By Greg Quinn
December 22nd, 2017
Christmastime is a time for giving. We all learned this at a very early age. Growing up as young boys in a poor farming community, we Quinn brothers appreciated the joys of Christmas as it related to the receiving of gifts. As our Dad was a Farmer, we learned hard work, patience, and determination. Patience was always tough. As our Dad was a Pastor, we learned Christian principles, gained salvation through receiving the gift of Christ, and was taught "it is better to give than to receive". I admit, we always had trouble with the last part. We farm boys loved to receive our gifts at Christmastime.
When I was young (I'm 60 now, so that has been a while), I remember we didn't get many gifts through the year, but Mom and Dad always managed to get us something for Christmas. Or they made sure that Santa Claus knew where we lived. My first gifts I remember were little wooden carved toys that my Dad and my Uncle Dalton whittled from trees (at the time I thought the Elves made them). Then later Jeff and I started getting some "store-bought" gifts. As we got older, and Boge and "Mule" (our baby brother's nickname for Anthony, and the nickname is not why you might think) came along, the gifts got better. We always share stories of our first BB gun (think of Christmas Story), first shotgun (Jeff and I still have ours; great little Savage 20 gauge single-shots), Rockem-Sockem Robots, and the "hidden Big Lou". Christmas was a time for family, fun, candy (which we didn't get much of through the year), and waiting for Santa to deliver the gifts under the tree.
Traditions are important, especially at Christmastime. We always met on Christmas night at the church my Dad pastored, and the whole Quinn family would be there. There would be a nice tree, we would sing carols (with Uncle Clay B on piano, and Aunt Rita and Aunt Betty competing on whose voice would be the loudest), and there would be gifts. And Santa came every year and handed out little brown bags with an apple, orange, and piece of candy. We still honor the tradition many years later, but the excitement is not quite the same. No one could ever replace Uncle Dalton as Santa Claus.
In our household, where my Mom's mother, Mama Kent, lived with us most of my childhood, we started opening a "non-Santa" gift (only one) every year on Christmas Eve because Mama Kent couldn't bear to wait another day without opening presents. I think she loved Christmas as much as us boys. Or more. This migrated through the years to not just one but two gifts, then more, and then when none of us no longer believed in Santa Claus, we opened all our gifts on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day. Except for the children, this tradition is still alive and well today.
Now many years later, Christmastime is still a time of giving and receiving of gifts. The gifts are different now. There is not much any of us need so the anticipation and surprise is not as great. And Santa has been long gone so we know where the gifts really come from. Much of our family is now gone, so that creates both emptiness and fond memories. But we Quinn boys, and our Mom (Dad is in Heaven with Jesus), still enjoy Christmas.
On Christmas Eve each year, we all get together. Still. Mule comes in from North Carolina with his family, and Jeff, Boge, and I, and our families, all go over to Mom's for Christmas dinner and the sharing of gifts. Some of us now have grandchildren (although mine is in Denver, sadly) who still enjoy the excitement of Christmas as children. We still keep the traditions alive, including "Christmas Eve Gift"
(see the other Greg's Corner article from several years back, entitled Christmas Eve
Gift). We enjoy good food, sharing memories, watching parts of "A Christmas Story" over and over, and still enjoy the giving and receiving of gifts. On Christmas morning, while Jeff has his grandkids over to his house (as that is where Santa visits), Mule and Boge visits with Mom with their wives and families, my wife Vicki and I drive to her brother Craig's house for Christmas morning breakfast, where we see the aftermath of their kids' Christmas morning present-opening festivities. Christmas is a time for tradition, memories, reflection, good food, excitement in the eyes of children, and gifts.
I know all of you reading this could share your own Christmas family memories and traditions if you had the time or opportunity. Perhaps reading some of mine will remind you of some of yours. Whereas our memories may be similar or different, I am sure we can agree on one thing. Christmas is a time for giving.
