What is the best Christmas present you ever received? I guess I can’t say for certainty in my years which was the “best,” but I can say that there is one Christmas present I received over twenty years ago that I still use regularly and have no desire to replace anytime soon. Mom and Dad gave me a Callaway Hawkeye driver for Christmas when I was sixteen years old. It has launched thousands of golf balls onto the fairway over the years (and thousands more into the woods), and it is still the best club in my bag today. What’s the best Christmas gift you ever received?
Some of my super spiritual readers will readily point out that Christmas is not about presents. I get it. But actually, it is! Technically, Christmas is about one single present. In the person of Jesus Christ, God wrapped himself in human flesh and stepped into human history through the womb of a human virgin. Best Christmas present ever.
“The Word became flesh,” (v.14). Wow! What a gift! The Divine Logos, the communicator/revealer of God—God the creator, God the source of light and life—wrapped himself in flesh and laid himself in a lowly manger. Seeing how the darkness of a sin-sick world was closing in on people he created in his image and after his likeness, out of his great love for them, when the time was right, God wrapped himself in flesh as a gift given to the whole world.
“… and dwelt among us,” (v.14). The original language uses the word “tabernacle” here. God tabernacled with us. Wrap your head around that for a minute. For millennia, those who loved God went to the tabernacle to meet with him. To the tabernacle. To the tabernacle. To the tabernacle. And here, in this baby, God has left his throne in glory to tabernacle with us. Best Christmas gift ever. And in a single phrase we have moved from Christmas presents to Christmas presence.
This is, when all is said and done, the difference between Christianity and all man-made religions of the world. Religion is about what people must do to try and get to God. To the tabernacle. But the message of the gospel in Christianity testifies joyfully to all people everywhere, “Look what God has already done to get to you!”
This Christmas season, if you find yourself going through the motions, checking off the boxes to try and experience God’s presence in some meaningful way, just stop. Just stop and look at the manger. There, see God wrapped in human flesh and laying under the stars of heaven as a gift to you. Emmanuel—God with us. There is nothing you could ever do to make God love you any more or any less. God does not love you because of who you are; he loves you because of who he is. You don’t have to try to get to God. He came to meet you right where you are.
This Christmas present is unlike any other gift ever given in that this is the gift of God’s presence among us—“We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Best Christmas gift ever. But it is like every other gift in that it must be received. In vs.10-11, this gift from God was a gift not recognized and a gift not received.
A gift not recognized (v.10). The Christmas season is a time when the story of Jesus is told more frequently and more clearly than many other times of the year. If you’re hearing this story—God’s story—and thinking, “That’s not really for me,” let me tell you my friend, yes it is. This gift from God is a gift to all people everywhere, if they will only receive it. Whoever you are and whatever walk of life you come from, this gift is for you.
A gift not received (v.11). This is possibly the most disheartening verse in John Chapter 1. The gift of God’s presence wrapped in flesh and radiating his own glory, was not received; it was rejected. That’s the only caveat of a gift given, as far as I know. It’s not actually yours until you receive it.
I started by asking the question: What is the best Christmas present you ever received? Let me close with a different question: Have you received the best Christmas present ever given?
Grace and Peace,