"After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh." Matthew 2:9-11 (NIV)
As the time draws near for our Christmas celebrations, people are shopping, choosing and wrapping gifts and placing them under their Christmas trees to await Christmas morning. Children (and some impatient adults) everywhere are shaking boxes and trying to figure out what is inside. The lists were made and hopes are high that everything that was asked for will be in those brightly colored packages. Meanwhile, parents who have scrimped and saved are hoping that what they were able to afford will please their children even if some items could not be purchased.
A year or so ago I heard the story of a teenage girl who had asked for her first car as a Christmas gift. Although it was an elaborate and expensive thing to give, her father went out and chose a bright red car that was the year, make and model that his daughter was dreaming of. On Christmas morning he blindfolded the girl, walked her out to the driveway and surprised her with the vehicle which was topped with a very large bow. Rather than being excited, she burst into tears and said, "I wanted the blue one!"
I bring up that story because the world has largely lost the purpose of Christmas. Although it most assuredly was not the time of the year that Jesus was actually born, it is the time that we celebrate His arrival. He left His perfect home in Heaven to be born as a human baby in a dirty stable. Rather than a royal pillow on which to lay His head, hay held the newborn King. The first gift that He received was the visit of the shepherds who had been told where to find Him by angels that had appeared to them as they tended their flocks. Their oohs and ahhs welcomed Him. Later, maybe as long as two years, he was visited by the wise men who had followed the star and He was presented with the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Jesus is the reason we share gifts with each other and it saddens me that the time has become more about making money and fulfilling wish lists than it is about praising the One who came to die in our place. Many homes include nativity scenes in their decorations. I always wonder if they get at least as much attention as the tree and stockings. Of everything, this should be the center of our focus as we read and discuss the Bible's account of our Savior's birth. With all of the media showing the worldly interpretation of the season, our children desperately need to be educated and grounded in the truth.
As we proceed through this week and next, can we carry His praise in our hearts and on our lips? No matter what is under that tree, the only gift that is forever is Jesus Christ. There is nothing else that we can share that will ever make the impact that He will. He came out of love and He loves us still. When we walk past the wrapped packages, we need to remember that all He has ever asked of us is that we believe in Him, love Him and tell others about Him. May we search our hearts and make sure that He is at the center. God bless.