Gift-wrapped presents under a festive tree, excited children in pajamas, and tired but amused parents—these are some of the most familiar images of Christmas morning in Western culture. Even though gift-giving is the most common Christmas ritual, its origins are obscure. It didn’t become the tradition we know today until the early 1800s. Still, many Christians link our modern-day practice of gift-giving with the gifts of the Wise Men from today’s reading.
This month, we will examine Christmas gift-giving from a different angle. Instead of focusing on presents under a tree, we will reflect on the gifts we received in Christ’s coming. Certainly, the most significant gift is Jesus Himself, God taking on human flesh (John 1:14). But we can be even more specific than that. We will examine four gifts that God has given to us through Jesus Christ.
First, we will consider the gift of God’s promises made and kept. Second, we will understand the gift of God’s love. Third, we will look at restored relationships, and, finally, the gift of purpose. There is a natural progression to these gifts, from the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. From a restored relationship with God to living in community with one another. And, finally, a purpose as we live out the mission Jesus has given to us.
Today’s reading foreshadows the first gift, God’s promises kept, with the birth of Jesus. When the Wise Men offered gifts to Jesus, they served as an initial fulfillment of God’s promise, “Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah. And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the Lord” (Isa. 60:6).
>> To prepare your heart for Christmas, shift your focus from your lists of things to do onto our Savior Himself. Just as the Magi joyfully bowed and worshiped Jesus, take a quiet moment today to bow your head and honor your Lord and Savior.
Dear Jesus, as we prepare our hearts for Christmas, may we focus on You, our Lord and Savior. Help us remember that we’ve already received the most wonderful Christmas gift—Your salvation.