The Gift of Advent

Harpers Magazine, Christmas 1898

The turkey is finished, and the dressing has been stuffed into every possible nook of our bellies. Our eyes now turn towards what will happen in twenty-five days: the celebration of our Saviour’s birth. And so it’s time, as is our custom on this little slice of the Internet, to turn our eyes there as well.

This year, I’ve been beaten, again and again, with the notion of buying. It’s certainly commonplace in this age of cutthroat shopping, TV commercials, and the like to discuss the need-mentality and obsessive desire for things with which we conduct ourselves. But it’s worth noting, especially in this time.

My wife and I had approximately three nights of cable TV as we stayed at a hotel this past week during the Thanksgiving festivities. We don’t have cable at home, so every chance to watch the Food Network becomes a joyous, and somewhat compulsive, experience. Still, by the time we watched a single night of cooking competitions, Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, and Chopped, we had memorized every sale and special that was being advertised during the commercial breaks. This upcoming season is always, without fail, a season of purchasing and consumption.

With Black Friday in the rear-view mirror and the infinite number of Christmas sales on the horizon, most of us begin to think, What in the world will I buy? What gifts will I give? If you’re like me, you often wait until the last-minute, Jingle-All-the-Way style, to begin shopping. This season for me, then, tends to foster a brooding and simmering, crock-pot-like stress that underlies every week. Have I remembered everyone? Will I get their presents in time?

And every year, again without fail, I need to be reminded and refreshed. Christmas is primarily not about taking advantage of that low-priced flatscreen TV or getting that perfect gift for someone you love. The birth of our Savior is about a gift given to us. It has nothing to do with our gift-giving initiative. God gives first, and Christ is the gift. He cannot be bargained for, and He is never on sale. He cannot be earned or bought. He can only be received. Christmas is first about welcoming into our arms and hearts the One to whom the angels and stars sing their praises.

Of course, “it is better to give that to receive” (Acts 20:35), but to give anything in a truly glorious and loving way, we must first receive the Glory and the Love that is the person of Jesus Christ. He is the starting point. He is the catalyst for all gift-giving, the never-ending fuel and energy for all love and service. To give and shop for those we love without first resting and treasuring the gift of Christ is akin to pushing a car an extra ten miles, uphill, on an empty tank. You’ll probably run out of gas.

The Christmas season affords us all an opportunity to receive, afresh and anew, Christ Jesus. Every day is a new day to trust, hope, and glory in the Saviour who came to save and rescue His wayward and rebellious people.

May the beginning of your holiday season be one in which you first sit and welcome, treasure and delight in, the gift of Jesus Christ as you, then, give good gifts to others.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…”

-Isaiah 9:6

 

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