©Joy Dunlap https://joydunlap.com
“What was your favorite gift?” or “Which were the best gifts you received?” Those are questions I often ask as conversation starters during the holiday season.
Answers range from dolls to electronics, along with the unusual and unexpected. It’s a fun way to find out something about a person and to stimulate discussion.
Often when favorites are recounted, we tie them to a particular feeling or a story. Chatty Cathy, Barbie and the American Girl became “play” friends for many. Pogo sticks, bicycles, and skates provided freedom of movement. Boom boxes, transistor radios, and stereos opened the door to the world of music. Lite-Bright, Etch A Sketch, easel sets, and musical instruments sparked creativity. Engagement rings, charm, friendship and “tennis” bracelets remind us of connection.
A gift often imbeds itself in our memory because of the giver. When a friend or family member gifts us a product or experience that relates to us or our need or situation at the time, we know they “get us,” they understand us, they connect with us, and they care for us!
That story – that gift – is one we remember.
Christmas is a celebration about gifts, but not really the ones under the tree. Instead, it’s about the gifts that exist because of the One sacrificed on wood from a tree.
If Jesus had only arrived in the manger, it would have been a short, short story. But His sacrifice on the cross paved the way for our salvation and forgiveness, and His resurrection demonstrates the promise of everlasting life, and confirms we connect to a powerful, living God.
Yes, Christmas is a celebration of gifts.
The gift of grace. The gift of mercy. The gift of love.
Grace. We can’t earn it. God gives it.
It’s God’s unmerited, but freely given, favor and forgiveness.
“Grace is God’s best idea. His decision to ravage a people by love, to rescue passionately, and to restore justly – what rivals it? Of all his wondrous works, grace, in my estimation, is the magnum opus.” Max Lucado
When we choose to receive and open God’s grace by trusting and following Christ, our lives can be rejuvenated, restored and redeemed.
The world’s distorted standards of success, the push for perfection, and societal turmoil leave many – including believers – fighting with feelings of failure, inadequacy and unworthiness.
The beauty of God’s gift of grace is that we can keep reopening it and connecting with Him to renew, strengthen and grow us. Then we find or rediscover more and more gifts.
Peace. Joy. Love.
God has already given them to us. They are found at the Tree – the Cross – of Calvary.
we don’t unwrap them.
we put them back in the box and secure it with the darkest, strongest tape that makes it difficult to reopen.
we avoid reading the instruction book – the Bible – on how to operate and use them.
we let someone or circumstances “steal” those gifts of peace, love and joy from us like the popular seasonal game where a person takes your great gift and you’re left searching for something else.
we try to find flashier, more fun, more exciting “gifts,” only to discover they weren’t what we thought they were – and definitely not what we wanted – or needed – after all.
But, thankfully – by His Grace, God’s gifts are available for us to open again and again, every day! To discover and to delight in the gifts He provides.
Peace and Joy have our name on them. Given by God through Christ – with Love.
Let’s look at a few Bible verses about what guarantee God offers with those gifts.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27 NIV (underline added)
Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you. Isaiah 57:21 NIV (underline added)
An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. Luke 2: 9-11 NIV (underline added)
Romans 5:1-3 beautifully ties faith, peace, grace and hope all together for us.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.
- What Christmas gift have you received in the past that stands out to you? What made it special?
- Can you think of a time that you struggled to get a gift operational whether it was one you received or one you gave?
- Are God’s gifts of Peace, Love and Joy fully unwrapped and operating in your life today? If not, which one needs more Presence?
Unwrap all the gifts God gives! You’ll delight in what’s inside!
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23a
Life is Better When It’s Full – Joy-full, Thank-full, Purpose-full and Friend-full! ™