Phil Congdon, New Braunfels Bible Church, November 30, 2015
Every year about this time the thoughts of every boy and girl – and some of us older ‘kids’ as well – turns to presents. We enjoy the manger scenes, and the Christmas stories, but it’s hard to buck Madison Avenue…and eventually, we give in – not too reluctantly – to the anticipation of opening gifts. Perhaps we should all be as honest as the little boy who was sitting on Santa’s lap.
“What would you like, son?” Santa asks.
“Peace on earth,” the boy replied.
“Well, that’s very nice!” Santa replied.
“But in the meantime,” the boy added, “I’ll settle for the Mutant Ninja Lizard Ray of Death!”
What do you want for Christmas this year? Made your list…checked it twice? We all want to give – and receive – the perfect gift. But what makes a really good Christmas gift? I like to ask folks what they got for Christmas last year. Most can’t remember. And yet, some of us adults can remember Christmas presents we received years ago! Why are some gifts forgettable, and others so memorable?
I’ve done a little unscientific study on this, and come up with three things that make a gift truly memorable. First, it is unexpected. The bigger the surprise, the more likely you’ll remember it for years to come.
Second, memorable gifts are useful. The more you use something, the more you appreciate it. It’s a ‘winner’ of a gift! I still remember a stapler my younger brother gave me one Christmas. I used that stapler for years. I still remember it years later.
And that suggests a third thing that makes a gift memorable: It’s dependable. When our kids were very young, we lived in Australia…and we didn’t have much money. Near our home was one of those penny-pincher heavens, a store called Cunningham’s Warehouse, where you could get toys that looked like ones from expensive stores, for half the price. I couldn’t resist – it was a stocking-stuffer’s delight…but boy, were they cheap! These toys didn’t even make it through Christmas morning! The cap guns didn’t go “bang”; the flashlights didn’t light up; the battery-powered toys wouldn’t work. All were soon forgotten.
Memorable gifts are unexpected, useful, and dependable. And about now, you know where I’m going with this. These are all characteristics of God’s Christmas gift to us.
What could be more unexpected than to find the Savior of the world being born in poverty and lying in a stable? For that matter, what could be more surprising than Him being born at all?! It’s the total unexpectedness of the Christmas babe that makes the story – and the gift – so memorable. No matter how many lights and reindeer and Santas we see, no matter how much noise the cash registers make, the story still comes through. It always will. It’s just like God to do something no one expected: To introduce the God-man in the form of a helpless baby; to wrap this priceless gift in tattered rags; to have Him grow up as a common man, not a royal prince; and to defeat the enemy of sin by Him laying down His own life, instead of taking the lives of others.
And talk about usefulness! What could be more useful to us? From the dawn of creation, the result of the fall has been universal. God’s assessment is unchanging: There is none righteous, not even one. . . For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3.10, 23). If ever there was something we needed, it was a Savior! In fact, without a Savior, nothing else would ever matter. You can gain the whole world, but when your life is over, what then? That’s why Scripture shouts in 2 Cor. 9.15, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”
Of course, the key to all this is the dependability of God’s gift. You can count on it; you have God’s Word on it. You don’t have to think or hope or wish that you are saved. With Jesus, you can know.
And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5.11-13)
Make this a truly memorable Christmas. If you never have before, open God’s unexpected, useful, dependable gift of His Son Jesus Christ. Believe in Him as your sin-bearer, and receive the gift of eternal life. And if you’ve received this gift…pass it on. Make this Christmas one someone else will remember – forever!