Multitudes of children wait in long lines to see Santa Claus each year in malls all across North America. Why do they want to see him? Simple. They want to tell him what they want for Christmas. A new Barbie. Remote control car. «An official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle» (A Christmas Story, 1983).
Kids every year place their trust in a guy in a red suit to give them what they want. Will they get it? They can only hope. If they do get the gift they want, they wonder, how does he do it? They have no idea. All mom and dad tell them is they need to ask Santa, and then maybe even write him a letter to remind him.
As I was thinking about this I began to wonder, if the person in the red suit was God, would there be lines of children and adults, sometimes waiting hours to get one-on-one time with God? Would they change what they would want for Christmas? What would they ask for? A better job. More money. To be a professional athlete. Good health. A new car. Food. To get out of debt. Hope.
But there is something we need to realize. There is a huge difference between God and Santa Claus. One is a fictional character that we make come to life every December by dressing regular people up in red suits. Adults and children have to wait in lines to see this fictional character in order to tell them what things they desperately want and need. As the song explains, this fictional character knows who has been naughty or nice, so you better watch out if you want your gift.
God is so not like that. He is not a fictional character that we have to make come alive only certain parts of the year. There are no lines to wait in. He does not give gifts based upon our merit, but He gives simply because He is gracious. He does not give gifts in order to gratify our selfish desires, but gives us what we truly need, and what will give us the most joy. What He gives does not fade away or get old.
But to go back to my original question, what would you ask God for Christmas?
“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” – John 4:10
We often aim so low in our requests to God. We often ask for temporary things which fade away, and He is ready to give us so much more. Believe or not, our happiness and joy are not dependent on more money, better jobs, or better health, no more than a children’s happiness and joy is based upon the new toy that are dreaming about receiving on Christmas morning. Now, there is not anything inherently wrong with those things, and they do give a bit of joy. But let us be honest. They do not give us the kind of contentment that provides rest to our heart and soul. They do not keep us from running to the next «big thing» that we think will make us happy.
So what is it that God wants to give us that is so much better. In a word: Himself. The greatest gift and the greatest joy, that gives eternal happiness is God Himself. That is who was born in the manger at Bethlehem that day over 2000 years ago. The gift He offers is:
the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus – Romans 3:22-24
Because of our sin and rebellion against the one true holy God, we are not at peace. At least not the kind of peace that remains, regardless of circumstances. Jesus Christ is God’s good and perfect gift to mankind. This is why the angels sang to the shepherds the night of Jesus’ birth:
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” – Luke 2:14
For those that receive God’s gift «we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.» – Romans 5:1
So the real question is: have you received God’s gift? You might ask, how can I know? First of all, have you asked Him for it? Most people are so consumed with running for other things, that God takes a back seat, or does not even have a place in the car. But, if you ask Him for it He will give it to you freely on one condition. That you trust Him to the point that you are willing to forsake/abandon your sin and desires for sinful things and let Him be the Lord of your life who saves you from your sin against Him. This is biblical saving faith. If you are willing to do that, then His gift is freely given to you. And this is a gift that never fades or wears out.
The one who has received Jesus Christ as their gift rejoice in the fact that there is not expiration date on salvation in Him:
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. – 1 Peter 1:3-5
This is also the gift that satisfies the heart and soul. Those that have received the gift of Jesus Christ worship Him, not out of duty, but from joy and thankfulness. They serve others with spiritual gifts that God gives them on top of their salvation. They are content to the point that the riches and thrills of this world become less and less attractive, for Jesus is more beautiful and satisfies them much more.
So do not ask God mainly for a blessed new year, financial blessing, good health or that promotion that you have been wanting. Ask Him to give you Himself. Every year has times when it does not feel «blessed». No matter how blessed financially we may be, it never seems to be enough. We may have good health this year, but eventually our bodies get old, sick and we die. A promotion may feel great, but with it comes great responsibilities and stress. But, when we receive God as our gift, when He is the delight of our hearts, He gives to us freely.
Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. – Psalm 37:4