How easy it is for us to miss the whole point of Christmas. We trim our trees, we hang our lights, and we search for the perfect Christmas gifts. But we forget the baby Jesus.
The Bible tells the story of two people who were looking forward to the arrival of Jesus. They were waiting for the Messiah. One was a man named Simeon, who lived a godly life at a time when the people of Israel had turned from the Lord in many ways.
The people hadn’t heard from God for hundreds of years. Not a single prophet had spoken in the name of the Lord. Not one miracle had been performed. But suddenly the time was right. Everything was in place. And Rome actually helped bring about God’s purposes.
Through its military muscle, Rome had bludgeoned the world into submission, and most of the planet was living under what was called Pax Romana. Then Caesar Augustus gave a decree that all the world should be taxed.
This brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem. It was there that Jesus was born, fulfilling the prophecy of Micah 5:2, which said the Messiah would come from Bethlehem.
On the first Christmas Eve, there were no brightly colored lights on any homes, no stockings hung by the chimney with care, and no visions of sugar plums on anyone’s mind. It was just another night in Bethlehem.
But world history was about to change. When Mary and Joseph arrived in town, there wasn’t any room in the inn, so the Son of God entered our world in a stable—or most likely a cave.
When parents have a child, they call their loved ones to tell them the weight and length of the baby and the actual time of birth. So when God was ready to announce that His Son had been born, you’d think He would have told someone like Caesar.
Caesar, however, was merely a tool in the hand of God Almighty to bring about the event the prophets spoke of. Instead, God directed His message that night toward shepherds who were out in the fields, watching over their sheep.
As for Simeon, God had revealed to him that he wouldn’t die until he saw the Messiah. So Simeon held on to the promises of God. He waited and waited, and then one day Mary and Joseph walked into the temple with the infant Jesus.
Simeon knew who they were, because he was a man of God and spent time in prayer. The Bible tells us: “That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, Simeon was there” (Luke 2:27–28 NLT).
Then Simeon took Jesus in his arms, praised God and said: “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!” (verses 29–32 NLT).
There was someone else in the temple that day who was also waiting for the Messiah. Her name was Anna, and she was 84 years old. She never left the temple, and she prayed constantly. And when she saw Simeon talking to Mary and Joseph and saw the baby Jesus, she knew that prophecy had been fulfilled.
Luke’s Gospel tells us that Anna “began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem” (2:38 NLT).
Anna and Simeon were waiting for the Messiah, and He came. But why did Jesus come? Was it so we could shop and spend too much money? Of course not. Jesus actually came to this Earth to die. He came with the express purpose of dying on a cross for our sins.
Jesus said that He came “not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45 NLT).
He came to bring life to us, to bring us the ultimate gift.
This Christmas you’ll receive some gifts that you’ll like and some that you may not be all that happy with. But just as you probably don’t remember what your friends and family gave you last year (and certainly not five years ago), you’re not going to remember next year what gifts you received this Christmas.
And whatever gifts you receive, no matter how cool they are, will be dated in time.
On the other hand, there may be some gifts that will become more valuable to you with the passing of time, such as a drawing from your child or a card that your grandchild made. As the years pass and those other gifts are forgotten, gifts like these will touch your heart.
When I became a Christian, the most appealing thing to me about a relationship with Christ was that I could have a life in all its fullness—and I’ve experienced that life. But as I get older, eternal life has become a more precious gift with the passing of time.
God offers us the most amazing gift of all: the gift of eternal life. And the only way you can become a child of God is by accepting the gift of eternal life. The Bible says, “But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12 NLT).
There has to be a moment when you admit to God that you’re a sinner. And you must turn from that sin and ask Jesus to come into your life. That’s why God sent a Savior.
This gift that God offers is better than anything this world can offer you. It’s the ultimate offer of all time. It’s the gift of eternal life, the gift of forgiveness of sin. It’s the gift of finding the meaning and purpose of your life, the gift of a relationship with God. Yet for many, it’s like a gift card that sits unused and unaccepted.
It’s the only gift that keeps on giving, and God will give it to you right now. All you have to do is receive it.
Learn more about Pastor Greg Laurie.
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This article was originally published at WND.com.