God gave us more than a puppy at Christmas

Dr. RB McFee

Email: drmcfee2020@gmail.com


Not surprisingly this time of year we are asked to name our “best” Christmas present.


Christmas presents come in all sizes, shapes, colors, living, animated, and usable formats. Often they are among our most beloved and lasting gifts, with many remaining with us long after we have forgotten the details surrounding who, how and when we received them. The ones we treasure often are the ones that bring joy well beyond Christmas. Perhaps that is why I am writing about Christmas in January….


Do our thoughts immediately turn to ….


“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

John 3:16


Alas as mere mortals we separate our temporal from spiritual selves. Or am I giving us more credit than deserved? Perhaps we don’t count Jesus as our ‘best gift,’ or we just assume the question implies the gifts humans give each other?


For me, it was a puppy. I wasn’t very old when my parents took me to select from a new litter. I can picture the drive, and still feel the excitement, the anticipation, as if it was mere moments ago. After more than a few passing requests for a dog (yes we children can be lovably relentless), I was going to have one!


I remember walking into ‘the nursery’ and immediately this lovable baby Cockapoo pushed his way through the other puppies and walked right towards me. It was mutual love at first sight. He entered my life and immediately became family. I was filled with awe at this little creature so full of life, so seemingly joyous to be hugged and appreciated. No gift except love, has ever matched the joy my four legged baby brother gave me, and I was blessed to have him for eighteen years.


Do we get as excited about God’s Gift to us? Are we filled with awe at the thought of Jesus, the infant so full of God’s life force, so joyous to be hugged? Do we swaddle our Savior with a loving reception?


Does Jesus even rank on our list of ‘best gift ever?


Most of the time the best gifts people talk about have a story associated with them. Maybe it was a sled or scooter or a special toy that brought joy in the midst of a difficult time. Kids know more than they let on, and lots of times friends will share how they overheard their parents talking about working extra jobs, or other sacrifices so the kids could to enjoy a Merry Christmas even if it meant mom and dad went without.


Sounds a lot like our Heavenly Father; He sacrificed a lot – His only begotten Son, for the rest of His children – us, so that we could have eternal life. Moreover, the Ultimate Christmas Gift – Jesus, allowed you and me to approach God, and to be in relationship with the Almighty.


“34 And Simeon blessed them and said unto Mary His mother, “behold this Child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; 35(Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

Luke 2: 34 - 35


Christmas is all about looking forward to something. One could argue our happiest times throughout the year are when we have something to look forward to – Easter, birthdays, vacations, engagement, wedding, important sporting event, or promised promotion, gift, or celebration. Sometimes we know about it in advance. Sometimes we wishfully await. Sometimes we are told to wait but it is coming.


I looked forward to a puppy for a couple years. I was developing anticipation fatigue. Would I ever get a puppy? How about adults? Do we miss Jesus when He is near? Were the Jews of 2000 years ago suffering from anticipation fatigue, too, preventing them from seeing the long promised Messiah when He was in their midst?


Even so, do we look forward to Jesus beyond a passing thought that He is ‘the reason for the season?’ And if we do, are we waiting for Him to transform us, give us some powerful gift – perhaps healing, or feeling loved, or a spouse or peace, when maybe it is Christ Himself as the Gift?


Consider….


“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”

Isaiah 9:6


God works His gifting a different way than we do or expect (Jesus reminded us, My ways are higher).


“Today in the City of David, a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord!.”

Luke 2: 11


Would anyone expect the Messiah to be born in such a situation as the Nativity story shares? Is that anyway to gift wrap the Greatest Gift from God? Mortals would have expected more Magi, less manger for a great King. But that’s not how God works. We might as well get used to the reality, the blessed reality that God’s gifts to us may come in a form far better than what we would know to ask, and far different from what we likely anticipate.

I wanted a puppy. It brought joy and so much more that Christmas long ago. God gave us a Messiah. Is it a Gift that still brings us joy?


In the earthly mindset we empty ourselves at Christmas, in anticipation of being filled up with the joy that comes from receiving the awesomeness of a hoped for best gift ever.


“7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing Power belongs to God and not to us.”

2 Corinthians 4:7 ESV


When I got my puppy I was so filled with love, and joy that I couldn’t wait to share the good news about him.


Does Jesus’ birth at Christmas fill us with that same joy that we can’t wait to share the Good News?


As Christians we need to empty ourselves especially at Christmas, to become like “jars of clay,” so that the actual Best Gift Ever, the Greatest Gift – God incarnate, can fill us; fill us so full that we have to go into the world and share Immanuel to others, too.


As an aside, “jar” in the text comes from the Hebrew word “yatsar,” which Biblically is symbolic of transformation, God’s Power to create, and relates to His Divinity. Another interpretation “Yatsar” references God as the artist, potter, as He frames, shapes us.


We, too, can empty ourselves to God and allow Him to shape us. When we empty ourselves as clean vessels ready for a Divine purpose, the Holy Spirit can fill, and transform us into something powerful in the service of God, in recognition and reflection of His Great Gift – Jesus.


“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”

John 1:14

Puppies grow up to become adult dogs. Children grow up to become adults. Some Christmas presents you return, some you keep forever, and some are unrepeatable.


Reading the Jesus Calling Devotional by Sarah Young, using the construct she is speaking inspired thoughts by Jesus, she offers this insight (paraphrased) – ‘today being alive in and of itself is a gift from God. Today is the unrepeatable gift from God. We can walk with Him and use it wisely, ready to greet whatever unexpected gift and adventure He gives, or we can squander the day, mired in focusing on problems instead of His possibilities.’


“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to Me.”

Matthew 28:18


God gave us more than a puppy at Christmas….He gave us Jesus. May we never take for granted, become blasé about, or overlook God’s Greatest Gift, our best Christmas Gift ever…. Because He is! Jesus is the Gift that truly keeps on giving. Through Him, we too can give of ourselves, and in the process let others receive what was gifted to us 2000 years ago in a noisy suburb of Jerusalem…


“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

John 3:16


God gave us more than a puppy at Christmas. He gave Himself!


May we remember how blessed we are for the Gift of Jesus, God incarnate….gift-wrapped in cloths, presented in a manger, a Heavenly Star for a bow, a stable instead of under the tree. May we remember Jesus is our ‘best Gift,’ and may He fill us with joy now and forever!


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