I love finding the perfect gift for a loved one—something they’ll love and that tells them I care about them very much. For my granddaughter it was a book about cats. For my brother-in-law it was a package of caramel nut coffee.
God gives gifts, too. He gives us life, breath, food and our basic needs every day. But I’m thinking of the special abilities He gives His children to share with one another for each other’s benefit—commonly known as “spiritual gifts.” Paul discusses these in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, but right in between those chapters is the real jewel, described as “the way of life that is best of all” (12:31), “the greatest of these” (13:13) and “your highest goal” (14:1). This is LOVE!
Love is contrasted with the spiritual gifts which are variously given to different ones of God’s children; love is to be practiced by all of us. This famous “love chapter” divides nicely into three parts:
1. The priority of love. It’s indispensable! As a child, I saw an advertisement for “the indispensable dress.” I had to ask my mom what that meant, thinking that maybe it meant “indisposable”. She said it means that you can’t do without it! Well, I’ve done okay without that dress, but God says that whatever other good things we may do are totally worthless without love. That’s sobering.
2. The properties of love are presented in beautiful poetry in the middle part of this chapter. And just so I can test and see if I’m really a loving person, here’s the checklist:
–Am I patient & kind with people who get on my nerves?
–Am I envious of what I don’t have or boastful about what I have or can do?
–Am I arrogant, rude, or self-seeking—or do I give priority to others’ needs and feelings?
–Am I irritable or do I hold grudges—or am I a channel of God’s grace?
–Do I delight in what is good and true, or am I focused on lies, evil and injustice?
–Do I bear, believe, hope and endure all things—not naïve but trusting God while sharing my life and love with others?
3. The permanence of love. All other spiritual gifts will end “when the perfect comes” and we’re home in heaven. We won’t need preachers, prophets, healing, etc. We will be complete and whole. Our love for one another and for the Lord will then be perfect as we bask in the ecstasy of His immeasurable love for us.
If a very close loved one gives you a gift wrapped in a very small package, chances are it’s something very precious. Over 2000 years ago the Creator and Father gave the world His most precious treasure wrapped in a very small package: His Son in the form of a newborn baby. His value was announced by angels and a star and acknowledged by a band of local Jewish shepherds, the lowest of their society—and then by a group of wealthy foreign scholars who had traveled for months just to trace down the newborn “King of the Jews.”
Who was this baby that he commanded such attention by heavenly and earthy powers? What can we say when the Creator of the universe visits his own world semi-incognito in order to rescue them? When the Infinite disguises Himself as a helpless baby? Words fail. That’s the wonder of the Incarnation—the mind-blowing truth that I struggle to grab hold of every Christmas season.
Wrapped up in those strips of cloth was the fulfillment of all mankind’s hopes and dreams for love, joy, peace, purpose, justice, goodness, everlasting life, and more! It was effected by the forgiveness made possible through that baby (now a man—the God-Man) voluntarily taking the punishment we so rightly deserved. This is God’s extravagant gift to humankind, which we celebrate this day.
There are two things you can do with a gift: receive it or reject it. To receive a costly gift implies a relationship with the giver. The Creator and God of the universe extends to us the privilege of an intimate relationship with Him.
Or you can reject the gift. Why do people reject precious gifts? Maybe they don’t want to be tied down by a close relationship with the giver. Maybe they feel it would put them in an uncomfortable position of obligation. Maybe they think they don’t need the gift.
The gift of a relationship with God and His Son Jesus Christ is offered to you. Have you accepted it? Can you afford not to?
Here are some of my special treasures:
They are gifts from my grandchildren. When I see them, I think of me and my heavenly Father whom I aim to please with my heart-felt gifts, doing my best with what He’s given me to work with. I like to imagine Him smiling on me, pleased and delighted with my efforts and the love that goes into them. Does He proudly show them around to the angels?
Something for Thee
Savior, Thy dying love Thou gavest me,
Nor should I aught withhold, dear Lord, from Thee;
In love my soul would bow, my heart fulfill its vow,
Some off’ring bring Thee now, something for Thee.
O’er the blest mercy seat, pleading for me,
My feeble faith looks up, Jesus, to Thee:
Help me the cross to bear, Thy wondrous love declare,
Some song to raise, or prayer, something for Thee.
Give me a faithful heart—likeness to Thee,
That each departing day henceforth may see
Some work of love begun, some deed of kindness done,
Some wand’rer sought and won, something for Thee.
All that I am and have—Thy gifts so free—
In joy, in grief, through life, O Lord, for Thee!
And when Thy face I see, my ransomed soul shall be
Through all eternity, something for Thee.
By Sylvanus D. Phelps
Joy, peace, love and hope are all over the place at Christmas time. On cards, decorations, hangings, etc. As they should be. But sometimes familiar words get so familiar they bounce right off our ears. I thought I’d go on a search for the most superlative presentation of each of these three gifts in God’s Word.
Joy–You love [Jesus Christ] even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. 1 Peter 1:8 (NLT)
When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! John 15:10-11 (NLT)
Peace–Peace is my parting gift to you, my own peace, such as the world cannot give. Set your troubled hearts at rest, and banish your fears. (John 14:27 REB)
Love–May you have the power to understand…how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. (Ephesians 3:18-19)
Hope—With eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. (from Romans 8:19-23 NLT)