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What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.
— Galatians 4:1–7
My oldest son just celebrated his 18th birthday on Saturday. We took him out for a surprise dinner with his buddies and we gave him his gift. It gives me a deep sense of joy to have the ability to bless him. I love getting to celebrate his birthday during the Christmas season each year. Therefore, it goes without saying that Christmas and the birth of my firstborn son will forever be linked in my mind. Both Christmas and Luke’s arrival point me to the joy associated with birth and life in general. Both have truly changed everything. So, like I have done on most of his birthdays, I paused this week write Luke a letter telling him how much he means to me. I file it away and plan to give it to him later in life. I consider it part of his relational inheritance.
As I paused to write this letter, I couldn’t help but think about how grateful I am to have a God who is “rich in mercy.” I am so glad that my children’s success and safety does not ultimately hinge on my performance as a parent. They have been committed into the hands of a loving heavenly Father — Abba — who actually has the capacity to always do what is right. I am flawed and certainly limited in my vision. He assuredly is not.
In addition to making me grateful, this letter writing ritual forces me to think about how much I love my children. I want the best for them, and I so wish I could take their place when they are hurt or discouraged. Honestly, I get pretty angry when my children are injured and I would do anything to make it better. That’s the heart that characterizes a dad.
And God is the Father, Abba, Dad…
Can you dads imagine allowing your son to endure the pain of the cross so that others might live? Can you even wrap your mind around the idea of sending your child out of paradise and into a fallen, broken, shattered world? That’s what God did at Christmas, and he knew how it was going to end. It is the scandalous idea of allowing Jesus to come to earth, face persecution, and ultimately die on the cross. I get angry just thinking about it, but then again I’m not God.
Because of the advent of Jesus, you and I stand to inherit a relationship with God. That is the message of Christmas that resonates deep within our souls. A longing for harmony with our Redeemer can be fulfilled. This text is part of a beautiful love letter called the Bible.. And to think it was written to us and delivered to us — from our “Dad”.
I don’t want to brag, but I received a really big inheritance from my mom and dad. I mean, really big. So big, in fact, that it will take me my entire life to spend.
The best thing about this inheritance is that, even though my mom and dad have already passed it on, they themselves have not passed on. That’s because this is not the kind of inheritance you get after someone dies — it’s an inheritance you receive while they’re still living.
Pretty cool, huh?
The truth is, my mom and dad do just fine financially, but the richness of their life goes way beyond their bottom line. They have taught me through their actions that, while scarcity may apply to economics, it doesn’t apply to generosity. They have shown me over and over again that you can spend yourself freely, giving yourself for others, and still have generosity left over. In short, while they don’t live rich, they do live richly.
When Jesus came on the scene that first Christmas, the Jews were feeling anything but rich. Their glory days under kings David and Solomon were long gone. Struggling under the sharp edge of a Roman boot, they longed desperately for a Savior who would liberate them and restore the prominence of their kingdom. But Jesus had a different kingdom in mind.
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
— Matthew 4:17
While the kingdom of heaven may not be at the top of our Christmas wish lists, we shouldn’t be too disappointed by what he’s offering.
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
— Matthew 13:44
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
— Matthew 13:45
In both parables, the kingdom of heaven is depicted as incredibly valuable. And in each case, it appears that the treasure came at the end of a search. It’s possible that the treasure never would have been found if they had not been looking for it.
Are we searching for it?
Most of us, by nature, are not treasure seekers. We are scavengers. Rather than deliberately searching for something of great value, we live off of the scraps that we find around us. We figure that, as long as we can make it through today, we’re okay. But God’s vision for us is so much greater.
I am grateful that my parents are not scavengers, but seekers. In seeking, they found something so valuable that they have more than enough of it to give away to others. I have been the glad recipient of this for much of my life, and it has whet my appetite for doing the same. I’m still a novice at it, but I’m learning my way around a shovel and how to dig deep into what the kingdom of heaven is all about.
So this Christmas, don’t just long for bigger or better scraps. Seek after that which is truly valuable. Jesus promises that when you seek, you will find (Matthew 7:1), so you’re guaranteed a return on your investment. Plus, you’ll have an inheritance that you can pass along to others. And that will make you truly rich indeed.
Just ask my parents.
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
— Philippians 2:1–8
It’s easy to become cynical about gift giving this time of year. I hear people complain all the time about, how expensive and materialistic it is. They talk about how we need to get back to the roots of Christmas and spend the night in barns or something like that.
I’ll admit, there is probably some truth to that. We do talk about gifts this time of year more than we talk about Jesus. That may be problematic, but on the flip side, we are also more generous.
The most amazing part of the Christmas season is generosity. Maybe I look at the world through rose-colored glasses this time of year, but I believe that people are more giving at Christmas than at any other time. And it’s not just Christians. I think everyone is more mindful of sharing from the abundance they have, which is remarkable to think about. Even nonbeleivers give more this time of year.