So before we get so caught up in what we consider gift-giving, department stores, Walmart, opening of presents, etc., let's reflect back on that first Christmas and what it really is all about.
Luke 2 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife,[a] who was with child. 6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold,[b] an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger."
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
14 "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"[c]
15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, "Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us." 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely[d] known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.
The real meaning of Christmas is about the "Ultimate Gift", the gift of God's Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus came to earth as part of the God-head, fully God and fully man, a King who would be born in poverty, a Savior who chose to die so that we might live. He took on humanity as God where He could understand the challenges of being human, God's best created beings, and so as He could bore our sin and take the punishment for this sin upon Himself. He died so that we might live. This is the "ultimate gift".
At Christmas we focus on the Christ-child, the baby born in a manger, the struggles of Mary and Joseph, and the long-awaited Messiah. The celebration of the new King who was prophesied for so many years. We know what happened. We know the Christmas story, and it is a beautiful depiction of God's love shown upon us in a remarkable way.
But let's take a look at not just WHAT happened, the Christmas story we all know, but WHY it happened, perhaps the part we tend to forget.
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
The reason why Jesus was born is summarized in this one verse. The reason we have Christmas is shown within this one sentence in the Bible.
"For God". God is the supreme ruler of the Universe. God is the Creator of all things. God made the Heavens and the Earth. The depths of the sea that man is just beginning to explore, to the heights of the heavens to which Earth is but a speck within a speck, was all created by God. God is all-knowing; He knows everything. Everything that ever happened, God knew it beforehand. He knows your thoughts even now. He knows everything. God has no time; He was here before anything and will be here after everything. The Bible says that with God "a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like a day". God is all-powerful; He controls the storms, the weather, the movement of the stars, the sun, the moons; everything. Nothing can ever overcome the power of Almighty God. God is everywhere at one time; He has no spatial boundaries. God can be beside you and beside the smallest child in China at the same time. And yet God is all-love. God is love. To define love is to define God, as this is His nature. So when the writer of the scripture says "For God", we know that he is referencing the one true God, God of the Bible, God Almighty, God that is everywhere, that knows everything, that is all-powerful, and that epitomizes the nature of love. God is the first "who".
"So loved". For God SO loved.. This is the "why". God, who is all powerful, was from the beginning, loved you and I so much that He was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the ultimate gift for you and I. God loved you SO much, that God the Father gave His only Son as sacrifice for our sins. God created mankind. The sin of Adam and Eve separated us from God. Even then, God created a plan to restore mankind back in right fellowship with Himself. It would take the ultimate sacrifice; God himself in the form of His Son must come to earth to be born as one of us, to resist all sin, but to become payment for the sin, in order to restore you and I and all humanity into a right relationship with God once again. There was to be only one way. Only Jesus was the perfect lamb who would be slain for our sin, our wrongdoing. Only a perfect sacrifice would God accept, and His Only Son is the only perfect sacrifice that could be made to reconcile us back to a Holy God. This is the "why". This is the "reason for the season". This, my friends, is the nature of the Christmas story. Jesus came to earth on the Christmas we celebrate with the sole purpose to live a pure life and die without sin to pay the penalty for our sin, where we could live. It is only because of God's love. "For God SO Loved".
"That He gave". For God so loved the world (you and I) that He gave. God the Creator, ultimate King, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving, loved us so much, that He gave his only son as sacrifice for our sins. This is the "what". God gave.
What did God give? For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes on Him would not perish but have everlasting life. God gave His very best to give us the best. His love was so profound that He sent His only Son to earth for the purpose to live and die as sacrifice to bring us back into a right relationship with God. Jesus was born to die, so that we might live eternally with God in Heaven, as it was planned from the beginning, before the sin of mankind.
So, Jesus is the Ultimate Gift.
The birth of Jesus celebrates the beginning of our life. The life of Jesus teaches us how to live without sin, and how to love other people. The death of Jesus establishes for those of us who believe eternal life with God.
