I've been sad....  I just couldn't "feel" Christmas this year.  So I prayed and God reminded me.  Oh how I love Him and how He never grows tired of me.  Christmas IS about giving.  That is why the enemy has worked so diligently to turn it into such a commercialized event.  If he can give it a plastic face then people won't look any deeper but that's not the giving that I'm talking about.  We were created in Christ to be givers.  How do I know?  We are being formed in His image, the image of His son Jesus, who is God Himself.  And what does He tell us in John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."  What does it NOT say?  It does not say, "For the world was so broken that God gave..."  It doesn't say, "For the world was in such dire need that God gave..."  No no...  God did not give us His Son because we needed him so badly.  Oh we did, we needed the Savior, but that was not the primary MOTIVATION of God to give Himself.  See, God gave because HE SO LOVED THE WORLD.  Now think about that for a moment.  He loved the WORLD.  A place that was filled with wickedness and darkness and evil.  When I look around today I can still see exactly what Jesus was born into: a world of unspeakable ugliness.  I don't even want to list it all for you because the truth is we've seen so much of it I just can't stand to think of it for another second.  I can't turn on the news without the sadness of the reality of the world overwhelming me.  I see people losing their loved ones and on the other hand people celebrating the holidays and it is hard for me to reconcile that there is both joy and sadness in Christmas.  And I pray, "Lord please help me find the spirit of Christmas before it passes me by and then I realize it.  This is the real Christmas.  God gave the most wonderful to the most unlovely and He did it because He loved us, despite our condition, to provide a chance for us to love Him in return.  That’s true love.  Giving your life for someone so they MIGHT love you back.  He loved us so we could learn to love.  And in learning to love we are looking more like Him every day.   If all of our giving is motivated by filling up a need then there will be times we will not give because we will become the judge and jury of whether someone deserves or really needs our gifts, but if we give out of a motivation of love, as God did, we will give at all times because we are compelled to be like God.  And our love will be to all men just as God’s was.  The needs that people have are simply the means to act like Him but the motivation is God alone for God is love.  We did not deserve what God gave us and yet He gave Himself to us anyway.  My friend, if all you can see are presents and bows and yet you still feel alone and empty at Christmas you are looking full into the plastic face of Christmas, but if you will remove that mask by understanding that presents and bows are simply one of many means to celebrate the truest of gifts, then the enemy can no longer withhold God's goodness from you, you will find the heart of God and the joy of Christmas.  The gift in Christ is God’s love and acceptance despite our sin.  It’s the gift that no one can give to us besides God, and it is constantly ready to be received.  Presents and bows are just fine but that isn't the point.  Enjoy them but know that they are symbols.  It is not the gift but the giver that requires the praise.  God gave Himself.  So He is both the gift and the giver.  You must find Him in all of the Christmas hustle.  Christ is still here.  He died for our sins and lived again to dwell within us and bring us life eternally, now and forever.  Christ is still here.  The presents and the bows of Christmas cannot take away the pain and sadness and the sin that persists all around.  As we get older, they can’t even make us forget about it for long.  But God can produce true joy and in Christ, He did.  Seek Him and find Him.  Just like the wise mean traveled far and long to find Him in a remote place, we too have to seek and find Him in all of what goes on around us.    And when you find Him then you will know the joy of Christmas.  Luke 2:10 & 14, “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” … “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

Take some time this Christmas to remember….