With Christmas approaching I thought it might be a great time to look at what the Bible has to say about the true meaning of Christmas.This also is the message that I will be preaching this afternoon, when I speak to a group of men at church.
God is a giver, not a taker. Throughout Scripture, we find evidence of His great generosity towards His creation. From the beginning of time as we know it, when He called forth Creation--when He gave existence to things that had never before existed--we can see the true heart of God. He literally gave of Himself to make each one of us.
"then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature."The very nature of God is to give, to create, and to bless His creation.
- Genesis 2:7
Even the secular story of Santa Clause is symbolism of God's giving. How? It may not be the traditional meaning, but for many Christian families that don't want to tell false stories of Santa to their children have devised a way of using Santa Clause to illustrate God's love and the true meaning of Christmas. You see Santa has a big heart and gives freely to all the good boys and girls, or so the legend says. In the same way, as John 3:16 says, God loved the world so much that he gave his only son, Jesus Christ whose birth we celebrate on Christmas Day. You see Santa and God both give cheerfully and freely and likewise God asks that we give in the same way.
Unfortunately, many of us are so self-absorbed and greedy for gain that we do not even have the eyes to see the countless gifts that God has already worked into our lives. Yet, God wants us to be givers too. He created us to be like Him--to pour of ourselves into other people, and to reciprocate His love for us. God created us with the power to be able to give back to Him! When I really stop and think about this, it truly amazes me--that God--the sum of ALL good things, who holds ALL power and authority, would humble Himself in this way. He didn't make himself entirely independent of His creation, or set Himself up as a mere casual observer of humankind, though He certainly had the power to do so. Instead, He allowed Himself to love us to the point where our returned love would be a blessing to Him. Each one of us, little and insignificant as we are, has been given the profound gift of the ability to bring joy to the heart of God. It is extremely humbling to me, when I stop and consider that God has thus set the laws of His creation into motion. That the One who is Love personified, would actually be blessed by the love that I could offer Him. This is the greatest gift of all, and it is given to every human being who has ever lived or will live--the ability to give of ourselves to God and to each other. Without this gift, life would be very empty indeed.
In the mad rush of the holiday season, the true meaning of giving is often forgotten. What is meant to be a time of blessing and joy becomes instead, a time of stress and depression. Recently, as I was praying for the church and the nations of the world, a great sorrow began to rise up inside of me. God has placed so many gifts within His church. Each member of the Body of Christ has been given strategic giftings and a unique place that none other can fulfill in quite the same way. Yet, so many are not moving into their rightful place. They are afraid to use their gifts, or they think their gifts are insignificant. Many are secretly hurt and angry at God because they feel they haven't been given anything remarkable. They mistake God's anointing and talent in certain individuals as a sign of God's approval of those people, and they assume their "lack" is a sign that God doesn't love them as much as He loves others...that God is somehow "prouder" of other people than He is of them. Because of this fear and resentment, they are crippled in taking their proper place in God's kingdom, falling short of the gift they were created to be.
Others are busily using their gifts, and by their own efforts are successful in the eyes of the world. Maybe they have a thriving ministry. Maybe they are making good money. Maybe they have the respect and admiration of those around them. This doesn't necessarily mean, however, that their actions are a blessing to the heart of God, or that they are even obeying what God has told them to do. Ecclesiastes 4:4 says "And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man's envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind." Many are so busy creating their own kingdoms, that the kingdom of God suffers a great lack. Their pride and busy occupations have blocked the measure of their true worth in God's kingdom.
Who will fill these missing places in the body of Christ? Even now as we go about our daily lives, all creation groans in frustration, waiting for the sons of God to be revealed (Romans 8:19-22). There is so much work to be done, and so few who are willing to do it. John 4:35-36 says ".... I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together." God intends both the sower and the reaper to share the same joy of the harvest. There should be no competition among God's faithful servants, no jostling each other for the "prime" positions, no envy or personal ambition. If we truly love the Lord, our only goal should be to bless Him, to serve Him, and to advance His kingdom.
