For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
II Corinthians 8:9
Early Christians rightly called Christmas Day a “Feast”, as this is a day for celebration! We celebrate the riches and abundance of God’s “indescribable gift”. Here is treasure too wonderful for words; it can only be experienced. The Son of God came not only to get us into heaven but to get heaven into us. He came imparting God’s life to all who will receive.
Every Christmas for 44 years the Chicago Daily News printed on its front page “The First Christmas” cartoon by Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Vaughn Shoemaker. Shoemaker was a passionate Christian who said he asked God for guidance in drawing each of his 14,000 cartoons. One morning, just before Christmas in 1934, Shoemaker walked into the newspaper’s editorial office with a rough sketch in hand. It was a drawing of the Christmas star over the Bethlehem manger. The words of John 3:16 were penciled across the sky: “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”. The editors liked Shoemaker’s sketch but expressed concern that the words of Scripture might offend some readers. Colonel Frank Knox, the paper’s publisher, stepped in saying, “Let’s be sensible. If it weren’t for John 3:16 there wouldn’t be any Christmas. Run it!” Shoemaker’s “The First Christmas Cartoon” was run every Christmas until the paper closed in 1978. The paper’s publisher was right! Today has no special meaning except for receiving God’s “indescribable gift”.
St. Augustine rightly noted, “God gives where He finds empty hands.” Like any Christmas gift God’s gift has to be received. And as a gift it is received as unearned, unmerited, and undeserved, or else it is a wage and payment in kind. Today God waits for us to simply hold out empty hands in faith and receive. It’s never about doing, about performing, about measuring up, but about receiving.
As we become ready receivers of God’s grace we find ourselves becoming channels of His grace to others. We give as we have been given. Grace flows into us and from us. Created in God’s image and made new in Christ, we live as God created us to live. The flow of God’s grace doesn’t stop with us but flows continually onward. It all begins with receiving: “All who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God” (John 1:12).
One of my favorite Christmas traditions was last night’s candle lighting ceremony, beginning with the light of the one Christ Candle. In a darkened sanctuary the light of the Christ Candle was passed on from one worshipper to another, then on to another, and another, until the sanctuary was aglow. Grownups and children love to be a part of passing the Christ light. I imagine that together we are receiving the grace of Christ and giving it to others. I picture repeating this until the new earth glows with the light and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Then “we won’t quite know where giving ends and receiving begins. We will rejoice in receiving no less than giving because we’ll delight in each giver’s joy and rejoice over each recipient’s delight.” (Miroslav Volf, Free of Charge) That will be heavenly, as we forever enjoy God and one another in the perfect circle of receiving and giving.
- How do you respond to St. Augustine’s words: “God gives where He finds empty hands”?
- Take a moment to thank God for His Indescribable gift.
- Tell at least one other person what it means for you to receive God’s wondrous gift.