Home For Christmas: The Best Christmas Presents Are Wrapped In Heaven
You cannot imagine how it makes me feel to see my two daughters engaged in the full-time service of Jesus Christ through the church. One of my daughters, Meg, is sharing in the leadership of worship here today. My other daughter, Beth, is leading worship today in the church she serves in Selma, Alabama. But while Beth is not here physically, she is here through this sermon.
You see, in a sermon Beth preached last Christmas, she introduced me to a wonderful little book entitled, The Best Christmas Presents Are Wrapped in Heaven. The authors of that book, David and Elizabeth Heller, have gathered together children’s thoughts about Christmas and written them down. Here is a sampling:
- Kay, age-9, said: “Christmas is the one day you can wake everyone up and get away with it.”
- Joy, age-8, said: “Christmas is the one time in the year when it’s okay to try and get fat. It brings you closer to Santa Claus.”
- Victor, age-10, said: “Tis the season to have loving thoughts in your heart, and Christmas cookies in your stomach.”
- Adam, age-8, said: “You know Christmas is coming when you hear people whistling, ‘Jingle Bells’ and nobody cares if they’re whistling good.”
- Guy, age-7, said: “I like how the three Kings brought presents, and that gave Santa Claus the big idea.”
- Randy, age-10, said: “Christmas makes families say, ‘God Bless You’ even when nobody even sneezes.”
- Johnny, age-7, said: “Jesus got born even though all the hotels were full or cost too much.”
- Tim, age 10, said: “Christmas shows that you can be a happy family even if you live in a manger.”
- Kirsten, age-10, said: “Some people say that Christmas is too expensive, but I don’t agree with them. You can say prayers for free.”
- Stacey, age-8, said: “Everything sparkles at Christmas, especially the people.”
- Lauren, age-8, when asked how God spends Christmas Day, replied; “If God is a ‘He,’ He carves up the Christmas turkey, but if God is a ‘She,’ then She sets the table and takes a nap, because She did all the shopping and wrapping for Christmas.”
- Sylvia, age-10, maybe captured it best of all: “The biggest sign of Christmas is one we can’t see. All of the best Christmas presents are wrapped in heaven.”
Sylvia is right, isn’t she? “The Best Christmas Presents are Wrapped in Heaven.” Remember how John put it:
God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.
… Talk about a Christmas present, talk about a gift that keeps on giving, talk about the best Christmas present of them all. The Bible describes it in such lovely terms:
You will find the child wrapped in bands of cloth, and lying in a manger.
We know that this “first and best” Christmas present was wrapped in heaven.
In the obscure form of a tiny baby born in a stable, the author of all life is saying to us: “Here, straight from heaven is the best I’ve got! I give this gift to you because I love you so much!”
Of course, we have to do our part. We have to accept the gift. God won’t force it on us. We have to reach out in faith and receive the gift into our hearts and lives.
Pablo Picasso is regarded as one of the great artists of all time, and once his reputation was so established, everything he did was worth a fortune. One day, he walked into a carpenter shop to order a wardrobe for his home. He described to the carpenter what he wanted: a mahogany piece which could fit into the corner of his bedroom. The carpenter did not understand exactly what he wanted. Picasso tried to explain it again. Still, the carpenter didn’t get the picture. Finally, Picasso grabbed a pencil and a scrap of paper, and sketched out what he wanted. The carpenter looked at the sketch and said; “Ah-h-h, yes! Now I understand.” Picasso asked: “Well, how much will it be?” The carpenter replied: “Nothing at all. Just sign the sketch.”
The carpenter was a smart man. He knew that the best gift of all is the gift in which we give a part of ourselves. That is what God taught us on the First Christmas. When we give to others a portion of ourselves, that is a “Gift Wrapped in Heaven.”
There is, for example, The Gift of Acceptance.
A year ago, the “Bear Bryant Coach of the Year” award was presented to Terry Bowden, the Coach at Auburn University. Now, Terry Bowden had taken a struggling program which was on probation, and led his team to an undefeated season. Interestingly enough, Terry Bowden’s father, Bobby Bowden, of Florida State, was also nominated for that award. At the Awards Banquet there was a lot of good-natured banter between father and son.
Of course, when the son (Terry Bowden) won, nobody in the room was happier or prouder than his dad. In his acceptance speech, Terry Bowden thanked his family. “I owe so much to my parents,” he said. “Many of you in this room know my mother, and you know how special she is, but let me tell you about my father. My father has always insisted that we go to church as a family. Even when we were on a trip, he took us to church. Mom and Dad marched us down the aisle to the first pew. Mom was on one end, Dad was on the other end, with five kids squeezed in between to be sure we would behave. It was a little country church, where the preacher and the congregation interacted with each other. At one point, the preacher, in order to make a point, pointed at my Dad, and said: ‘Do you have faith?’ My Dad answered; ‘Yes, I have faith.’ The preacher said; ‘Well, what if I took a two-by-four board and placed it across the top of the two tallest buildings in New York City? Would you have faith enough to walk across it?’ My Dad answered: ‘No, I don’t think I’d have that much faith.’ The preacher continued; ‘Well, suppose that someone was standing on the other end of that board, dangling one of those five kids of yours over the side; would you cross the board then?’” Terry Bowden said that his father turned, looked down the pew at his five kids and said to the preacher, “Which one?”
