My family’s tradition is to wait until after Thanksgiving before we decorate for Christmas or start playing carols in our home. A month of Christmas celebration is plenty, and a shorter season makes it that much more special. However, as a pastor, I need to start thinking about and planning for Advent long before December. I typically plan my preaching schedule two to three months in advance, and for Advent, I need to work on special readings and plans for the Christmas Eve service.
So, even without the benefit of a Christmas tree in the corner or “Joy to the World” ringing in my ears, I have been thinking about Christmas for a few weeks now. My thoughts have often turned to the Magi, those mysterious visitors who followed the star to bring baby Jesus gold, frankincense and myrrh. These treasures were fit for a king, but the greatest gift they gave Jesus was their praise: “they bowed down and worshiped Him” (Matthew 2:11).
I wonder what we can bring to Jesus this Christmas season? He doesn’t need gold or frankincense, nor is He hoping for a new cell phone or a nice pair of shoes. In fact, what Jesus really wants from us can’t be tied with a bow or hidden under the Christmas tree.
For example, Jesus would love to receive a renewed spirit of devotion. We can offer Him fresh and joyful praise. We can pray in His name with sincere faith and an honest desire to see His will accomplished in our lives. We can bring Jesus more time devoted to reading His word and listening to the Spirit speaking truth into our hearts. I’m sure gifts like that would make Jesus smile.
We could bring Jesus a new heart of love for our neighbors. We can give costly gifts of time and service to people in need, knowing that when we love others, we are also showing love to Christ. We can remember how Jesus was compassionate and kind to those in need, and we can go and do likewise in His name.
Jesus would also be happy to receive gifts of submission and humble obedience. The Spirit may be whispering to you about something you need to give up or some new calling God wants you to accept. Maybe you have been ignoring that whisper for a while, and now is the time to give Jesus your obedience. It might require a sacrifice or the courage to do something you doubt you can do on your own, but if Jesus is calling, He will bless your humble submission to His will.
Another treasure we can offer Jesus is to share His good news. Tell your family or your friends how much God has done for you, how He answers your prayers and fills your heart with peace during stressful moments. Tell the story of how Jesus took away your sin and gave you joy that will last forever. Tell about the blessing of walking together with other believers in the church, and invite the people you love to join us in fellowship and worship.
Every gift we give or receive at Christmas is a symbol of Christ, a visible reminder of the greatest gift of all, God’s own Son who was born into our dark world to be our Savior. May all your Christmas gifts tell of this good news, and may your most precious gifts be given to Jesus, our Savior and Lord.