16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. — John 3:16-17 (ESV)
All of us love to receive gifts. Most of us love to give gifts. Giving is a universal expression of love. We give because we love. The greater the love, the greater the gift. The greater the gift, the greater the love. Some gifts are purchased while others are personally crafted. But the most costly gift is the gift of self. There is nothing greater that we can give to another than our own life.
Christmas is a celebration marked by gift giving. On average, Americans spend nearly a trillion dollars during the Christmas holiday season. As Christians, we give gifts because we have received an incredibly costly gift from God. At Christmas, God gave us his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.
God has given us so many things. We live in a world that is saturated with physical beauty. We enjoy a lavish diversity of flavors in the food and drink we partake of. We experience awe as we take in the beauty of snow-capped mountains. We sense warmth in relationships with friends and family. All of these are good gifts from God (James 1:7). And as great as these gifts are, they pale in comparison to the gift God gave us at Christmas.
The Apostle John tells us that God’s love for this broken and sinful world was so great that he gave his only begotten Son, Jesus. Don’t misunderstand that. The birth and Advent of Jesus is not a statement about the great intrinsic worth or value of the world. Rather, the birth and Advent of Jesus is a statement about the infinite, eternal, and perfect love of God (Ephesians 3:14-21). Jesus was given to us at Christmas not because of what we deserved but in spite of what we deserved!
Jesus, the light of God, stepped into this dark world (Isaiah 9:2). Jesus came to bring salvation to a world that was drowning in condemnation (John 3:17). Jesus came to be with us, to be for us, and to die in our place for our sins that we might be saved (Matthew 1:21-23).
This is not just love. This is the greatest love because Jesus is the greatest gift!
We cry out in gratitude, oh Heavenly Father.
Despite our unworthiness, you bestow your wonderful gifts
upon us lavishly and unconditionally.
Your radiance is unrivaled. All around, we see evidence of
your provision and sovereign hand.
Thank you for giving us what you know we need,
not simply what we want.
We don’t have to look far to see your artistry at work; we only need to smell the head of a newborn babe, to relish in the first sip of a toasty drink on a frosty morning, to watch the wintry clouds swirl in the sky. Even the seemingly mundane—an ant tiptoeing across a window sill, being able to see our breath on a December evening—even these are gifts! Your glory abounds.
Despite your kingly generosity, we are often discontent.
We chase after luxury and grandeur, yet in the face of the greatest gift imaginable, we balk and slink back to our own patterns of squalor. O Lord, forgive our greed! For you offer joy in abundance beyond measure.
Today, we lay aside our filth and turn toward your goodness.
You stepped down into our darkness to wash us white as snow: who are we to want more than your cleansing touch?
This Advent, may you radicalize our gift giving and receiving with gratitude for the costliest gift of all.
Father, let your generosity inspire ours.
Oh, for the grace to give more! Oh, for the boldness to proclaim
the magnificence of Christ—the greatest gift!
We pray: in some small way, use our gratitude and our generosity in your work to nourish this pained world, every day until we see you face to face.