Have you ever gotten a gift that was extra special? What made it special?
I’m sure that special gift was nice, but the reason it was extra special had to do with something other than the actual gift. I bet the reason (the why) for the gift was more meaningful than the gift (the what) because of who gave it to you or why they gave it to you.
The opposite is true as well. Even a good gift, given with no love, can leave us feeling sour. I think that’s because when it comes to giving and receiving gifts, “the why” behind the gift always matters more than “the what.”
This time of year it’s easy to let “the what” replace “the why.” We hang lights. We go to parties. We give gifts. But when Christmas becomes more about the lights, parties, and presents, it begins to lose its magic.
So what’s “the why”? Well for me it’s captured quite well in a popular verse: John 3:16.
Have you ever received a compliment that really mattered to you? It’s one thing to hear a compliment from an acquaintance, but another to hear it from someone near and dear. When a parent, coach, spouse, or deeply respected peer says “good job,” it echoes in our souls longer.
In the New Testament, God is described as Heavenly Father - the perfect parent. The one who cares for us deeper than we can imagine. The one who cries when we cry. The one who celebrates when we succeed. The one offering a hand and some hope when we fall down.
The gift of Christmas begins with the quality of the one giving - God.
“For God so loved the world that he gave”
If the person giving wasn’t enough, the reason for God’s gift should be. Giving and generosity are at the heart of what it means to celebrate the arrival of Jesus. God gave because God loves. And it's not just a general love, but a personal one -
for the world.
A friend once carved for me a personalized walking stick (sounds weird, but it was really cool). All over this walking stick were my favorite verses and other tidbits that had been carved by hand. Partly I loved the gift itself, but mostly I loved that my friend took the time to make the gift. Over a decade later I can still look at that walking stick and feel the echo of being loved in my soul.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…”*
The truth is God could have given anything and it would’ve been great because of who gave it and why it was given. The amazing thing about Christmas is it combines the greatest of all three: the who, the why, and the what. The person behind the gift is a Heavenly Father desperately in love with the world he created. The reason behind the gift is the very love driving the Father to give all he can to what he loves. And of course, the gift itself - a Son sent to redeem the world.
It’s hard to say “the what” in this scenario outweighs “the why” because it’s “the why” of Christmas that makes “the what” so special. Even still, it’s one incredible gift!
*The rest of this verse is quite good as well - worth a read.
Written by Mark
The 12:12 Project is sponsored by Katy First United Methodist Church.