we receive from God, it is then that we freely give these same priceless gifts to others who journey this life with us and all around us. There is nothing people need more than these, and it costs us nothing to give them.
This Christmas, enjoy the meal, and enjoy the gifts, including the most valuable ones—the ones we cannot see, yet treasure the most.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
Christ in me is freedom.