I wanted to give you an opportunity to read or reread this post I wrote last year for Advent.
When we were in elementary school, my brother and I used to crawl around the base of our Christmas tree to examine the packages each evening before Mom called us for dinner. My brother would count the number of gifts for each of us kids to make sure they were equal, all the while begging Mom to open “just one” before Christmas.
One year, I had this gloriously mysterious triangle one. I showed it to my friends when they came over, until one of them guessed what it was, (which definitely took away from the excitement of opening the watch on Christmas day).
Each year, I’d always hide my gift to my sister underneath other packages, because she was somehow always able to guess what her little sister tried to be so sneaky in buying her.
After all the presents were unwrapped, I often felt twinges of disappointment—that it was all over until next year, and none of the gifts had been able to make me perfectly happy.
Now, I worry about how to find something that will be meaningful for the person I am giving to, hoping it won’t sit up on a shelf or go in a Goodwill box by the next year. And as other opportunities for giving flood my mailbox–baby chicks that kids can help their family raise and sell for food, life-saving medical procedures for people in other countries, and Bibles for persecuted Christians–the choices can feel overwhelming.
This Advent, I want my giving to reflect the joy that God feels in giving gifts to His children, while still remembering that their only true satisfaction can be found in Jesus. I want to give toward some needs, knowing that God mourns the brokenness in the world and is bringing restoration.
But most of all, I want to receive. Not only the things that make me feel warm and fuzzy on the inside, but also the baby cries, stuffy noses, and lost sleep He uses to make me more like Himself.
Because God’s ways are true, and He is perfectly good, we can trust Him to give us what is best. And because He is the best, He gives us Himself. Immanuel—God with us. God in us. God through us.
As you read the following verses, I invite you to imagine each as a physical gift that you are unwrapping, then looking into your Father’s face and thanking Him for it.
- His Grace, Mercy, and Forgiveness
The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. (Psalm 103:8-13 ESV)
- His Righteousness
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. . . For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:17, 21)
- His Conviction
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. . . I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. (Psalm 32:1, 5)
- His Discipline and Use of Suffering
For [our fathers] disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but [God] disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:10-12)
- His Instruction
Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. (Psalm 25:4-5)
- His Hope
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)
- His Love
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
- His Sovereign Control of our Circumstances
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
- His Help
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. (Psalm 46:1-3)
- His Peace in His Presence
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
May each of these gifts draw us to a greater awe for who He is as we celebrate one Christmas closer to our heavenly home.
Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:28-29)