Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christ in you: The Greatest Christmas Gift of All

Today of course is Christmas Eve and many of us are eagerly looking forward to getting together today or tomorrow for happy moments with our families, exchanging gifts and enjoying hearty food, basking in all the abundance God so richly provides. Others are not so fortunate; they may have no one to celebrate this day with, and perhaps don't even feel much like celebrating. And perhaps because they are lonely or feel disconnected from family, the holiday season for them brings on sadness.

Pray today for the lonely ones; lift them up to the Lord. And if you can do more, like inviting a lonely one to your gathering, dropping off gifts at a homeless shelter or serving a meal to the hungry, why not do it?

As I celebrate later tonight with my family, I will try to enjoy all the blessings of family itself-- to have loved ones you can be with is far more precious than whether or not we can lavish one another with gifts, or whether the time together is a successful social occasion. How easy it can be to get all wrapped up (pun intended) in gift-giving and merriment, and lose sight of deeper blessings.

Yet though having family and friends to celebrate with is a truly wonderful blessing, the true riches of Christmas go beyond our natural families and loved ones. At the heart of Christmas, after all, we are celebrating the entry of Christ into human history, the God who loved this world so much that He became one of us, lived with us and died for us, to take away our sins (Matthew 1:21, 1 John 3:5).

Do we recognize this? If Christ does not take away our sins, what are we to do with them? One may object, "but I am not so bad! I may not be perfect, but I do many good things. My good outweighs my bad. God will accept me"

Perhaps your good deeds do outweigh your bad. But is this the basis upon which God evaluates our lives? Why then did Christ come into the world and deliberately die upon a cross, as the many prophecies recorded in Scripture hundreds of years earlier predicted He would? Jesus' death on a cross was no accident. It was not God's reactive plan to a world gone wrong. God planned before the foundation of the world to bring spiritual blessings to His chosen ones. To believers the Scriptures declare,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Ephesians 1: 3-10)

The provision of redemption through Christ's blood (shed at the cross of Calvary), the forgiveness of sins (paid for by His death at Calvary), fulfills God's eternally conceived purpose. It is a purpose that expresses God's lavish grace, wisdom and insight, one which will culminate in the uniting of all things in Christ, things on heaven and things on earth.

Is this really true? If it is then God's great Christmas present is to save people from the consequences of their sins and make them into His children, in fulfillment of the plan He made long ago. Let us not miss the greatest, most critical gift of all, God's own son, the One who alone can save us from sin.

There's more to life than family and presents and earthly blessings, lovely as these are. Sin keeps us apart from God. Sin will keep us from being part of God's family and living with Him in His heaven, where all gifts are perfect and never-ending. As Scripture declares, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Cor 2:9-10).

There is no greater Christmas present we can receive than to humbly recognize that Jesus became a human baby, grew up into a man and lived a perfect life of obedience to the Father, and then died in our place upon the cross, to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). He performed what we could not do-- we cannot rid ourselves of our sin, nor as weak and sinful human beings can we live in such a way as to meet God's standards of holiness. Jesus' perfect obedience and His death on the cross justify us before God, as we by faith put our trust in Jesus as our substitute. And "there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

Receive today the greatest Christmas gift ever given-- the gift of eternal life through Christ. No gift on earth can be compared to it. This salvation is what every one of us truly needs, more than any earthly gift.

Receive the real gift of Christmas-- Christ in you (Romans 8:10-11).

Merry Christmas!

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