CLERGY CORNER: The greatest gift

Posted on 26 December 2018 by LeslieM

The custom of exchanging gifts during Christmas has long been a part of the season’s charm, and many retailers aggressively promote their products as the best and greatest gifts for friends and loved ones. Everything from the latest electronic devices to gift certificates, cars, jewelry and clothing are often touted as must-have items for those on your list. The reality is that in the days immediately after Christmas, many of those gifts are going to be returned in exchange for something else. What may seem like a great gift from the perspective of the giver may not be valued as such in the eyes of the receiver.

Over 2000 years ago, the world received a gift unlike any other. In the insignificant and humble confines of a manger, God unveiled the depths of His love in the person of Jesus. More than an act in time, it was a statement in eternity. Better than a solution to a problem, it was the answer to man’s condition. Much more than a mere present, it was heaven’s gift for earth’s need. In John 3:16, Jesus explained it this way, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

In this, we see the greatest love. History and literature are comprised of many supposed great love stories: Antony and Cleopatra, Romeo and Juliet, Sampson and Delilah, Brad and Angelina. But none of them could ever be the greatest love, for they were all conditional and temporary. The Bible represents God’s love as unconditional and eternal. What about the greatest gift? Would that be money, diamonds, status or influence? Many would readily accept such gifts, but would they bring lasting satisfaction? Jesus is God’s only Son who made the ultimate sacrifice, His life, for mankind. There’s no greater gift.

Years ago, during her talk show, Oprah Winfrey was preparing to give away brand new cars to her studio audience. Her staff carefully selected the most deserving from the thousands of letters that were submitted. The audience on that day was there by special invitation only. The greatest invitation, however, is seen in God’s offer to “whoever.” His gift is available to all. Those who were chosen to receive new cars from Oprah had to meet certain criteria. The stipulation was that they had to be without a car, or badly in need of a new one and financially unable to purchase it on their own. The greatest stipulation though, comes from God. He only requires us to believe in His Son.

Our society is hooked on the idea of exemptions. IRS exemptions, diplomatic immunity, special privileges and duty-free status are advantages that we treasure. God offers the greatest exemption in sparing those who believe in His Son from spiritual death or eternal separation from Himself. The Bible teaches that eternal punishment awaits the wicked and those who reject God’s gift. Believers are promised the greatest benefit, however. We all know the advantage of a good insurance policy, paid vacations, performance bonuses and stock options when considering employment offers. We seek to get the most benefit out of our decisions and actions in life. God promises everlasting life to those who accept His gift. Eternity will be experienced and enjoyed with Him.

Whatever gifts you have been given this Christmas, embrace them and appreciate the expressions of love from those who gave to you. Consider God’s great gift as well and embrace all that it provides. Keep in mind that our gifts to each other will only bring satisfaction for this life, and only for a time. God’s great gift, however, will affect both this life and the next. His alone is the greatest gift, revealing the greatest love, providing the greatest invitation and greatest stipulation, and offering the greatest exemption and greatest benefit. Who wouldn’t want that? Peace!

Bishop Patrick L. Kelly is the pastor of Cathedral Church of God, 365 S. Dixie Hwy., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. 954-427-0302.

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