When The Gift Is Not Enough.
These days the build up to Christmas seems relentless in its pressure to buy more stuff. Shop, shop, shop ‘til you drop and you need the favor of God to get a parking spot at the mall. A younger person recently asked me if Christmas had always been like this. I said no it wasn’t always like this. True, there was always the build up, the expectation, the searching for just the right gift just as is the case today, but on reflection, I see there is a major difference.
That difference is in the volume of gifts that each individual, especially children, expect to receive. When I was young we received one big present and then several secondary ones, stocking fillers, nuts, candy bars, fruit etc. This was the case generally, across the board, rich and poor alike. We had one big present and then some additional ones to complete the enjoyment.
The big presents that I best recall were a bicycle, a train set, a construction kit and one special Christmas a working steam engine. These were the things I asked Santa for, even after I stopped believing in him. The point is this. Expecting only one big present and getting only one big present meant we were satisfied. Satisfaction was guaranteed. Even if the bicycle we had asked Santa for turned out to be a train set, we adjusted to it, and were satisfied.
The problem I see in today’s Christmas giving is that there is an open-ended expectation as to the number of ‘big’ gifts. It is a bicycle, a train set, a computer and on and on. Whatever we receive we have a hope for even more. ‘Oh well, I wish I’d got that iPod too’. Satisfaction is no longer guaranteed.
There is a parallel here with what is happening in much of today’s Christian church. At one time the single and greatest gift of all, Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, was all that was hoped for. Satisfaction came from knowing and receiving him. He is the all in all. He is the sufficiency for all our needs in this world and in the world to come. When the 70 returned rejoicing at manifestations of the Holy Spirit’s power that they had witnessed, Jesus told them that they should rather be rejoicing in that their names were written in heaven. (Luke 10). The present, the gift, the big one, was to know the grace and mercy of God through Jesus Christ. Satisfaction guaranteed.
However, it seems that for many Christians today one big gift with a few add ons is not enough. The teaching they have received has raised their expectation level. Get saved, get Jesus and then stand by for the unlimited goodies that will be yours by right. Spiritual experiences, emotional highs, material blessings, healings, miracles, angelic visitations, the glory cloud descending, entering in to the highest place, etc. etc.
These are the stocking fillers, the add ons, the extras that automatically accompany the big gift. They are indeed ours, and we can expect them because they are part of God’s promise to us. But they are NOT the big present, they are not meant to replace or outshine and become more important than the great gift.
Just like the modern approach to Christmas, where the expectation is for unlimited numbers of ‘big’ presents, many Christians today are focusing on the extras rather than on the main gift. The satisfaction that was guaranteed has been replaced by a dissatisfaction that leads to a continuing search for ‘it’. That ‘it’ is something that will bring the joy, the peace, the inner satisfaction that the Bible tells them should be theirs. The more they search, the further away they get from the answer, the only true source of satisfaction.
This Christmas and in the coming years let us all try to get our focus back to the gift, the big one, the Lord, our Savior, our King, the Christ, the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. The satisfaction that is guaranteed is for today and for the eternal.