The greatest gift

Published 3:54 pm Tuesday, December 24, 2019

By Bishop Clarence V. Russell III

When it comes to Christmas, there are various traditions and a seemingly infinite number of ways people choose to celebrate. One of most time-honored traditions dates back to the very first Christmas. I am referring to the giving of gifts.

Although there are many who incur debt in an effort to honor this gift-giving tradition, I believe that the true meaning of the first gift has been lost. Based on the first Christmas, the cost or size for any Christmas gift is outweighed by the meaning behind it. Through the exploration of this first gift and its meaning, I hope the motivation behind our celebration will be adjusted.

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The Gospel writers Matthew and Luke both give an account of Jesus’ birth, which is what is celebrated during the Christmas season. Matthew 1:21-23 reads, “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”

God sending His son Jesus to be with us here on earth is a gift worth celebrating. The only thing more exciting than the gift itself is the motivation behind the giving. Jesus Christ is the greatest gift that has ever been given to humanity. A gift that is the expression of a loving God.

Throughout scripture, the love of God has been connected to the giving of Jesus to humanity. John 3:16 reads, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Again we read that love is the motivation behind the gift. It is the reason for the giving. 1 John 4:9-11 says, “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” Once again John connects the love of God to the giving of His Son Jesus.

The tradition of gift giving during the Christmas season, initiated by God giving His Son Jesus to the world, seems to justify our extravagance. However, God’s giving was not motivated by a special sale or a need to keep up with the latest trends. It was love that motivated God to give us His best. Therefore, no matter which traditions you choose to embrace or adopt, let love be the motivation behind your celebration. Love will not allow itself to be limited to Christmas alone. Love will express itself all year long. The overall picture of the Christmas story can be simplified to a loving God who saw his creation in a state that was not his intent. Love would not allow God to look and not act. So he gave us His best, Jesus Christ who was sent to save His people from their sins.

This season, in the midst of all of your giving, give love.

Bishop Clarence V. Russell III serves at St. Paul Baptist Church in Suffolk. He is married to Elder Jaimi Brown Russell, and they have four children.