When you receive a gift, no matter how pretty the wrapper, it is not enjoyed until the gift is opened and used. So is it with the Ultimate Gift.
God provided for you and I the Ultimate Gift. We celebrate this Ultimate Gift this Christmas season. This Ultimate Gift is of no use until we first receive it as ours, and then open it and use what is inside.
Jesus is this Ultimate Gift. For me. For you. For all mankind. We receive this gift as a free gift of love from God the Father, the one who is all love. We receive it, then we open it and accept it as our own. We receive it, we open it, we use it. We use the gift that is given. We accept that Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth to die for our sins, to reconcile us back to a Holy God, and we use this Gift to live better lives here on earth, to love people more, and to be comforted with the fact that this world, in all its problems and pain and sickness and death, is not all that we have. Our Ultimate Gift is eternal. It lives inside you every day. It is with you wherever you go. It never gets old. It never gets out of date. It never breaks. It never runs down. It is with you now, and forever.
What is inside this package as the Ultimate Gift is a life of peace, joy, patience, love, acceptance. This Gift is with you when you wake up to when you wake up again; it never leaves you. This Gift allows you to accept life's challenges, allows you to endure the suffering of this world, escapes much suffering that you don't have to go through, gives you joy in the brightest of times and in the darkest of times. This Gift is your light in the darkness. This Gift is your happiest days, and survival of your worst days. As no matter how bleak the day may seem, you know that, through this Ultimate Gift, God is always with you. He will never leave you or forsake you. He is always there. Always comforting. Always encouraging. Always loving.
I loved my Big Lou robot I got when I was about 8 years old. But he eventually broke down and was discarded. It was a good gift, but not good enough. I loved my first shotgun that I still have, but while it served me well during my boyhood, it sits at the back of a safe and only a memory now, being surpassed by many other guns much better. It was a good gift, but not good enough. I have received many gifts in my lifetime of 60 years to date, and hope to receive many more, but all that I have received I will lose, forget, break, misplace, or discard. It will be the same on all my future gifts, no matter how much I love them at the time. But I received one gift when I was a 13 year-old boy, the Ultimate Gift, that will never go away, will never be forgotten, will never lose its value, and that will always give me joy. On that bright day I accepted the Ultimate Gift, the one that God chose for me numerous centuries prior, one that I opened with joy that day, and one that will always be with me.
During this Christmas season, amidst all the lights and smells and sounds and music and crowds and presents, I want you to pause and ponder on the Ultimate Gift.
If you have never received this Ultimate Gift, it is available to you right now, this moment. You need only ask for it, as it was given 2000 years ago, and is only waiting for you to accept and open and use. Pray something simple as follows:
"Dear God, I know that I am a sinner and I have done wrong in my life, and I know that there is nothing I can do to earn your love and your forgiveness. I'm sorry for the things I have done wrong. But I also just now realize that you love me so much that you gave Jesus as a sacrifice for my sins, to make me pure again in your eyes. I thank you for this gift, God. I accept it today. I invite Jesus into my heart and into my life. I choose this gift, and I will open it and learn your teachings and do my best to live a life pleasing to you. Even when I fail, you are with me and you love me. I confess that you are my God, and Jesus is my Savior. Thank you God for your Ultimate Gift that I receive this day. Amen."
If you prayed this prayer and you believe it, then Jesus is your Christmas Gift just as He is the same for all others before and after you. Congratulations. You have received the Ultimate Gift. Now live a life with joy, learn of God through study of the Bible, get in a Bible-believing church where you can learn more and love others and be loved, and live a life of love for God and for others.
If you are like me and have received this gift many years ago, perhaps the gift has been set aside and not used, or not reflected on. I beg you to pick it back up, dust it off, and start to realize again the joy of this Ultimate Gift. Then you can enjoy life. Then you can understand the true meaning of Christmas.
May God richly bless you and your family during this special Christmas season.
Merry Christmas, and celebrate with me the Ultimate Gift.