The Giver has become the Gift...

Today's thought:

John 3:17, "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."

Over time most things loose their intended purpose.

Many people don't realize that Santa Claus, based on the real historical person of Saint Nicholas, a leader in the early church from the city of Myra, also has another less-known title—the patron saint of pawnshops. How could this jolly old fellow be known as the patron saint of such a seedy business? 

In the Middle Ages, "montes pietatius" were charities similar to urban food banks. They were created as an alternative to loan sharks. These charities provided low-interest loans to poor families. Started by Franciscans, they became widespread throughout Europe.

In a traditional story, which is probably based on real events, Saint Nicholas generously provided a poor man dowries for his three daughters, gold coins in three purses. The symbol of gold coins in three purses became the symbol of pawnshops and fit with his title of patron saint. In the 1300s, people in poverty met caring friars when they entered the doors of pawnshops. The shops existed to help the poor get back on their feet. These friars had their best interests in mind.

Today, often the opposite is true. Over time, pawnshop owners lost sight of their identity. Created for good, pawnshops have drifted away from their purpose. From caring for the needy to an instrument often preying on families in distress, pawnshops have lost their original intent. [Adapted from Peter Greer, "Santa Claus—Patron Saint of Pawn Shops," Peter K. Greer blog (12-5-12)]

Like pawn shops, has Christmas lost its original purpose? In many ways yes. But that purpose can be restored if recaptured in ourselves. Jesus' purpose for coming to earth, as John tells us, was to save. This is what the Angel said to the shepherds, "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord" (Luke 2:11). 

The next question is: to save us from what? The simple answer is ourselves. We all have failed morally in so many ways (Romans 3:23), and if we're honest with ourselves, we see we have not lived up to the standards God has placed in us. That failure has condemned us before God. John goes on to say in John 3:18, "Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God's one and only Son."

The Baby born in Bethlehem two thousand years ago was on a rescue mission. Jesus said in a Luke 19:10, "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." As Leutenant Dan asked Forest in the 1994 movie, Forest Gump, "Have you found Jesus yet, Gump?" And Forest responds, "I didn't know I was supposed to be looking for him, sir." Most people don't. But Jesus is looking for them. He is seeking you. When He finds you He offers you salvation. Like any gift you have to receive it. It is not a gift you can take, but must accept.

Christmas has lost its purpose if Christmas has become a season of taking. We take and take and take. It is from God we take. The Bible tells us that every perfect gift comes from the Father of heavenly lights (James 1:17). Yet, we rarely give thanks. We take and do not recognize the One who gives. We rarely stop to thank Him or talk to Him. 

Imagine what that must be like for God. Imagine if I invited you over for a Christmas dinner and you came and ate a beautifully prepared ham with all the fixings. A table full of delicious and wonderful food. I brought you drinks. I made your favorite deserts. Yet the whole meal you do not talk to me. You just take everything and don't say a word to me. Then you push back from the table, put on your coat and head for the door. Before you leave I say, "Wasn't it good? Didn't you enjoy it? Don't you want to stay and talk?" You turn and say, "Yes. It was good. I enjoyed it all but I want nothing to do with you! I don't want to talk to you. I don't believe you exist." And you leave.

Imagine how God feels. He gives and gives and gives in the hope we will turn to Him in gratitude. Most people don't. So, God has done an ingenious thing for the giving of His Christmas gift. It is a gift you cannot take but must accept. To accept God's Christmas gift you have to accept not only the Gift but the Giver for the Giver has become the Gift. You can't accept one without the other. Have you accepted Jesus? You can trust He is the greatest gift you will ever receive. That's the purpose of Christmas.

Prayer: Father, You have given us the best Gift of all, a relationship with You. You did this by giving of Yourself when You sent Jesus into the world. He did not come to condemn but save. But if we recieve the Gift we fulfill the purpose of Christmas. Thank You that the Giver has become the Gift. It is by His grace and mercy we can pray in His name, in Jesus, amen.

[Adapted from the message, "The Christmas Experience: Experience God's Purpose." Listen to full message: www.arvadachristian.org/sermons]