I actually think this happens to each of us at Christmas and I think it happens like this. Christmas is really about the gift of Jesus, God with us, but it is often this gift that we miss. Jesus kind of snuck down to earth when He came as a helpless baby, in an obscure village, in the quiet season of winter, and to simple parents. He was heralded by angels, but not to the leaders of the day, but to common working folks who worked the swing shift outside of town for months on end. He even came in the place of the animals, not the cozy communal place where people stayed. Would you have noticed Him if you had been there? I doubt that I would and sometimes I doubt that I do! In all my preparations for Christmas I need to consciously stop and think about the magnificent and mysterious gift of Immanuel, God with us: God of the universe coming down to earth to live among us. This is the gift to you and to me but what is our response? If you’re like me you want to give something back to Him who gave so much to us.
The name Jesus means God save us. Jesus actually came to earth to give us the gift of saving us but we have to choose to accept the gift and respond with our own gift back. He does not force himself upon us but rather offers himself to us. How do we accept His gift and still give something back?
The last line of the hymn “In the Bleak Midwinter” says:
What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man, I would do my part;
Yet what can I give Him: give Him my heart.
That is what Jesus desires of us – to give Him our hearts, to accept Him whole heartedly in our lives and to give back by loving Him with all of our being. That is the gift He desires from us. Jesus told us that that greatest way to demonstrate this gift to Him was to love God with all of our hearts and to love our neighbors as ourselves. He told us what this gift looks like.
Practically, I think the gift of love looks like two things: devotion to Him and service to others. Devotion is all about time. We are devoted when we spend time with Him. We acknowledge His presence and we talk to Him about our lives, the lives of those we love (and He does too) and we talk to him about this world He so lovingly created. We serve Him when we serve others like He did. Jesus came to earth and lived among us. Watch what He did. Take your cues from actions He took. Walk like He did among all kinds of people, taking time to listen, help, speak truth and generally share kindnesses in a broken world. That’s the Jesus-sized gift and it always fits perfectly!