What did Jesus want for Christmas?

Christmas presents

Which one of these is for Jesus?

So, what did you get for Christmas?

Did you like it? Are you returning it?

Or, did you give any good gifts?

Indeed, the spirit of the season is marked by giving, though largely buried under mounds of consumerism. Acts 20:35 rightly tells us, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Though I think we tend not to believe that, I’m sure there were those who experienced the joys of giving this season. From excited parents to kind-hearted volunteers, many saw what joy their time and resources could bring to others.

With the kids presents now fully unwrapped and the bottom of the tree almost, if not completely empty, there is still one matter that remains unresolved: What did Jesus get for Christmas?

I know, I know, here is another one of those reclaim Christmas for Jesus campaigns; bear with me if you will. Some may say that they went to church or maybe even baked him a cake (which sounds awfully good right now), but are these really the things that Jesus wants? As good as they seem (and that cake does sound good), are we just giving Jesus a proverbial gift of tube socks?

In Matthew’s gospel, the magi that visited Jesus—incidentally much after he was born—brought gifts that were fit for a king.  Are we not charged to do the same? After all, Jesus is the reason for the season.

As Jesus is not a baby anymore, we do not have to make assumptions about what makes a good gift. For this reason, we will turn to Matthew’s gospel to assess what it is that Jesus actually wants. (Those who are returning unwanted gifts can totally relate.)

“FOLLOW ME”

In reading this gospel, it becomes more and more apparent that Jesus desires followers. Before Jesus makes much headway in his ministry journey, we see him making his first call. Matthew 4:18-22 reads:

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.

21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

What these men gave Jesus is essentially something we can all give. They met Jesus’ call with an urgent response. In responding to this call, these men not only left behind their businesses, but their families as well.

What is interesting to me is that as much as we embrace Christmas as a family holiday, Christ would say something like: “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me,” (Matthew 10:37) or, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life”(19:29).

Indeed, there is an element of intellectual energy one must give towards making the decision to follow Jesus (Luke 14:26-28). Ultimately, however, it will not be our intellect or making a list of pros and cons that will make a final or lasting decision to follow Christ—this comes by faith.

FAITH

Foundationally, there is no genuine commitment made to Christ apart from faith. In his famous Sermon on the Mount, our Lord essentially posits that faith is the difference between pagans and those who serve God:

No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?

If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:24-33)

Ironically, Jesus encounters Gentiles who exemplify great faith. In response to the Roman centurion, Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith” (Matthew 8:10). To the Canaanite woman, he replied, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted” (15:28).

It pleased Jesus when he found those who had faith in him. After all, Hebrews 11:6 tells us, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

This is why Jesus displayed such displeasure at those who persisted in unbelief. For this reason, Jesus pronounces woes on Korazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum (Matthew 11:21-24), performed few miracles in his hometown (13:53-58) and scolds his disciples (16:5-12).

RELENTLESS TESTIMONY/COMMITMENT

Jesus’ stern emphasis on faith reminds us of the centrality of faith to the Christian testimony. Not only does it require faith to receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, but also to maintain that confession until the end. This, I believe, is a truth that emerges from the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23).

The three terrains that do not bear fruit are, in essence, unable to do so because of their lack of faith. If the seed is the word, then we know that faith is required in order to elicit an appropriate response (Romans 10:9-10, 17). With that being said, we can identify the good soil that produces variable amounts of crop as those who respond with faith. (The description of the seed sown among thorns echoes Jesus’ previously referenced teaching in Matthew 6.)

It certainly takes faith to endure the things Christ tells to his disciples. On the other hand, it seems like there is much incentive to follow Christ through the toughest of circumstances.

In Matthew 5:11-12, Jesus says, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Again, he says, “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (10:22).

Our personal commitment to Christ is tied to a broader mission to the world at large. Jesus, after telling his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:37-38), then sends the twelve to preach repentance to Israel (10:1-16).

Likewise, Jesus gives the Great Commission to the disciples and thus the church:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:18-20)

THE END OF THE MATTER

So what does Jesus want for Christmas? In reality…he wants everything.

With Jesus, it’s either all or nothing. Any other gift that one may try to give him will, unfortunately, be returned (Revelation 3:16). The good news is that even though Christmas has passed, Jesus accepts this gift all year round, and every day of our lives. With that said, I’ll let our Lord have the final say on the matter:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25)

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~ by christianballenger on December 26, 2012.

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