ISSUES OF FAITH: To know Christ is the perfect gift

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. — 2 Corinthians 5:17-19 ESV

HOW DO YOU pick out that perfect gift?

In the rush of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I found myself looking for the perfect gift for my brother-in-law.

What my shopping experience came to was me finding something interesting, emailing my sister to get her opinion on whether or not he would like what I picked out, and each time I thought my search was over, she would gently redirect.

The truth became painfully clear: I thought I knew my brother-in-law well, but apparently not.

Picking out that perfect gift is an effort that necessitates knowing the recipient intimately — their hopes, their interests, their preferences, their hobbies and how they spend their leisure time.

I suppose that is why so many people, like me, find themselves staring at items on store shelves with confused looks on their faces.

What we are all asking ourselves is, “Do I really know the person I am buying a gift for?”

Now think of this: Do the people who are shopping for you this year truly know you?

Do they know your hopes, your preferences and your interests?

Have you given the people in your life a glimpse into your soul, affording them the opportunity to know you intimately? Or has the thought of doing that always terrified you?

It can be terrifying to let someone into that sacred space in your life, especially if you are reluctant to go there yourself out of fear of what you might find.

You might find a part of you that you do not like, that you are not proud of, or a memory that you wish you could forget.

Search your soul

It’s terrifying to search your soul, at times because you just might find regret lurking in your conscience or remorse over past choices burrowing itself into your heart.

This is why Christ is the perfect gift; God knows you perfectly (Psalm 139-:1).

He knows your past. He searches your soul. He was with you during those years you regret, those choices you would do anything to have a second chance at and while you spoke the words you wish you could take back.

He looks beyond the façade you try to put on each day and peers into your thoughts: how you have been flooded by anger, resentment and judgment toward so many, including those closest to you.

Knowing yourself

This is why Christ is the perfect gift given to you by the one who knows you better than you know yourself.

Christ is the one promised from old, the one spoke about in the Garden when the Lord said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15 NIV).

He is the one Isaiah, 700 years before the birth of Jesus, prophesied, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6 ESV).

Christ is the perfect gift because we see the will of God demonstrated in how our Father could not imagine heaven without you in it, so much so that he himself would bear the burden of your sin … all of it.

What was needed for you to be at peace with God? It took nothing short of his very blood, his pain and his death.

Jesus is the perfect gift because as we peer into the manger, we see the child born to die as the ransom for our souls.

As we turn to him this season, trusting in our baptism that unites us to the atoning sacrifice of Jesus (Romans 6:4), we are taught that the gift of Christmas is very personal, intimate and fits just right.

That because of the gift of Jesus, we have been forgiven, washed clean and made new. The old is gone, the new has come and we are reconciled with our Heavenly Father.

Lost and found

Was it because we were all good boys and girls? No. It is because we were lost and in his divine fatherly love and goodness, he refused to lose us.

In a way, Christmas is all about us. It is about our need, and our Lord foreseeing that need before the foundations of the world were laid (Ephesians 1:3-6).

Christmas is about you, your regrets, your mistakes, your poor choices, your temper, your judgmental mind and how God stepped into history to save you from them by bearing the eternal consequences those things bring.

Christmas is about you receiving that perfect gift.

It is about you receiving that gift and how you now live in thankfulness for salvation once wrapped in swaddling cloths.

Living thankfully, not controlled by your past, your anger or your mind, but by the undeserved love of Christ toward others.

My prayer for you this season, as we prepare for Christ’s birth, is as you think of your shopping lists, see packages wrapped up in stores or see them appearing under your tree, may they remind you of the perfect gift from the one who knows you best, even in the deep recesses of our soul.

May you constantly be reminded of Jesus Christ, the child born to die for you.

_________

Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. The Rev. Patrick Lovejoy is minister of St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Port Angeles. He can be contacted at 360-457-4122 or [email protected].

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