In a very short time, we will celebrate Christmas. When my son was very young, he was excited to see gifts under the tree. As he grew older, he made sure I had a gift list. Even though my son is older now, he is like every other person; he still enjoys the Christmas season because he enjoys receiving. There is nothing wrong with giving and receiving gifts. It is a traditional part of the Christmas season.
The real message of Christmas, however, has more to do with GIVING than with receiving. John 3:16 says – For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” In Matthew 20:28, Jesus said, “Even as the son of man came not to ministered unto, but to minister, and to GIVE his life a ransom for many.” And finally in Romans 8:32 – “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things.” Jesus came into this world to give, so that we might have and experience his life, and in turn, share what we have received with others.
Jesus said it this way in Matthew 10:8 – “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.” God’s Word translation says it this way – “Give these things without charging, since you received them without paying.” In Acts 3:6, we have the story of Peter walking to a prayer meeting. As he passed a crippled person who was sitting at the gate to the city, Peter suddenly stopped and said to him, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee.” God’s Word translation says – “I don’t have any money, but I’ll give you what I do have.”
Peter was aware that he had received something from God. Peter had something to give that exceeded monetary value. Peter knew that he was the steward of God’s power and mercy and that he had access to that power through the Name of Jesus. Not only did he know that he received something from God, but he was also willing to become a vessel to allow God’s love and mercy and power to flow through him to touch someone in need.
Many of you are thinking about buying gifts for your family, friends, and loved ones. You may be looking at your budget, wondering how it will work out. I want to challenge you to consider looking beyond the typical definition of giving; to give gifts that will have a lasting and life-changing impact on your family and friends. As 1 Peter 4:10 says – “As every man has received the gift, even so, minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” The Living Bible says – “God has given each of you some special abilities, be sure to use them to help each other, passing on to others God’s many kinds of blessings.”
What gifts have you received as a result of God’s grace? First and most importantly, we have received the gift of forgiveness. Col. 1:14 says – “In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” Just think about it, when you became a Christian, God completely removed your sins. Isaiah 43:25 tells us that God has blotted out our sins for his own sake, and he chooses not to remember them. Micah 7:19 says – “He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; He will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”
“God has cast our confessed sins into the depths of the sea, and He’s even put a ‘No Fishing’ sign over the spot. (Dwight L. Moody.) God has no record of your past life. He has no record of any sin you have asked forgiveness for; it does not exist. You talk about freedom. We can live this life without any sense of guilt or sin consciousness.
Let’s go one step further. We must extend to others what we have received from God. Ephesians 4:32 says – “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Colossians 3:13 – “Tolerate the weaknesses of those in the family of faith, forgiving one another in the same way you have been graciously forgiven by Jesus Christ. If you find fault with someone, release this same gift of forgiveness to them.” (The Passion Translation)
Forgiveness means to erase, to forego what is due, to give up resentment, to wipe the slate clean, to release from a debt, to cancel punishment, to personally accept the price of reconciliation, to give up all claims on the one who has hurt you and let go the emotional consequences of that hurt. “Forgiveness is like letting go of a bell rope. If you have ever seen a country church with a bell in the steeple, you will remember that to get the bell ringing; you have to tug awhile. Once it has begun to ring, you merely maintain the momentum. As long as you keep pulling, the bell keeps ringing. Forgiveness is letting go of the rope. It is just that simple. But when you do so, the bell keeps ringing. Momentum is still at work. However, if you keep your hands off the rope, the bell will begin to slow and eventually stop” (Corrie Ten Boom). Jesus gave that same advice in Mark 11:25 – “And when you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him and let it drop, leave it and let it go.” (Amplified)
A four-year-old was praying one night and having been listening in church to a sermon on the Lord’s prayer – “And forgive us our trash baskets as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets.” That’s good advice for every Christian. If you have been harboring unforgiveness toward someone, now is the best time to give the gift of forgiveness. Give a gift that will not only bless the other person but will also liberate you.
So, think beyond giving temporal gifts when you think of giving this Christmas season. Instead, give a gift that will change a life. Give the gift of forgiveness. There is a satisfaction, a blessing that comes when we are willing to give out what we have received. When we do that, we will truly understand the words of Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)