Does it seem harder each year to find just the right Christmas gift for the people on your list? You can’t repeat the great idea you had last year. Everything seems more expensive this time around. Maybe there are a few more grandchildren or other family members to buy for than in years past. And what do you get for someone who seemingly already has everything?
It turns out that often the best gifts are those which you yourself have received and treasure. A favorite book may be one that a friend would love. A game your whole family enjoys playing could likely be enjoyed by the cousins too. But even better, how about not just giving a gift for Christmas, but giving the gift of Christmas itself? After all, there is no comparison. By far our greatest treasure is Christ Jesus, the Son of God Who became our brother that we might be children of the heavenly Father. What could be better than giving Jesus to others?
Parents give Jesus to their children when they gather the family around the Word to listen to the prophecies of the One who would be born of a virgin in Bethlehem. Children give Jesus to us all when they joyfully announce on Christmas Eve, “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born.” (Luke 2:6 NIV84) What gift could possibly mean more to a friend who is on edge because of all the violence and uncertainty in the world than the news of the Child Who came to win the victory over sin and death and bring peace between sinners and the holy God? Give the gift of Christmas by including a Bible passage and your own short message of Christ-centered hope in the cards you send and the notes you post online. Invite the unchurched neighbor to join you for a midweek Advent service. While the headline news tells of disasters, suffering, and death, Christmas is all about God’s love and His determination to save the lost.
When you give a gift which you already love, you can hardly wait to see the person open it. You anticipate the joy he will have in seeing the gift. You hand him the package and say, “Here, open this one first!” You share the excitement of the moment. Let’s give the Christ Child to others with that same eager anticipation, for all that God gives us through Jesus is His gift for all. Knowing that we have someone to whom we can go with all our burdens is priceless. To have the Lord tell us that salvation is a free gift, not something we have to earn, is the key to de-stressing in this sinful world. Let us hold the Savior close in our hearts as Simeon held the Baby in his arms and exclaimed, “My eyes have seen your salvation!” Let us give Christmas as energetically as did the shepherds who ran and told everyone what they had seen and heard, and as exuberantly as did elderly Anna who gave thanks to God and spoke about the Child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
This year, let’s not settle for just giving gifts for Christmas, but give the Christ of Christmas Himself. “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Cor. 9:15 NIV84)
Michael Eichstadt is pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church in Hales Corners, Wisconsin, and president of the Church of the Lutheran Confession.