Guest Blog Written by Paul F. Arnhold
The Best Gift Ever
What do you want for Christmas? As a child, perhaps it was a new wagon, toys or that shiny red bike you’ve admired ever since that trip with grandpa to the department store.
Did you always get what you’ve wanted? Or, did you get what your parents knew you needed? Somehow those clothes and new boots didn’t excite you all that much.
When you were a child yourself, do you remember what it was like to wait in anticipation for your gifts? Just when you thought you had opened all the boxes of socks, shirts, and underwear, here comes Grandpa wheeling out that brand new red bike. Though it was winter, you wanted to ride that bike and show all your friends, your best gift ever.
I’d like to tell you about a gift that we neither requested, nor deserved; a gift that our heavenly Father knew we needed and graciously gave us. This gift didn’t have fancy wrapping paper. In fact it was wrapped in strips of linen. And while it didn’t look like much to some people, it turns out that the value is priceless. That gift is eternal life in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Our heavenly Father does listen to our wants, but always gives us our needs in life. He gives us our daily bread, loved ones to share life with, and necessary clothing. Most importantly, He also gave us our Savior to free us from sin. That is by far our greatest need. But it is not our nature to let the God who gives life be the center of our lives, because we are born with sin. In Psalm 51:5 the writer David says “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” And as Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
At creation, God made a perfect world. In that perfect world he made a perfect place for his creation, Adam and Eve, to live. God gave them everything. They didn’t have to work hard like we do or sense frustrations from things not going well. They were completely free to love God. After all, they were created in God’s own image. God gave them a special tree, that tree would be their place of worship – Adam and Eve’s way to say, “thank you” to God. This tree was called “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” With this tree God gave one simple command.
“ You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”
It didn’t take long for God’s nemesis, Satan, to find who and what God created and try to destroy it by putting doubt in the minds of Adam and Eve. “…Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.” Eve did what we all do at times and put up a protective fence around her desires. By depending on the law and not God’s love, we lose focus of the gift. When Satan recognized Eve added words to what God commanded he knew his plan would succeed. Satan was angry, for he had just been tossed from heaven along with his followers, fellow angels who went against God and His authority. He disguised himself as a snake. By mixing truth with lies he made Eve doubt God and His word. This tempted Eve and she and Adam ate the fruit from the tree
“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked, so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.”
Our first parents tried to hide from God and cover up their sin. But God found them and confronted Adam. Adam blamed God for the wife he gave him. “The woman you put here with me–she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Eve blamed the devil; “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” At that point, the world would never be the same.
Then an amazing thing happened. Instead of the punishment and eternal death they deserved, The Lord promised to fix the problem. Even after mankind’s disobedience God showed his undeserved love to them and to us! He rescued Adam and Eve from death by promising to send a Savior from sin. God kept his promise. God’s Son, Jesus, was born and grew up to suffer and die as payment for all disobedience and sin ever committed. He rose from the dead to guarantee that the debt of sin has been paid in full. Now, life is restored. In John 10:10 Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it in full ” as he prophesied through Isaiah;
Is 53:4 “Surely He took on our infirmities and carried our sorrows…”
Why didn’t our Lord simply destroy Adam and Eve and start over? By saving them, God was able to demonstrate his great love and mercy. He also loves you and wants you in heaven. In fact at creation He even had you in mind.
“ Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…”
The fact is he loves you so much that God Himself fulfilled his own prophecy on the cross. The sinless Son of God gave His life so that you and I, miserable sinners, could live. What an amazing act of undeserved love!
“For it is by Grace you have been saved, through faith- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast. ”Eph 2:8,9.
Simply believing that there is a god will not save you, but believing the promise of our Lord that He would send a savior will give you eternal life. Jesus did come. He is the most perfect gift our Heavenly Father could give to his children. It cost Jesus His life, but it was a price he was willing to pay, because He knew it was what His Heavenly Father demanded and was necessary to save you! And when he rose from the dead and ascended to heaven, Jesus guaranteed that our sins were forgiven.
When you get a special gift from someone, you want to let everyone know what you got. Just like the little boy who wanted to show all his friends his brand new bike, we, as Christians, have the desire to share with others our “best gift” the wonderful message of God’s love to a sinful world.
Take the opportunity to thank our Lord for the wonderful gift of His Son by going where he still comes to us with his gifts. As we take this time of year to reflect on the “perfect gift” sent to earth to redeem a lost world, remember, A worship service isn’t about the praise and gifts we bring. It is “His service” for us!
He serves us through His Word, and Sacraments. And he leaves us with hope, joy, and the peace that transcends all understanding, even that of His angels. The peace we have when we see God’s face turned toward us instead of away from us. The peace we have when we see his love smiling on us and forgiving us in Christ. The peace we have when we know and believe that he is our loving Father who guides us every stumbling step we take as his children. The peace we have when we know and believe that when we step out of this life, he will take us to heaven.
Jesus may not have been on the top of your Christmas list this year, but be thankful you were tops on His!
© Paul F. Arnhold 2014