We give gifts for all kinds of occasions… birthdays, welcomes, farewells, weddings, baby showers, retirements, graduations, Christmas, and sometimes for no special occasion… just because! Of all the gifts you have personally received, is there any one gift that stands out in your memory? There is for me, but ironically, I didn’t receive it or give it. It wasn’t so much the gift, as it was the process by which the gift was given.
When my nephew graduated from high school, my sister and brother-in-law wanted to give him a special gift to express their love and demonstrate how proud they were of him. At the conclusion of the graduation ceremony, they invited family and friends to a special party in their son’s honor. Many of our family came to celebrate.
At the appointed time we gathered, and each family brought a card or gift. Among all the gifts, there was one package that stood out. It was an exceptionally large one with instructions that it was to be opened last. All the younger cousins tried to help Jimmy guess what could possibly be inside the box. After the meal, it was time to open the gifts. With all his younger cousins watching and cheering him on, Jimmy opened each one until there was just one last package to open...the big one from mom and dad.
He carefully opened the box and looked inside. To his surprise it contained another box. This pattern was repeated until he reached a very tiny box. With a growing sense of curiosity, he slowly opened the box. The box contained three things... two pieces of metal and a note with instructions on where to find the rest of the gift. Many of his younger cousins couldn’t understand why he was so excited about two keys. They were not old enough to realize the connection between those keys and something else—the promise of a car.
The note explained that there would be a series of clues in the form of riddles that, if carefully followed, would eventually lead to the opportunity to use his keys. Jimmy was assured that “he who endured to the end” would receive the promised final gift.
Now with a retinue of cousins, aunts, and uncles, and with a growing sense of expectation, Jimmy eagerly set out on his quest. His first clue led him to a large tree on the center campus of the academy. With the help of his cousins, he soon found the hidden note and riddle leading to the next clue. This process was repeated many times. I’m sure there were several moments throughout the adventure when he thought, “I wish they would have just given me the car!” Finally, the clues led him to a parking lot full of cars. Now he had to see which car responded to his keys. However as promised, because he stuck to it, soon he was sitting behind the wheel of his very first car...a 1978 Plymouth Sapporo.
We have all received many gifts. At the time they were appreciated, but most of them are forgotten in the rush of life. Each year as December approaches, the whole world focuses on gifts. Manufacturers and retail stores promote, advertise, and remind us that this is a time of giving. For many, this time of year brings a refreshing sense of good will and compassion.
The Christmas season reminds us of the greatest of all gifts. Not everyone responds to this Gift in the same way. Some ignore it all together, while others only enjoy hearing about how the gift-wrapped Package was delivered to us in the form a baby at Bethlehem. God’s Gift to humanity…Divinity wrapped up in human form. Salvation in a package!
Along with this “Package,” we have received a small gift with a key inside and instructions, with the assurance that if we “endure to the end” and use the key, it will enable us to receive the final gift of love from Divinity... not a car but something infinitely better—eternal fellowship with God.
The label on the package reads, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son 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” (Isa. 9:6).
Very few realized the importance and value of the Gift when it came. There have been 2,000 plus years of telling and retelling the story, but do we even now understand and appreciate its importance?
When Jesus came to this earth, Israel was looking for a King that would provide peace and the comforts of this world. Are we any different? We hear of wars and rumors of wars. We experience famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. People ‘s lives around the globe are altered because of personal safety concerns along with a worldwide financial breakdown. Don’t we also long for safety and stability in this world? All these problems existed to some extent when Jesus was born in Bethlehem but, surprisingly, Jesus didn’t come to fix or even address these problems.
He came to meet our greatest need...to be reunited to the Source of Life. Sin separated us from God and Satan has successfully distorted our picture and understanding of God. Jesus came to show us what the Father is really like and the way of Salvation which offers the power to realign our priorities with His.
After Union forces drove the Confederate army out of Richmond, Virginia, President Abraham Lincoln, sensing a turning point in the Civil War, decided to personally assess the damage and tour what had been the headquarters of the Confederate states. While there, he went to visit the very office of his counterpart Jefferson Davis. As he walked into the Confederate president’s office, he sat behind the desk so recently vacated. From that viewpoint, he looked around the room. Seeing papers on the floor, he reached down and picked some up. It was Confederate money. At the beginning of the war, it was perceived to be worth what was stated on it, but now it was totally worthless.
Satan is leading a rebellion against God’s government. Every time he has engaged in direct battle with God, he has lost. Now this civil war is almost over. God has broken the power of the enemy and has offered to drive Satan and his army out of the headquarters of our hearts. He will personally sit behind the desk of our decision making. All of sin’s promised enticements are like the Confederate money lying on the floor in Jefferson Davis’ office—unable to deliver the value it promised.
God has given us the “car” keys which represent the power of choice. We cannot untangle ourselves from the power of sin, but we can choose to allow God to free us from it. The power of sin is in the desire and attraction for things that are contrary to God’s law. God breaks the power and practice of sin by taking our desire for it away and replacing it with a desire for heavenly things.
All of this sounds so simple. Almost like a light switch—Jesus comes in, Satan goes out. But as it is played out in our lives, the battle is intense. The intensity is not in the battle between Jesus and Satan. The cross of Calvary was the decisive moment that signaled the outcome of the war. The battle is now over who we allow to control our minds and hearts.
When we encounter Satan in our own strength, we lose every time. When we choose to surrender our will to Jesus, Satan loses every time. We remain victorious until we start to make decisions independently. This process is repeated throughout our life. Perhaps many times, like Jimmy searching for his car, we wish God would just give us the final victory over sin once and for all. But this process must take place while sin is still an option. God’s plan is to teach us to cooperate with Him, relying on His strength, and incorporate His thinking and values into the fiber of our being. This happens one thought at a time until, as promised, we become like God in character.
This is not a seasonal Gift, but one that is essential every moment to initiate and deepen our fellowship with God. The part of this Gift that is yet to be realized is continued intimacy with our Creator and God, free from the presence of sin for all eternity.
As you reflect over last year and make plans for 2022, how has this Gift impacted your life?