All over the country, in churches, school assemblies, youth groups and village halls, people will be giving talks about Jesus being God’s best gift to us and all over the country, children will be looking bemused.
The theme of Jesus as a gift from God is an attractive one to speak on. It has strong biblical warrant, for example in John 3:16 (NLT).
“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
God gave his Son, in other words, he was a gift (by implication, to the world that God loved).
Of course, this idea of Jesus as a gift plays very well at Christmas; it ties into the cultural phenomenon of Christmas presents and into the Biblical story of the Magi giving gifts to the infant Christ. All in all, it makes an attractive (and dare I say it, easy) Christmas talk.
My problem, is that I think that it is also really difficult to understand. As a child, I never understood how Jesus was a gift. I didn’t get to see him or play with him and I certainly never got to see him work any miracles. What’s more (I was brought up in a Christian home and knew the Bible), at the end of the story, God took Jesus back to heaven; not so much a gift, then, as a loan.
Anyway, what I really wanted was a bike.
To those of us who understand the Christian message, the notion of Jesus as God’s best gift to us makes sense, even if some of the illustrations in Christmas talks can be a bit cheesy. However, for people who do not know the story and who are looking forward to a new playstation or a bottle of malt whiskey, it comes across as strange.
If we are to challenge people to review their thinking and to take Jesus seriously, we probably have to work a bit harder than this. We need to tell them why Jesus is so important, how he changed the world and how he can transform their lives for the better – and we need to do it all in a short, sharp contextualised fashion.
I’ve been both challenged and inspired by John Ortberg’s talks on “Who is This Man?”. I think there is something here that could be adapted for Christmas messages which would really get people thinking. There are a number of videos on YouTube, some which are longer and more thorough than the edited example I’ve given below. In any case, you will benefit from the 10 minutes that it takes to watch this.
When we give Christmas talks, we have to understand that people are coming from a very different place than we are and that they may hear very different things from what we think we are saying.
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