Church of the Nazarene – East Rock
The Christmas Gifts Part 1Christmas Gifts Part 1 “Presence”
This year, as the UPS and Amazon delivery drivers are taking up residence at our houses and the wrapping gets under way- let’s make time and space to receive and appreciate the true gifts of Christmas.
The Christmas gifts that we couldn’t earn, yet are free and available to everyone, and that last forever-As we enter the Advent season for 2022, we will seek to grow deeper in our understanding of the free gifts available to us through Christ and his coming. Gifts we cannot earn and do not deserve.
Christmas is a time to celebrate the presence that came at that first Christmas, and it’s an opportunity for all to receive the greatest gift in Christ. It is no accident that gift giving is a part of Christmas since Christmas itself is a great gift!
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
In naming him Jesus, which means “God Saves”, we are given a picture of what he will do. And in being called Immanuel, it is revealed who he is- “Immanuel- God with us”
Immanuel- The gift of presence!
In this beautiful portrait Matthew ties together two important ideas, to show the significance of this Christmas announcement. God has come to be with us, to save us.
That’s the gift of presence. That’s the promised Christmas Gift.
As we enter this season, we were very intentional to begin with the idea of presence because that’s where the story of the Messiah begins in the Book of John. When Jesus’ close friend John, began to write a letter to share the story of Jesus- he interestingly doesn’t begin with details you might expect.
No details of the angels, the shepherds in the fields, no bright star, no magi, not even the manger. No, John begins with presence!
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
To a first century audience, that would immediately take them back to the Tabernacle in the wilderness set up by Moses. In Exodus 25 God begins to give Moses details on how to erect this special tent where the presence of God would dwell among his people. This tabernacle was an ornate structure, with precious metals, jewels, and fabrics throughout. And you didn’t just go waltzing in there either- to come into the presence of God was a reverent and sacred thing.
John is taking up that idea of tabernacle and saying that in Christ- rather than us going to the tabernacle to encounter God, God has brought the tabernacle to us.
This is literally a history-changing move on God’s part.
My prayer is that whether Christmas is already hard, or it’s the highlight of the year, that you will experience the true gift of Christmas.
The gift of Presence, the gift of Emmanuel, God with us.
Carry it with you everywhere you go. Take the story to bed with you as you lay down to rest. Get in the story.
And as we do that- I also pray that we would give ourselves to him.
Vance Havner says “Christmas is based on an exchange of gifts, the gift of God to man – His unspeakable gift of His Son, and the gift of man to God – when we present our bodies a living sacrifice.”
Friends it is in this gift exchange that we can experience new life-
Life as part of God’s family.
Merry Christmas! Christ has come!