Christmas is fast approaching. For many of us this is a time for friends, family, and food. It is also a time for gift giving. I love giving gifts. Ask Taryn, I often will buy a gift and then I am not able to contain myself. I just want to give the gift away at that moment. Nevertheless, Taryn does not allow me to do this. She makes me wait until Christmas morning and then I am allowed to give it to her.
I find it interesting how Christmas has become associated with gift giving. So much of our time during the Christmas season can be consumed with thinking about and purchasing the perfect gift. Why do we love giving gifts so much? I think one of the reasons we love giving gifts is because we were created to share our joy with others. In the act of creation God gave us a gift (the whole world) and he commanded us to share it with others ('be fruitful and multiple' - Gen 1:28). In Adam and Eve, the world is corrupted by sin and we find ourselves 'dead in our sins and trespasses' (Eph 2:1). As Augustine says our wills are incurvates in se (curved inward on itself). We still love giving gifts, but the love of gift giving is often so that we can magnify ourselves. It is not to see people join in our joy, but to get something from them. It is to show how great we are or to get a gift ourselves from one else (just watch a commercial about Christmas from a retail store).
The amazing thing about all of this, is that God's response to our rebellion, to our taking what was not ours is not to grab it back, but to give us even more, to give us himself. The promise that we find over and over again in Scripture is that God's taking the world back is in his giving himself to his people. God's promise is: 'I will be their God and they shall be my people.' (Gen 17:8; Jer 24:7, 31:33, 32:38; Ez 11:20, 37:23, 27; Zech 8:8; 2 Cor 6:16; Heb 8:10). Herman Bavinck says this about that promise:
What gift is and can be greater than that of God Himself? What can He give more than Himself; Himself with all His virtues and perfections, with His grace and wisdom, with His right and power, with His unchangeableness and faith? For, where God is for us, who dare, who can, who shall be against us? What then can come unto, what then can hinder us? He is and He remains ours, in necessity and death, in living and dying, for time and eternity. He is a God, not of the dead but of the living. Blessed is the people whose God is the Lord!
God gives himself to redeem his fallen creation. He does not give part of himself. He gives all of himself. This is the blessing of salvation. God does not restore us to what we had before the Fall, but he gives us even more. This is the story that we celebrate at Christmas.
The world around us feeds into the bent nature of our wills. It feeds the fact that we want to celebrate ourselves. However, the Christmas story is attractive because in it we find the end for which we were created. We were created to give ourselves completely to God and each other, so that God may be glorified and others brought into the joy of worshipping him. In the Christmas story, we find God give us the gift of himself. This is the beauty of Christmas. That though we were given a great gift (the gift of creation) by God, we rebelled against him by taking what was not ours. Yet, God does not rip it out of our hands, but gives us even more. He gives us himself in his fullness.
But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). — Matthew 1:20–23