The Best Gift of All

On a Christmas Eve not too long ago, passengers embarking on a WestJet Airlines flight to Toronto received a very special treat.  Just before the aircraft took off, the passengers were paid an unexpected visit by Santa Claus.  They were each asked what they wanted for Christmas.

Some of the passengers wished for electronic gadgets like tablets, phones and TVs, while others wanted free flights.  One guy merely asked for socks and underwear.  Then Santa left and the plane took off.

Upon arrival in Toronto, the passengers headed for the baggage carousel to pick up their luggage.  When they arrived at the carousel they were surprised by red lights flashing and gifts of all sizes flowing down the luggage chute.

A boy was heard screaming a protracted “wow” when he unwrapped the gift with his name on it to find the smart phone he desired.  In another corner was a family who couldn’t contain their joy when they got the airline tickets they had asked for.  One passenger went home with a 50” flat screen television.

Every passenger went home with a gift…even the guy who only asked for socks and underwear.  He got exactly what he wished for.   You have to wonder if he wished he’d dreamt a little bit bigger.

Well, Christmas is a time for big dreams, at least dreams “of sugar plums dancing in your head.”  More than that  ̶  Christmas is a time for generosity.  There is no quality more winning in a person’s character than a spirit of generosity.

Some men fall into the trap of buying a gift that’s really for them.  Like the guy who buys his wife a waffle iron, which is really a way of saying, “Look honey, now you can make me waffles!  Aren’t you excited?”  Probably not.  I have to admit that, a few years back, Hamilton and I bought Jeanette a donut maker for Christmas.  She wasn’t excited.  But it makes great doughnuts.

In this season one gift transcends all other gifts. A gift which shifts the focus from presents (p-r-e-s-e-n-t-s) to presence (p-r-e-s-e-n-c-e). God’s gift of the Christ-child is more significant, of more ultimate value, than anything we are able to give. Through the Christ-child, we have life, we know life, and we share life.

A young man once received the Christmas gift of a shirt from his grandmother. The only trouble was that he had a size 14 neck and the shirt was size 12. When the grandson sent a thank you note, he wrote, “Dear Grandma, thanks a lot for the shirt. I’d write more, but I’m all choked up.”

We could write a similar note to the Almighty.  “Dear God, thanks a lot for giving us your son.  I’d write more, but I’m all choked up.”

Christmas is indeed a time for getting all choked up. Why? Because the generosity of God was displayed at Christmas: Tonight we celebrate the world’s most important gift. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

Gabriel comes to Mary and announces that she will bear a son. But not just any son. “You are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

In the babe of Bethlehem we learn that God is not unknowable, distant, and unconcerned with human affairs. We learn that the God who created the heavens and the earth is intimately involved in creation to the point of coming to walk among us in person.

God has come with a human face.

There was a man who worked for the Post Office. His job was to process all the mail that had illegible addresses. One day, a letter came across his desk that had shaky handwriting. It was addressed to God. He thought he should read it to see what it was all about. So he opened it and read these words:

Dear God, I am a 93-year-old widow, living on a very small pension. Yesterday someone stole my purse. It had $100 in it, which was all the money I had until my next pension check. Next Sunday is Christmas, and I had invited two of my friends over for dinner. Without that money, I have nothing to buy food with. I have no family to turn to, and you are my only hope. Can you please help me? Sincerely, Edna

The postal worker was touched. So he showed the letter to his fellow workers. Each of them dug into their wallets and came up with a few dollars. By the time he made the rounds, he had collected $96, which he put into an envelope and sent to the woman. The rest of the day, those postal workers felt pretty good about the kind thing they had done.

Christmas came and went. A few days later another letter came from the old lady addressed to God. All of the workers gathered around while the letter was opened. It read:

Dear God, How can I ever thank you enough for what you did for me? Because of your gift of love, I was able to fix a glorious dinner for my friends. We had a very nice day and I told my friends of your wonderful gift. By the way, there was $4 missing. I think it must have been those thieves at the Post Office. Sincerely, Edna.

Sometimes we forget about God’s generosity. Christmas is ultimately about a generous God whose giving included reaching out through his son to embrace a hurting world.

Dismiss it as silly sentimentalism if you will.  But in our world where billionaires live lives that would have made Solomon in all his glory envious, in our world dominated by the pursuit of pleasure and the almighty dollar, we need the reminder of the Christmas story that the truly important things in life bear no price tags.  Christmas is a time for generosity.

There was a fellow who received a Christmas present 49 years ago and never opened it. Can you imagine if you gave perhaps the most valuable thing you owned or the most valuable thing you could buy to someone that you really loved, wrapped it up in the most beautiful way you could imagine, gave it to that person, and the person never ever opened it?

Yet, there are some of you here tonight who have gone Christmas after Christmas and never unwrapped the best present of Christmas. You have never accepted God’s gift to you – his own son.

Socrates taught for 40 years, Plato for 50, Aristotle for 40, and Jesus for only 3. Yet the influence of Christ’s 3-year ministry infinitely transcends the impact left by the combined 130 years of teaching of these greatest philosophers of all antiquity. Jesus painted no pictures, yet the finest painting of Raphael, Michelangelo, and Leonardo da Vinci received their inspiration from Him.

Jesus wrote no poetry, but Dante, Milton, and scores of the world’s greatest poets were inspired by Him. Jesus composed no music; still Haydn, Handel, Beethoven, Bach, and Mendelssohn reached their highest perfection of melody in the hymns, symphonies, and oratorios they composed in his praise.

Every sphere of human greatness has been enriched by this humble carpenter of Nazareth.  The gift of Christ…no question about it…that is the best Christmas gift of all.

The gift has arrived, wrapped in swaddling clothes. So go ahead and enjoy God’s incredible love and generosity. Unwrap the present. Rejoice that he sent us his son. And have a blessed and joyous Christmas.