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19 December 2020
In this changing world, God's gift to us remains the same
Words Janine and Robert Donaldson
In just a few days’ time, it will be Christmas Day! No one can deny that 25 December is one of the most significant and anticipated days of the year. Children start counting down the sleeps – often from 26 December the year before! People spend months preparing and planning for what they hope will be an unforgettable day where families will come together to celebrate, over-indulge in festive food and activities and, most important of all, exchange gifts – usually spending well beyond their allocated budgets to try to find the ‘perfect’ gift that will express their love and gratitude!
The months leading up to Christmas are usually frantic. Shopping centres are crammed full of people looking for the right present. There are work parties, friends to catch up with and an endless list of pre-Christmas celebrations to attend. It all adds to the Christmas atmosphere.
However, Christmas 2020 will look very different for most of us. COVID-19 has changed the way we not only prepare for Christmas, but will also impact how, and with whom, we can celebrate. Online buying has replaced many visits to shopping centres. Family gatherings will be restricted, social distancing will need to be adhered to – somehow – and so many of the traditional pre-Christmas events that we have come to love and enjoy, have been put on hold for this year.
Many people have a sense that Christmas has been changed forever, and that it may never look or feel the same again. We are having to think about new ways to celebrate and keep the joy and spirit of Christmas alive.
The way we celebrate Christmas may be different for many of us this year, but one thing that has not changed in this changing world, is God’s astonishing gift to us! I like to refer to it as the ‘gift that keeps on giving’.
The story of Christmas continues to amaze us, and draws us to our knees with a sense of humility, gratitude and awe – that a holy and eternal God would come to earth in the form of a baby, in order to save his own creation. What a gift! What an amazing display of love. Nothing – not even a global pandemic, can take that from us.
But how can we describe this gift of God?
In the Bible, in 2 Corinthians chapter 9, verse 15, the author, the Apostle Paul, at first is writing about human gifts. The church in Corinth is taking up offerings to give to the poor Christians in Jerusalem. He commends them for their eagerness to help, and then he shifts his attention to God’s gift of sending Jesus to earth for us. He cannot find the words to adequately describe it. And so, he simply says, “Thanks be to God for his gift that is too wonderful to describe.”
The Amplified Bible, Classic Edition, says it this way: “Now thanks be to God for His Gift, [precious] beyond telling [His indescribable, inexpressible, free Gift]!”
And that gift is ours, undeserved, unsolicited, but an expression of his amazing love for us. It is the gift that keeps on giving. It comes at great cost and is ours for the taking!
Janine and Robert Donaldson are the leaders of The Salvation Army Australia.