The Greatest Gift

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The birth of a child is a precious thing. It is surrounded by emotions such as joy, pride, fulfillment and dreams coming true. A whirlwind of activities take place: birth announcements, baby showers, nursery decorations; the list is almost endless. I remember, in detail, the birth of my two daughters. Never had I experienced such overwhelming joy. I instantly believed in love at first sight! I recall my wife Sharron calling each by name as soon as they were born. I was the happiest person on the face of the earth. 

I sometimes wonder what God was feeling at the birth of Jesus. He had known Him throughout all eternity past, but what were His feelings or emotions on that fateful night in Bethlehem? Seeing the Baby wrapped in cloths, laying in a manger, certainly evoked emotions. We know God was proud, as He said several years later, “This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.”

When my girls were young I used to dream about their future. Would one be a doctor, a teacher, a Salvation Army officer? Who would they marry? How many children would they have? I pictured the grandchildren coming to grandma and grandpa’s house for Christmas, Thanksgiving and birthdays. At night, I would hold my daughters and think about the weeks, months and years to come. Despite all my dreams for them, their future remained a mystery.

Not so with God. He knew exactly what the future held for His Son long before His birth. How He must have grieved, how His heart must have ached even amid angels singing “Glory to God in the highest” and shepherds gathering in the stable. He knew what Jesus would endure in the years ahead: the temptations He would face, the mockery, the beatings, the shame, and the cross that was His destiny. Yet the Father sent Him anyway. Although I understand the scriptural reference and the theology, I often ask myself, “Why did the Father send Jesus, knowing what He would have to endure?”

We can rattle off Scripture verses so quickly at times that they almost become rote. Verses like, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). While I so much appreciate that verse, I cannot fathom such love for the world. In my finite thinking, I would have said the price is too high! There is no circumstance that would lead me to offer up my children. I would reason that there must be another way. Frankly, I cannot understand the love that drove the Father to such extravagance. Without any doubt this was the greatest gift in all human history.

Gifts are measured by their value, not their price tag. Sharron will tell you that she has the finest of wedding rings anywhere. Why? Trust me, it wasn’t because of how much I spent. I was a young Salvation Army officer, with a weekly allowance of $40, and that was only when the corps had enough money to pay me. You must get very close, and the light must be just right even to see the diamond. So why does she believe the rings are so valuable? It is what they represent. In fact, today she would probably tell you that the rings are even more valuable because of the 41 years we have been married. She would not sell them regardless of the offer. (I think I am safe as no one would give her much for them anyway.)

 ”Why did the Father send Jesus, knowing He would have to endure?”

If value can be understood in terms of a simple wedding ring or the love parents have for their children, we must understand, especially during this time of year, the pricelessness of God’s gift to us. 1 John 3:1 simply states, “What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it — we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are” (MSG).

During the planning preparation, gift buying, travels and parties at Christmas, remember the reason for the season. It is about the love of God toward a world that turned away from Him. The world has been ravished by sin, death and destruction. But here is the Good News, in the words of the Apostle Paul: “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

When exchanging gifts around the tree, pause and reflect about the greatest gift of all time—God’s gift of His Son. Think about how much your loved ones mean to you. Then take a moment to thank God for His mostprecious gift.

— Commissioner David Hudson is National Commander for The Salvation Army in the USA, where the Army has been at work since 1880.