I love giving Christmas presents. And I enjoy watching people open the gifts that I have carefully selected or hand made just for them. I like to shop throughout the year so I can put more thought into the gifts. Okay, I’ll admit it. It’s so I can find the best bargains and I can avoid the oppressing crowds in December.
As we look at our holiday traditions such as gift giving, we can add new significance by making a habit of looking for ways we can keep the story of Jesus and the real meaning of Christmas in the forefront. As I wrap my Christmas gifts and tuck them under the tree, one example comes to mind and I’d like to share it with you in the form of an object lesson that you can share with your own family or your Sunday school class. It’s my gift to you.
Before unwrapping gifts on Christmas—maybe after you have read the nativity story from the Bible—hold up a gift from under the tree and have a short discussion that goes something like this…
I know you are eager to open this gift and find out what’s inside. But before we do that, this present reminds me of why we have Christmas in the first place. In fact, there are some things that come to mind about our Christmas presents that make me think of an extra special Christmas gift. Does anyone know what the extra special gift is? (Allow them to answer: Jesus)
Let’s talk about the five things that our Christmas presents and the gift of Jesus have in common. (For those with younger children, have them hold out one hand and use their fingers to count off the five things as you talk about them).
1. Prepared a long time ago. Just as mom and dad shopped carefully for the gifts under our tree ahead of time, God had the gift of Jesus prepared a long time in advance. In fact, He promised that he would send a savior way back in the book of Genesis.
2. Waiting for the gifts. We wait until the right time comes to open our gifts and God waited until just the right time to send Jesus as a little baby. The people had waited for so many years, and when an angel came to the shepherds and told them the time had finally come, they were so excited! Think about how we feel right now because we know it is time to open our gifts.
3. All wrapped up. Sometimes, the gift inside a package isn’t what we expected. Sometimes exciting things come in tiny packages, and fancy gifts come in plain brown paper. Have you ever opened shoebox that contained a toy? Or has anyone ever disguised one of your presents by wrapping it in something unusual? Jesus didn’t come in a way that people expected him to come. They expected a king, and they thought kings were born in castles and wore crowns and jewels. Jesus was born in a stable—a barn for animals—and he didn’t have a throne or a crown.
4. Gifts are extravagant. A present is something we wouldn’t normally just go out and buy for one another. It is something extra special and over the top of our normal spending. When something is extravagant, it is unbelievable, incredible and amazing! When God sent his Son Jesus to earth, he was giving us an extravagant gift, something so amazing that we cannot understand it. Jesus came so that he could take our punishment for sin. That blows our minds.
5. Given in love. A gift is not given because we are obligated to give it or because someone deserves it. It is given out of love. God didn’t send Jesus because we deserved his gift of salvation. God knew that we could never be good enough to get to heaven on our own. He sent Jesus because God loves us so much (John 3:16) and if we receive his gift and believe in Him, we can be called God’s children.
Many people rejected Jesus when he came and many people still don’t understand God’s gift. They don’t want to believe in Jesus and receive God’s gift of salvation. Can you imagine if we left our gifts under the tree and never opened them? We’d miss out on something very special. Now as we open those presents, let’s remember Jesus, the best gift ever!
Reprint of Michelle’s article that appeared in Wisconsin Christian News, December 2008
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