If God had a Christmas tree, what gifts would we find under His tree? We are all right in the middle of our preparations for Christmas day. For most of us, that means decorating and enjoying a Christmas tree, which will have many beautifully wrapped packages underneath.
But I wonder how many of us will pause on Christmas morning as we hand out those gifts to remember God’s greatest gift to the earth…. His Son, Jesus Christ. Will we remember that in Christ there are wonderful gifts to be unwrapped and applied to our lives?
I remember my son’s first Christmas. As a new parent, I waited with intense anticipation to see my son’s reaction when he opened his Christmas presents. I got so wrapped up in my desire to experience Christmas through a child’s eyes again that I forgot that my son was less than a year old! We had to help him open his Christmas presents by tearing some of the wrapping paper off the box. Once he finally managed to open his presents it became clear that he was more interested in the box and the colorful wrapping paper than the presents! And did he pause to thank me, the giver of the presents, for giving him a few minutes of joy? Nope. He just toddled off down the hall in search of his pacifier.
I think Christians often display the same lack of understanding today when it comes to the gifts God brings us through His Son, Jesus Christ. Sometimes we are prone to ignore both the gift and the giver. Just as pretty wrapping paper and colorful gift boxes are not the true gifts of Christmas, the real gifts of God are not the external things like material possessions, position, or power. The real gifts are eternal in duration and internal in location.
There are many gifts under God’s Christmas tree we could celebrate but I want to focus on three that I think will give us ample reason for celebration this season. First, there is the gift of justification. Justification is the divine verdict that says we have been set free from the penalty of sin. The great thing about justification is that it is a “one size fits all” gift. No matter how bad your sin or how hopeless your situation, when you repent and surrender your life to Christ you are immediately clothed in His righteousness. The sinless nature of Christ is applied to your life and the guilt and stain of sin is removed. And, God has a “no return” policy on justification. Once it is given and received it can never be returned and will never be rescinded.
The second gift is the gift of peace with God. When sin entered the world through rebellion in the Garden of Eden, it set up a barrier between us and God that could not be crossed from our side of the barrier. The death of Christ on the cross removed that barrier so that we could be peacefully reconciled to God. This is the peace the angels spoke of when the announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds. The “peace on earth’ of the angels message is not a universal peace that covers the whole world but is rather an individual peace that describes the relationship between God and those who are in Christ. The book of James reminds us “friendship with the world is hostility toward God”(James 4:4). But all hostility is laid aside when we are transformed into friends of God through our relationship with Christ. Another precious gift under God’s Christmas tree is the gift of access. As believers, we now have unlimited access to the very throne room of the universe. Hebrews 4:16 says, “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Since sin brought enmity between us and God and enmity implies distance because of differences our access to God was cut off. But now Christ has replaced enmity with a close proximity to God.
Early last year, I experienced a good living illustration of the privileges of access. Christian Talk 660, the radio station where I broadcast Christian Worldview Today, sponsored a huge Christian concert at our local 16,000-seat arena. Since I am part of Christian Talk 660, I was given a special parking pass and an identification badge that associated me with the station. When I arrived at the concert traffic was backed up and there were several thousand people standing in line waiting for the doors to open. But my parking pass allowed me to bypass the traffic and park in a reserved VIP parking lot. By ID badge allowed me to walk right past several thousand people where they watched with envy as the security people opened the door for me and my wife. We had special access, not because of who we were but because of who we were associated with. The same is true for our access to God. Because we are associated with His Son through salvation we have unlimited access to God through prayer.
Where do we find these and many other wonderful gifts this Christmas? We find them under the tree…God’s Christmas tree. It isn’t an evergreen. It is an old rugged cross. It isn’t decorated with lights or tinsel. It is covered with the precious blood of God’s Son. Everyone who comes and believes will find God’s greatest gift, the gift of salvation, has their name on it.
Dr. Tony Beam is Vice-President for Student Services and Director of the Christian Worldview Center at North Greenville University in Tigerville, South Carolina.