One Christmas, a friend of mine told me that he and his new fiancée had mutually decided to buy each other one small functional gift and one small beautiful gift, for balance. This made sense, but probably the best gifts are both functional AND beautiful. The cherry on top is if you can find something that’s both those things and also unexpected.
Jesus is often described as the ‘ultimate gift’ from God to us, and as Christians we might feel like we’ve heard that a thousand times. But it’s always worth taking time to wonder again how Jesus truly fits that picture.
The gift of Jesus surprises us
We know that Jesus’ birth, life and death defied the misconceived expectations the Jews had for a great leader and king. His poverty, humility and relationships with the lowly in society shock us into realising Kingdom values are not the same as our world’s values. Perhaps most surprising of all is that God wanted to give us the gift of friendship with him. He didn’t come as a distant hero, but with a servant heart, ready to wash away our dirt (John 13), empathise with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15) and offer forgiveness.
The gift of Jesus meets our greatest need
‘Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.’ (Acts 4:9 NIV)
In the relative comfort of many of our lives in the UK, we might not spend a lot of time contemplating our deepest needs. But death has been brought closer to home for most of us in the last couple of years, and Jesus is the only one who saves us from death, suffering, and ultimately ourselves and our own sin. Scripture emphasises here in Acts and in many other places that he was ‘given’ to us. But this is not a gift that we can reciprocate. ‘For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ (Romans 6:23 NIV). We would be helpless, facing the consequences of our sin, without this gift.
The gift of Jesus unwraps the most beautiful parts of life
‘The gift that keeps on giving’ was a phrase first used to advertise colour televisions for Christmas presents. A colour TV would have offered vibrancy, entertainment and connection with the world. But if you’re looking for a gift offering joy, peace, purpose, healing, life, freedom… Jesus brings more beauty to our lives than anything else.
He gives us: ‘a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.’ (Isaiah 61:3 NIV)
He releases us from the struggles of life, the fear of death, and replaces it with hope for a beautiful future with no more crying or pain where he will comfort us so personally that he will wipe every tear from our eyes. (Revelation 21:4).
Isaiah also famously tells us: ‘the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.’ (Isaiah 53:5 NIV). The peace and healing we’ve been given did not come cheap. Jesus is a gift that cost everything, in fact. Motivated by his love, God was willing to pay the highest possible price of suffering for us to know him, be with him and receive an abundance of spiritual blessings.
Perhaps, after a tough year, generosity isn’t the characteristic that springs most easily to mind when we consider God’s character. Charitable gifts often tell us more about the giver than they do about the recipient. They tell us what that person is truly passionate about, and what moves them to act and sacrifice.
‘he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.’ (Titus 3:5)
The gift of Jesus says far more about who God is than about us. We tend to be focused on ourselves, often reluctant to acknowledge our creator. Yet, ‘because of his mercy’ God thought this offering was worth the phenomenal cost.
We only need to look to Jesus: his humble birth, horrifying death and glorious resurrection, to realise just how generous our God is. He knows exactly what we want and what we need, and he’s given it freely and amazingly in Jesus.