We naturally associate Christmas with gift-giving, and while we’d probably all agree that Christmas has gotten far too materialistic, we all enjoy receiving a gift or two.
When we think of gifts on that first Christmas the image that might come first to mind are the gifts presented by the Magi; gold, frankincense and myrrh. However we are fairly certain that the ‘wise men’ did not appear on the scene until maybe a year or almost two years later. So were there really any gifts were given on that first Christmas morning? I would suggest to you that there were gifts given- but not of the type we might think. They were not tangible items to be opened or unwrapped, but they were gifts that undoubtedly moved and blessed the heart of God.
Let’s consider the familiar passage found Luke 2:15-20 (NIV): 15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.
It is hard to fully capture the emotion of this great moment with the written word. We can’t hear what they heard, or smell the smells; we can’t feel the breeze on our faces as the shepherds rushed from the fields into Bethlehem. They just had to see for themselves the wonderful event the angels had declared to them. Searching through the darkened streets the shepherds finally found the child. What a sight it must have been, these rough men, smelling of sheep and open fields, huddled around a feed box gazing at a baby. There is delight and excitement among this group as they get up and go with great haste to find this child.
~The shepherds gave gifts of excitement and joy in response to God’s promise.
17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
How hard it must have been to leave, but as they went, these simple shepherds became the first ‘evangelists’ of the New Testament. An evangelist is one who proclaims good news…and that is what the shepherds did. Their message was simple, but breathtakingly powerful. They told of the fear that gripped them, of the words that the angel had spoken, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11 KJV) They told of the stillness of the night broken by the host of Heaven consumed with worship, praising God. And people listened with amazement and wonder.
~The shepherds gave the gift of witnessing to the truth of God’s promise.
19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
Mary’s gift was different; her gift was reflective. The word used for ‘treasured’ has the idea of remembering with the added intent of obedience. Mary knew that all these things that had happened came as a result of her obedience and the years ahead of her would require her to continue in obedience to the God who had so blessed her. Mary’s life was forever changed
~Mary gave the gift of remembering all that God had done and prepared to continue in a life of obedience to God.
20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
As they left, the shepherds gave the glory and praise to God. It is important to realize that they based their praise on what had been revealed to them. They did not manufacture any other story; they did not add to it or take away from it. What they had experienced, they rejoiced in.
~The shepherds gave the gift of praise and worship to God.
These gifts that were given were not anything that could be handled or put up on a shelf. They do have one thing in common: the gifts given on that first Christmas were all gifts that came from gratitude to God.
What can we give to God? We can give God our material possessions, and so we should be generous with what God has given. But, consider these words from Chuck Swindoll: 'Some gifts you can give this Christmas are beyond monetary value: Mend a quarrel, dismiss suspicion, tell someone, “I love you.” Give something away--anonymously. Forgive someone who has treated you wrong. Turn away wrath with a soft answer. Visit someone in a nursing home. Apologize if you were wrong. Be especially kind to someone with whom you work. Give as God gave to you in Christ, without obligation, or announcement, or reservation, or hypocrisy.' (Charles Swindoll, Growing Strong, pp. 400-1.)
The best gifts we can give to God are those that come from gratefully changed lives