Tuesday I was reminded that it was exactly 4 months until Christmas. Please do not shoot the messenger! It is hard to believe, even with all the chaos that has happened this year that Christmas is looming on the horizon. The prophet Jeremiah tells us in chapter 31, “Behold the days are coming…” This text is usually reserved for the first Sunday in Advent. It is the promise of a new covenant that will replace the old. It is a text of hope and promise for God’s people. As I talk with people many are asking what Christmas will look like this year. And I do not have an answer. But as I think about Christmas, one thing keeps coming to mind.
Many of us will go searching for just the right gifts for people. Some of us will search a long time to find the right size or color. We will listen hard when our loved ones talk, to hear what they have said they would like. We will look at collections to make sure we do not duplicate something. Perhaps even now, we are saving our pennies. We will carefully wrap these gifts and put them under the tree. And we will eagerly await the day when our loved ones and friends open these packages. But how many of us have done this process only to watch our friend or loved one open the gift, and we know immediately they do not like it? It is frustrating and if we are honest, it stings a bit.
How must God feel then when He has given us gifts and we do not use them. We put them in the back of the closet and they never see the light of day. We use them once and do not like them. It is too challenging to use these gifts, so we don’t. And we can come up with hundreds of other excuses why. But you see, God gives us gifts…all of us… out of His goodness. He gives us gifts for our good and His glory. He gives us gifts and they are the perfect gifts, exactly what we need and when we need them.
Paul has a long discourse in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 on gifts that God has given us through the Holy Spirit. Those gifts are for us to use. When we look at the Book of James, we find this verse. James 1:17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow to change.” The word gift appears twice in this verse but in the original Greek there are actually two different words for gift. The first time “gift” is used, it is translated such that the emphasis here is placed on the act of giving or the giving of the gift. The second time “gift” is used, the focus is placed on the actual gift itself. The act of giving is good and the gift that is given is perfect.
So, we see that whenever God gives us something, He gives it to us out of His goodness. His reason for giving is always good. His timing in giving us gifts is always good. Everything about God’s giving of gifts is always good. We could say God is good…all the time and all the time…God is good. We also see that whenever God gives us something, He not only gives it out of His goodness, but He gives it for our good. Sometimes it is hard to see the things that come into our lives as good. Perhaps one of the best examples of this is Joseph. His brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt. He was put in prison while he was there, for crimes he did not commit. But eventually God used Joseph to save the lives of thousands of people, including his family. His response to his brothers was, “you intended this to harm me, but God intended it for good.” It probably didn’t look that way as Joseph languished in Pharaoh’s jail but by the grace of God, Joseph was able to see how God had worked in his life. Our challenges and struggles are like that as well. We may not see the good while we are amid struggles but afterwards, when we look backwards, we will see God’s handprints all over everything. That in and of itself is a gift.
God only gives us ‘good’ gifts but many times we don’t see them for what they really are…priceless. Often the gifts God gives are given so that we might get to know Him better. They are gifts that draw us closer to Him. Take John 3:16 for example. Ever since God sent His son to pay the price for our sins, people have been rejecting God’s good and perfect gift. God gave His finest gift out of love for the world He created, for the people He has created in His image. And people have tossed this most precious gift aside.
God gives peace and grace…God’s riches at Christ’s expense. He gives us the gift of laughter and the gift of joy. He gives us the gift of His presence and mercy we do not deserve. Every day is a precious gift. And every day is like a do-over for us. It is a chance for us to shine His light, to be His hands and feet. We give gifts because we love someone or care about them. God loved the world and gave His only Son. He didn’t give us this gift because we have earned it. We do not deserve it and we will never be able to pay for it. It is a gift. Jesus is a gift, like so many other things God has given us. So, this Christmas, after you have searched and found the perfect gift…if the recipient does not like the gift, know that you are not alone. It happens to God all the time.
In His grip,
Pastor Matt W.