We spend hours thinking about things we can do for the people we love. We spend days trying to make them happy or bring them some kind of joy. I love that. Not only are we more generous, but the entire season gets us thinking about ways we can use our resources to bring joy to others.
I think it is a great way to honor the birth of our savior. His life was that. He spent every moment working towards a sacrificial gift that would benefit those he loved the most: us. He gave us everything he had.
When you think about it, the very thing we celebrate, the birth of Christ, was also the first Christmas gift. God Gave us his son.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
— John 3:16
This is not a justification for materialism. (I see you, cynics.) It’s a reason to give generously, to love generously, and to live generously. I hope that, this year and in the next, you will live more generous lives and that you will be like Paul describes to Timothy: “rich in good deeds” (1 Timothy 6:17–19). I cannot think of a better way for God’s people to celebrate.
Thanks be to God for His gift that is too wonderful for words.
— 2 Corinthians 9:15
A few years ago I read the script of a sermon that Rick Warren delivered to his congregation. It was entitled God’s Christmas Gift To You. Some of those thoughts are included below.
Have you ever received a gift within a gift? I heard once about a woman who got some gloves for a gift and when she went to put them on, she found a 20-dollar bill in each finger. That is a gift within a gift.
At the first Christmas, the world received a gift. It was a big one. God sent us a Savior. He sent us Jesus. But when we accept that gift, many other blessings come our way. Let’s look at three of those today.
God’s Gift of Joy:
Announcing the birth of Jesus, the angel said it:
… “I bring you good tidings of great joy!”
— Luke 2:10
In John 10:10, Jesus himself told those around him that, “I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.” Some Christians have a Savior, but they do not seem to have much joy. That is a shame.
Did you hear about the preacher who went into a bank and the teller looked at him and said, “You look like a preacher.” The preacher replied, “Well, I have the flu.” The gift of joy was given to us on that first Christmas. Others should see a God-given joy in us.
God’s Gift of Harmony:
God sent us a Savior. He wants us to get our lives right with him and right with other people. Christmas is a time of reconciliation.
God reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.
— 2 Corinthians 5:18
God’s Gift of Peace:
The Christmas gift to us of a Savior means forgiveness for our past, power to overcome problems in this world, and a peace in knowing that our eternity is secure. That is a great gift. If you have never received the gift of salvation, talk to someone in your Community Group or to one of our pastors. These are some gifts that are too great to be left unopened.
Thanks be to God for His gift that is too wonderful for words.
— 2 Corinthians 9:15
One of my favorite songs this time of year is Who Would Imagine A King. It just floods my soul with images of Mary, Joseph, Jesus, and all that surrounded them. In the most unexpected of ways, hope was born, love came down, and peace was ushered in. The peace that passes understanding. Not just a feeling, but peace in its most unaltered, raw, true form. Actual peace, which by its very definition is “freedom from disturbance,” graced our lives and set things right. In one night, God’s redemption plan for us became reality. Prophecy was fulfilled. The Messiah came. Was it the way people thought it would be? Not hardly, but it was better. It was God’s provision, and it was perfect.
More often than not, when expectations and reality collide, there is disappointment, but there are times when that which God calls us to and allows us to be a part of blows us away. In those moments, our joy cannot be contained, and we are speechless in the very presence of Jesus. When will we ever learn that we can’t put God in a box? Our God is matchless, indescribable, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent — he has no limits. It should come as no surprise that God’s plan will always exceed my expectation.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
— Isaiah 55:8–9 ESV
Peace equals freedom. We live in a crazy world, and this is a chaotic time of year. Our calendars are beyond full. Our credit is maxed. Our to-do lists are growing. The sounds of the season are on repeat. We are sleep deprived. Work demands continue to grow. We are pulled in every direction. We long for just a moment to breathe, but we agree to one more thing to keep from disappointing someone, keep up with someone, or just appease the masses.
It is so easy to get caught in the current of this world, but we don’t have to live this way. In fact, we are called to live life differently. The Christmas season itself should bring joy to our souls. If the season ushers in anything else, it’s time to make some adjustments. It is time not only to remember who we are, but whose we are. Sometimes we just need to readjust and set things right.
My dear children, you come from God and belong to God. You have already won a big victory over those false teachers, for the Spirit in you is far stronger than anything in the world. These people belong to the Christ-denying world. They talk the world’s language and the world eats it up. But we come from God and belong to God. Anyone who knows God understands us and listens. The person who has nothing to do with God will, of course, not listen to us. This is another test for telling the Spirit of Truth from the spirit of deception.
— 1 John 4:4–6 MSG
I love everything about this time of year, as long as I have perspective. A little over 2,000 years ago, hope was born. God came to earth. The birth of Jesus, our Messiah, wasn’t what was expected, but God knew our need. He provided. He exceeded our need beyond comprehension. He gave and brought us eternal life, unconditional love and abounding peace. A baby changed everything. It isn’t circumstantial. It isn’t temporary. When I allow God to change me, to truly take over and lead my life, the baby, our Messiah, God in flesh appearing changes everything.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
— John 14:27 NIV