Richard C. Statham
Senior Pastor; Salem Baptist, McDonough
This Christmas Eve, I will sit and gaze at the Christmas tree in our family room, the packages that are under it, and the ornaments that adorn it. Doing so will prompt my mind to drift back to long past family celebrations that centered around the Christmas tree which adorned my grandparent’s living room.
It was always my desire as the eldest grandchild to make sure our family arrived at my grandparent’s home before my uncles’ families on Christmas Day so I could be in charge of placing the packages around the tree. Being the first to arrive also gave me the opportunity to hide my uncles’ and my father’s gifts from my grandparents “on the tree.” My grandparents never placed their three boys’ gifts under the tree, but on it.
After all the grandchildren had completed the lengthy task of opening their gifts (lengthy because my grandfather made us open one gift at a time using a pocket knife so that we would not tear the wrapping paper which would be recycled the following year), my grandmother would customarily say, “Boys, your gift is on the tree.” They would each retrieve a white envelope that had a single roll of postage stamps taped to the outside. For years I paid no attention to the contents of the envelope, but when I finally reached the age of understanding I realized the envelope contained a monetary gift. I then came to the realization that, when it came to my grandparents, the best gift was not to be found under the tree but “on the tree.”
For the first 15 years of my life I thought the best gifts at Christmas were to be found under the tree. Then it happened – having received Jesus Christ the summer before my 16th Christmas, I recognized the greatest Christmas gift was in fact not to be found under the tree but “on the tree.”
The gift of Christmas is not a trinket or a toy, but a person – The Lord Jesus Christ!
The Gospels record that an angel spoke separately to Joseph and Mary, instructing them to name the soon-to-be-born baby boy “Jesus.” The name Jesus is the Greek form of “Joshua” which means The LORD Saves. The second chapter of the Gospel of Luke declares, “the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son” and “on the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise Him, He was named Jesus, the name the angel had given Him before He had been conceived.” Galatians 4:4 says, “But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.”
The name “Jesus” was descriptive of His life purpose – “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). It was not an afterthought nor a mistake. Jesus was born in the fullness of time “to save” and that required He willingly lay His life down as a sacrifice for the sins of all men. Jesus was born to die.
The apostle Peter declared, “He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed (1 Peter 2:24).”
Our family’s Christmas decorating is never complete until I have taken an 8-inch steel spike and hung it by a scarlet ribbon on our family room Christmas tree to remind us that the most wonderful gift of all was, and is, He who “bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness.”
God’s gift of salvation is meant to be shared with everyone. Like the shepherds, whose story is told in the Gospel of Luke, we are afforded the opportunity to share what we have seen and heard. Sharing the Gospel with others should be the natural response of a grace-filled redeemed heart.
Questions to consider
When did you first understand the true meaning of Christmas?
What matters most to you at Christmas – giving or receiving?
- Have you received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior?
- Do you share the Gospel with others?
Who do you need to share Jesus with this Christmas?