Bellies are full. Hints of evergreen and clove float through the house. The sun rests beneath its blanket of snow, leaving the world outside basked in a midnight hue. Not all is dark though, for in the house a candle burns, flicking rays of amber on the knickknacks and picture frames gathered around it on the window seat. The plump Christmas tree stands erect and all aglow with its winding necklace of fluorescent jewels in every color. Scraps of Santa Claus and snowman wrapping paper are strewn across the carpet, behind the couch and even atop the antique wooden coffee table. A Christmas movie murmurs in the background as adults vibrate with laughter and children prance around with their new gadgets.
Eventually the energy begins to fade, little hands rub tired eyes and yawns appear on everyone’s faces. With the last guest out the door, the family treks off to bed, memories of Christmas still fresh in their heads. The once lively square of a room stands dark and mute. A thin line of smoke trails from the candle, leaving the tree and its vibrant jewels as the lone source of light. Everything in the room is wrapped in its soft glow, including the one present still under the tree.
In all the hustle of sorting presents, suppressing squeals and the ravaging of paper, this lonely present got scooted to the back and was quickly forgotten. After all, its wrapping is nothing special nor its size excitable. Nothing like the imposing box decked in ribbons, whose size promised to be a new hoverboard. Nor is it intriguing like the small cube wrapped ever so neatly, hiding what could only be the latest smart watch.
No, this small present looked like nothing of the sort, so under the tree it was left. Not until a week later when the tree was tossed to the curb did anyone notice the present sitting there, now exposed without the dark cover of evergreen.
Its tag had somehow been ripped away and no one knew who brought it. The family considered opening it, but it was so…unimpressive. Plus, they’d all gotten everything they wanted. So to the curb it went, shoved in a trash bag and plopped next to the discarded tree and empty cardboard boxes.
What is this present? Well, despite its humble wrappings and size, it’s the most expensive, awesome gift anyone could receive. It’s been in all of our houses at one time or another, and it’s one many have thrown to the curb along with shredded paper, discarded leftovers and a dying tree. Yes, we’ve all been given this gift, but few of us have taken the time to open it, fewer have kept it and even fewer treasured it.
Its packaging may not be covered in glitter or sealed with a bow. Inside you won’t find a new gadget, not even a wad of cash. No, in fact, beneath its modest wrapping, you’ll find a stained piece of cloth, a handful of nails and a crown of twisted thorns.
To the untrained eye, this present looks like garbage, some may even be offended at such a gruesome gift. After all, is that not blood on the stained cloth? But for those whose hearts have been changed by a little baby born more than 2,000 years ago, nothing could be more precious.
“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).
Ever heard the phrase, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder?” Well, that’s not the case here. Yes, some will see this gift’s beauty and some will not, but the truth of its beauty is not measured by those who behold it but in the One who sent it.
I know what you’re thinking: Christmas is long gone, the tree has been tossed and burned and those long-awaited gadgets have since been shoved in a drawer or stopped working weeks ago. Yes, I know. I know the snow has melted and the flowers are starting to bloom. I know Easter is a calendar page away and with it egg hunts, bunny visits and lots of waxy chocolate.
Yes, I know all of this is true, but I also know that for some of you, the long forgotten present under the tree still hasn’t found its way to you.
With all the horrors we see on the news everyday, I understand we want to focus on the positive and not on the evil running rampant in our world, but friends, this present is as positive as anything can be and symbolizes the only hope we have that evil will one day be defeated.
The stained cloth? It is stained with blood that was spilt for you. Those nails? They held a Man to a cross that was supposed to be yours. The crown of thorns? It was driven into His head so yours would never feel its pain. This present, though unimpressive in appearance, was bought with the most valuable currency ever known. It’s a present that has been and will continue to be offered to every person who’s ever lived and it’s the only one that truly matters.
All of us need this gift—politicians and truck drivers, pastors and convicts, black and white, male and female, young and old. We all need it and none of us deserve it, but unfortunately, few of us will accept it.
Jesus Christ is this gift and it was His blood that was spilt so yours never would be. It was His hands that were pierced with nails so yours never would be. It was His head that was gashed with a crown of thorns so yours never would be. It was His body that hung on the cross so yours never would be.
"But He (Jesus) was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
It was Him who willingly took on your sins, though He Himself never sinned, so that you could be set free of sin’s chains. It was Him who paid the penalty for you so your slate could be wiped clean. It was Him who died so you could live. It was Him who rose from the dead and conquered death so you can be free from its grasp.
"For our sake He (God) made Him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him (Jesus) we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
It is Him who’s extending His pierced hand for you to take. It is Him who put the present under the tree. Will you toss it aside or open it with heartfelt excitement and gratitude?
Metaphors aside, the heart of the question is this: Do you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior? If you do, you will gladly ask Him to forgive you for the ways you have hurt Him with your sins, give Him your heart so He can make it new and live a life that reflects the beautiful gift He has given you: Himself.
"And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:38).
The gift is for you. Will you accept it or will you leave it under the Christmas tree?
English Standard Version Bible. (2001). Crossway Bibles.