There is something tender and heartwarming about a child’s unbridled anticipation as they race down the stairs to see what gifts await them beneath the Christmas tree. Giving and receiving gifts has been a Christmastime custom observed for hundreds of years, but how did this tradition begin? Many speculate that the tradition is based on the wise men who gave Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:11). Others believe that gift-giving follows in the boots of the historical Saint Nicholas, who gave gifts to poor children in his neighborhood. Whatever the historical roots of ripping open presents on Christmas morning, the tradition can remind us of God’s gift to us on Christmas Day: eternal life through Jesus Christ.
Paul famously said, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Eternal life is a gift, and this conveys several wonderful truths about the nature of eternal life. First, it cannot be earned. You can’t buy it with works of righteousness. You can’t earn it by baptism or church membership. You cannot do anything to deserve it. It is God’s free and gracious gift to you (Acts 8:20; Ephesians 2:8).
Secondly, it should be received with gratitude. You must come to God with empty hands in order to receive the gift of eternal life. All you must do is open your hands to receive it. Once you are “justified by his grace as a gift” (Romans 3:24), you can’t help but exclaim in gratitude, “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15).
Finally, it was purchased by the precious blood of Christ. Every gift has a cost paid by the buyer. Likewise, the gift of everlasting life came at a cost. It comes freely to you, but it was paid for by the blood of Jesus on Calvary. That is why Paul explained, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7).
If you have received the free gift of eternal life by faith in Jesus Christ, rejoice. Sing the words of Jessie B. Pounds’ little-know hymn, Blessed Gift:
“O Thou blessed gift from Heaven,
Words Thy worth can never tell!
Sweetest boon to mortals given,
Is our Lord Immanuel.”
Who in your life has not yet received God’s free gift? There is no better gift you could give them than the message of the gospel this Christmas. If you want to learn more about the traditions of Christmas, check out my new Christmas devotional on Amazon: Let Earth Receive Her King: 25 Daily Advent Devotions.
Bible Gleanings is a weekend devotional column, written for the Murray Ledger & Times in Calloway County, Kentucky. In the event that the column is not posted online, it is be posted for reading here.