Of course, Terry Bowden was just kidding, because the Bowdens are a close-knit , loving family; but the point I want to make is this: Our Father, God, does not say, “Which one?” He doesn’t say; “Which one shall I lay my life on the line for?” For God so loved the world, God so loved us all, that He wants to bring us all into the circle. He comes to us with open arms of acceptance, and He says: “You are priceless to me. You are valued. You are included. You are wanted. I want you for my very own.”
Now this Christmas present offered to us by God is one which we can pass on to others. When we do, we are giving them a Christmas present wrapped in heaven.
So, if we want to give something special to someone at Christmas this year—to your children, your parents, your neighbors, your co-workers, your friends, then just say to them: “You’re precious to me. I want you and need you in my life.” However you want to say it, find the words to express that thought. You will be giving them a Christmas Present Wrapped in Heaven—the gift of acceptance.
Also, there is the Gift of Forgiveness.
Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster move, Schindler’s List, was a graphic unflinching depiction of what may be this century’s most demonic horror; the methodical, brutal extermination of millions of human beings in the Nazi death camps. Oscar Schindler was the most unlikely hero, but through the efforts of this one man, some twelve hundred persons were saved from certain death.
One of the most powerful moments in the movie came when Schindler was in conversation with a commander of a labor camp in Krakow, Poland. They were talking about power. The commander, in full swagger, was bragging about the power he had over these people. He had the absolute authority to kill anyone he chose, and he had been in the habit of doing just that—brutally killing people, right and left, with no conscience at all. But Oscar Schindler says: “Oh, no, Commander, you’re wrong. That is not power. Anyone can do that, but to say to a man standing before you, ‘I can take your life if I so choose, but instead, I pardon you,’ that, Commander, is power!” It is, indeed, the power of forgiveness, and that is the Christmas gift God offers to us.
Martin Luther once became so frustrated with the evil he saw going on around him, that he shouted: “If I were God and saw people acting the way they do, I would smash the world to bits!” Luther might have, but not so our God. God comes into the world offering the “Gift of Forgiveness.” That’s the gift He offers, but we have to do our part. We have to accept the gift in faith, and when we accept forgiveness, and then offer forgiveness to others, and then live in the Spirit of Forgiveness—then we are offering a Christmas Present Wrapped in Heaven. And those are the best presents of all!
And then there is the “Gift of Joy.”
We sing “Joy to the World,” and of course, that’s what Christmas does. It brings joy to the world. I think that’s why children are so important at Christmas time. If you don’t have kids of your own, you ought to try to borrow some at Christmas. I know some people who would be willing to loan you theirs for a few days … just for a few days though. The children, you see, reflect the buoyant joyous spirit of Jesus Himself.
I don’t know why stained-glass windows tend to portray Jesus with a pale, drawn, sorrowful look on His face. Yes, He was a man of sorrows, because He bore upon Himself the weight of the whole world’s sin, but that does not mean He was a sorrowful man. He wasn’t. He was radiant with joy! And He brings that joy to our world.
Guidepost magazine, a couple of years ago, carried a story about an American couple who were traveling from Paris to Nice by car. They had with them their three children, two boys and a little girl. The car broke down. It was Christmas Eve, and they couldn’t find anyone to fix their car. They eventually made it to Nice on the bus. The uncomfortable ride left them all unhappy. They were late arriving, and their hotel room had been given to someone else, and no other rooms had been available. They wound up staying at what they later called “a dingy tourist trap.” They went on to the restaurant to eat. Only three of the tables were occupied. The wife, who knew a smattering of French, ordered the meal for them but what came out bore no resemblance to what they had ordered. The husband rebuked his wife. The children took their mother’s side, which only angered the father all the more. At one of the other tables there was a German couple. They were obviously arguing with each other. At the table to the right was a French family, where the youngsters were misbehaving. The father gave one a swat, and he was crying, and the sound of his wailing was echoing all about. At the table in the back sat a young American sailor. He was all alone. He was busy writing a letter. Into that room came an old woman, soaking wet. She was a flower seller. She approached each table, trying to sell her flowers—no takers. Finally, in great weariness, she flopped down at a table herself. The waiter came over, and she said: “Just soup, Joseph. I didn’t sell a flower all day—just soup.” Suddenly, the American sailor got up, walked over to the flower lady, and said: “I’d like to buy two corsages.” He took one corsage over to where the American family was sitting, and he said to the man: “I wonder if I may have your permission to give this corsage to your daughter?” Which, of course, delighted them all. The other flower, he carefully pressed between the pages of a letter he was writing. And then, he said: “Merry Christmas to all of you!” And with that, he left.
Then, the old flower woman took the twenty francs and ordered a wonderful dinner for herself, and one for the waiter as well. The two of them began to sing Christmas carols. They even got up and began to dance to them. The German couple, the French, and the American families all joined in. Each, in their own language. Suddenly, the whole room was transformed. What had been drab and depressing was now radiant with beauty and joy. All because someone dared to share a bit of Christmas joy!
I believe with all my heart, and I’ve given my life to this belief, that the kind of joy which radiates the Joy of Jesus, not only can change the atmosphere in a room, not only can change the atmosphere in a family, not only can change the atmosphere in a nation—I believe if it were practiced, you could change the atmosphere in the whole world!
“Joy,” you see, is … “A Christmas Present Wrapped in Heaven.”
Well, I hope the Christmas spirit is dwelling in you. I hope you will meditate upon God’s Christmas gift of Jesus Christ until the spirit of this blessed season is Holy and wonderfully yours.
You remember what little Stacey said? She said: “Everything sparkles at Christmas, especially the people.”
May it be so for us.