As Christmas comes around again many of us begin to think about gifts. Mostly about the ones we hope to give to our loved ones, our friends and colleagues. Because that’s what we do at Christmas time. We want to bless others with our gifts and of course if they want to reciprocate, that’s okay too.
The origin of this tradition of giving isn’t too clear but there are a couple of things that come to mind. One notable tradition which has given rise to ‘Santa Claus’ was the fourth century bishop Nicholas of ancient Myra, now Demre in Turkey, who, according to legend did many miracles and secretly gave gifts to people to alleviate poverty. By what little we know of him he was a dedicated Christian man of exceptional character.
The most obvious explanation is that God gave us a gift about 2,000 years ago and we respond with gratitude by giving gifts to other people. This acknowledges that we are glad God first gave us a gift and of course, was what originally drove “Saint” Nicholas to his generosity.
That gift, given through God’s love for all people, first appeared as a baby boy, named Jesus, was born in obscure circumstances in a little village near Jerusalem called Bethlehem. According to scholars there were many predictions written hundreds of years before about the precise location of the birth of this special child and many details of his life and impact. The nation of Israel were waiting with great anticipation for the arrival of this person because it was said that he was going to deliver them from all tyranny and oppression and restore the nation to its former glory as in the times of King David.
The gift of course was all of that, but the true work of the Saviour was to deliver God’s people from their oppression by sin and evil, not external forces. You could almost say, to save them from themselves. The gift was fully realised when Jesus was executed by Roman and local authorities in Jerusalem even though he had committed no crime. It was also evident that Jesus was someone special by the way he spoke with compelling authority and godly grace and on many occasions healed the sick, cast out demons and performed many miraculous signs.
The implication of Jesus’ death is that now all people can receive the gift of forgiveness of their sins and eternal life believing in Jesus and accepting him as Lord and Saviour. This is the real gift that God has given us, that we get so excited about at Christmas time. And Easter and, in fact, every day of the year. At the time of the trials of Jesus one of the elders of Israel said that one man must die so that all may be saved. Truer words were never spoken as this was the plan of God all along, that through the death of Jesus the just demands of the Law of Moses would be met and all could be saved.
What a great gift from God! But wait, there’s more! On the third day Jesus again proved his divine power and rose from the dead! He explained to his followers that we too will experience the same resurrection and those who by faith were obedient to God’s commandments would receive the gift of eternal life and those who didn’t would be condemned to eternal torment in hell.
What about Christmas? Obviously, it is about celebrating the birth of Jesus. But that is just the beginning. It’s all about this great gift from God and our gratitude to him for doing what we could not do ourselves, save us from the punishment of sin. Motivated by his love for us he wants us to be free from the penalty, power and presence of sin which is debilitating in this life and detrimental to our eternal health.
When you give gifts this Christmas think about this wonderful gift God is giving to you. you can find out more about it by contacting your local Christian Church, or come and join us at All Saints either in our wonderful old church in Menteng or our services in South Jakarta .
You will be most welcome !”
Text: Rev. Alan C. Wood Vicar, All Saints’ Anglican Church, Jakarta.
For details go to www.allsaintsjakarta.org
This article is originally from paper. Read NOW!Jakarta Magazine December 2018 issue“Festive Issue”. Available at selected bookstore or SUBSCRIBE here.