As I was praying, I saw a vision of the Lord, manifested in the person of someone I love very much. In the vision, I saw this person laying in bed, exhausted after a hard day's work. The Lord said to me "What do you think she would like right now? How could you bless her?" I could instantly see that a cup of hot tea and a home-cooked meal would be just as much, if not more of a blessing to her than whatever big, distant work I could conjure up to show her my love. Immediately, I could see what God was trying to show me. We are created like Him. If we appreciate a "small" gift given in love more than the fanfare of a "big" gift given in insincerity, how much more does God?
As the vision continued, I could see Jesus sitting alone by a road with people running up and down it. They were all very busy. Some were stopping and chatting with Him for a moment here and there, but as I overheard their conversations, they were mostly to inform Jesus of what they wanted from Him, or what they were going to do for Him. One man in particular ran up to him. "Oh, Jesus, I'm so excited," he cried. "I'm off to tell the world all about you!" Quickly he ran off before Jesus could say anything at all. My heart broke, as I saw Him there, sitting by Himself. Yes, He wanted to bless those people with things beyond their wildest imagination. Yes, He wanted them to find fulfillment in serving Him. But what He really wanted most of all was for those people to come and sit with Him and talk awhile...to hold His hand and look deep into His eyes...to share their dreams and sorrows, and to hear His joys and sorrows...to let Him simply give His love to them. In all their mad rush to give and get, they missed the greatest treasure of all, sitting right in front of them.
So much of what we do for God is with mixed motives for our own personal fulfillment. We all want to have a purpose and reason for living. We all hope that if we were to die tomorrow, we would leave a legacy of some kind behind us. Yet for most of us, this becomes the end to which we live. Sadly, when we make anything other than God our reason for living, that thing will become an idol in our lives. Even if it is a good thing, like a ministry or a mate, it can still never fulfill us because it wasn't designed to. It simply can't! It doesn't even have the ability to fulfill. In fact, those idols will begin to work against us, and cause us suffer spiritual barrenness. They will put us on a treadmill until we become broken-hearted and exhausted trying to keep it all alive. On the other hand, if we receive them simply as the gifts they are and continue to love God first in our lives, we will be given the ability to enjoy them, for this too is a gift. Ecclesiastes. 3:13 says "That everyone may...find satisfaction in all his toil--this is the gift of God." The key is simply to
"seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these other things will be given to you as well." - Matthew 6:33
When all is said and done, only those things which were done "as unto the Lord" will count for anything. In God's eyes, there are no "big" or "small" things done for His Kingdom. All He asks of us is to obey Him in what He tells us to do. Let us follow through and obey Him, whether His commands seem great or small. After all, it is Jesus we are talking about here! The One who left His home in glory to bleed and die a humiliating, painful for each one of us. The One who made himself vulnerable to us, by giving us the ability to bless him or hurt him. As we obey Him, we bring such joy to His heart! Then His joy, which is a strength to the spirit of man, becomes our joy as well. God is not impressed, nor is He blessed by the best of our works done in self. He is only impressed by the attitude of our hearts.
As we look around the world this holiday season, let us stop and consider Who's birthday we are celebrating. Let us not forget to offer sincere thanks to our precious, precious Lord for His many blessings in our lives. And let us show our thankfulness by our actions! Let us offer the same mercy that God has given us to those around us. Let us press deeper into the heart of God, that we may have something to offer this world besides the same old cycle of greed, pride and rebellion. Let us not be ashamed to become the servant of all, showing our love for God by laying down our rights, our plans, our time and money for the sake of others. Let us demonstrate our love to God by giving Him the very things we are afraid to lay down, trusting that He has the best plan for our lives and would never use or abuse us. Let us truly fulfill the greatest commandment, which is to
"And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." - Luke 10:27. Each of us is destined to make a profound difference in the world. Let us not fall short of our destinies! Let us give the greatest Christmas gift that we have been afforded to give; one that we can give year-round--to bless the heart of God!
If you do not know God the way you want to, you can receive the gift of knowing Him right now. Simply pray to Him from your heart and ask him to forgive you for your sins and turning your back on Him. Romans 10:9, "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the you shall be saved." Ask Him to come into your life and make you a new person, born of His spirit. You can give to Him a gift He considers more dear than anything else in the world--yourself. In return, you will receive eternal life with Him, which begins the moment you are born again. May God bless each of you richly as you seek to give unto Him your all.
go ahead share your thoughts with me now, my ears are open. I'm always eager to hear what you think.
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