The World's Greatest Gift Meets Humanity's Most Desperate Need
As the parents of four young children (ages 13, 11, 9, and 7), my wife and I have had many years of joyous celebration at Christmas time. Interestingly, we've done this without ever "doing" Santa Claus. In other words, we have never pretended with our children that the gifts under the tree and the goodies in their stockings were the result of the magical efforts of a jolly fat man.
Don't get me wrong – we don't shun Santa. We embrace most of the traditions surrounding Christmas. We have a Christmas tree with presents underneath. We decorate the house inside and out with wreaths, bows, Nativity scenes, and the like. We have our "stockings hung by the chimney with care." We send and receive Christmas cards (one of our best efforts from a couple of years ago is below), and so on. We've taught our children that some families, even Christian families, use the Santa Claus myth as a means of enhancing the joy and fun of the Christmas season.
Have a Merry Christmas...Or Else!
Of course, we work hard at keeping Christ the center of Christmas. We've cautioned our children that "traditions" often can distract us from the profound Truth that Christmas presents. Those who hate the real meaning and message of Christmas will go to great lengths to keep us from this Truth.
The unexpected death of my beloved father-in-law David earlier this year has made this Christmas season by far the most difficult that our family has faced. As an important court date looms for David's killer just a few days following Christmas, our family is tragically reminded of the true meaning of this season.
The man who killed David has a long criminal history. He soon will stand before a judge to be sentenced for probation violations associated with the crash that took David from us. Though he will face the hard consequences of our criminal justice system in this world, because of what was given at Christmas, David's killer, like all of us, has an amazing opportunity for eternal redemption. In other words, though he may be in prison, he can be "set free."
As the piece from the previous link indicates, whether or not we are ever unjustly responsible for the death of another human being in this world, in one way or another, we have all "offended" the One Judge before Whom we must all give an account. In other words, we are all "criminals" desperately in need of a pardon.
In fact, there is no greater need in this world. As Charles Sell put it, "if our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator. If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist. If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist. If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer. But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Savior."
In Christian circles, it is often told that, early in the twentieth century, The Times (U.K.) either invited essays on, or ran a piece entitled, "What's wrong with the world?" Noted theologian, author, and apologist G.K. Chesterton replied:
Yours, G.K. Chesterton.
None of us is "innocent." We have all gone our own way and done our own thing, with disastrous results. In spite of the foolish notion often portrayed by some, no nation, no culture, no individual is "basically good." This world is filled with evil, and at one time or another, we've all had a hand in it. As the prophet Isaiah puts it, "we all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all."
Isaiah wasn't merely painting a picture of sinful humanity. The above Scripture was a prophecy of the coming Messiah. Ultimately the world doesn't have a poverty problem, or a crime problem, or a sexual problem, or a terrorism problem, or even (and of course) a climate problem. The world has a sin problem, and Jesus is the answer.
The most quoted portion of the Bible, John 3:16, declares (emphasis mine), "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." Less well-known is the verse immediately following. John 3:17 says, "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved."
The Red Cross offers "Operation Save-A-Life." Those wanting us to donate blood or organs do so by imploring us to "give the gift of life." With Christmas, God gave "the gift of life" as it has never before been given. How many dying individuals would say no to a life-saving medical procedure made possible through the efforts or generosity of another? Yet how many reject the amazing gift of everlasting life that God offers through Jesus?
There's no escaping this all-important eternal truth: we are all in dire need of a Savior. Your life can be filled with treasures and pleasures, but if you ignore Jesus and His message, you will regret it for eternity. Your life can be riddled with poverty, sickness, and strife, yet if you repent and believe in Christ, the magnificent riches of eternal life await you. And whether rich or poor, sick or well, imprisoned or free, in good times or bad, we all need the gift that was given on that first Christmas.
Trevor Grant Thomas: At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World.