It's during this holiday season that many of us send Christmas cards and annual letters of our past year's activities to distant family and friends. We want to share our lives with those whom we feel close to, even when we're separated by great distances. It's a way of staying connected even if it's once a year.
Over 2,000 years ago our Creator God chose a very special way to connect with humankind past, present and future. He sent a love letter filled with himself! Oh, it didn't look like a letter, and it didn't list his family's many achievements nor disappointments during the prior year or years. It was a special "gift" in the form of a little baby, and he was named "Emmanuel" which means "God with us." You see, God wanted to show us his love in a concrete way, like we do when we buy and wrap gifts at Christmas time to give to a loved one. It's a way to physically show our love.
God knew this would get our attention (everyone likes to receive surprises!) And what a surprise it was. (Not to mention the fact that it's been the gift that keeps on giving!) A wiggly, giggly, crying, needy baby was born to a humble couple named Mary and Joseph, and from that birth on that first Christmas came a story, and a man, that would change the world for the better and forever.
From Jesus the Christ, God in human form, we learned of God's love for us, and what he desires for us. God's love is demonstrated through the act itself of coming to live among humankind and teaching us how to love one another. And we learned through Jesus' teachings what God our Heavenly Father desires for each of us: not only love, but hope for a better world, peace in the world for all living creatures, and joy, abundant joy, that fills our hearts as it melts into a life which combines all four ..love, hope, peace and joy.
Aren't those the gifts that we truly desire in our lives? God created that desire in our hearts, because they are the gifts that he most wants us to receive. How do we receive them? Scripture says "Ask, and you will receive." In a way it doesn't seem right to ask for specific gifts, does it? And yet, at Christmas time we're often asked, "What do you want this year for Christmas?" And we pull out our lists, don't we? Well, your God and mine is ready to give the gifts that you most desire in life: ask and you will receive, and you will be blessed always.
"Joy to the World, the Lord Is Come." So begins a cherished Christmas Carol, and so begins the Good News of the Season. With the coming of Baby Jesus, the Christ Child, comes the introduction of Joy into the world, and into our lives. And it's one of many special gifts the Almighty God desires to give you. Have a Joyous Christmas filled with Love and Hope and Peace, and be blessed forevermore.
Rick Carpenter is the pastor at the United Methodist Church in Dolores and the First United Methodist Church in Dove Creek.