The Greatest Gift

Karen Cogan wrote, “Wanting to personalize my daughter Tiffany’s holiday gift for her Sunday school teacher, I decided to make homemade Christmas cookies. I baked the cookies a few days in advance, storing them in a recycled margarine tub in the refrigerator. The Sunday before Christmas, I hurriedly grabbed the container, wrapped it, and added a red bow. When we returned home from church, my husband John began digging in the refrigerator for lunch possibilities. “There’s some leftover tuna in a container,” I said. A minute later, he emerged with a puzzled look. “The only container I can find is full of Christmas cookies.” My daughter’s teacher ended up with festively wrapped tuna.

The greatest gift we have ever received is that of our Savior. Of course, many people will celebrate the giving of that gift on December 25th. However, we do not know exactly when He was born. From the few references made in the Bible to the time of Jesus’ birth, it seems highly unlikely that it was in the winter time. It would be unreasonable for the government to require people to travel long distances during the winter season to be taxed. It is also unlikely that shepherds would be out in the fields at night with their sheep (Lk. 2:8). During the winter months, sheep were kept in pens at night. There is other Biblical evidence surrounding the Levitical priestly course of Zacharias which seems to point more to the month of September or possibly to March. But the Bible does not tell us specifically the birthday of Christ. The Lord did not see fit to share that date with us, nor did the Lord authorize any special celebration of His birth on any single day. To do so in some special way on a specific day is not to do so in the name of Christ or by His authority (Col. 3:17).

The date of His birth is unimportant. It is the fact of the incarnation that counts. “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law” (Gal. 4:4). We rejoice in that fact always regardless of the exact date.

Simeon had the wonderful opportunity to behold the greatest gift. Luke 2:27-29 states, “And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word.” To the mass of people swarming through the temple that day, Jesus was just another baby nestled in the arms of a young mother. No one would have noticed him * no one, that is except Simeon. The prayer of Simeon was answered when he saw Christ in the temple. How Simeon recognize this infant as the promised Savior we do not know. But the moment he saw His face, he knew. And he took Him up into his arms. What a touching scene this is: an aged man holding the baby Jesus in his arms and praising God knowing the significance of this moment in time. He blessed or thanked God for keeping His promise of sending the Messiah and giving him this special gift of seeing Him before he died. He was ready to die and die happy because He had seen the promised Messiah come to earth. Here is a man that could sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.” He needed nothing else to convince him.

You may feel that Simeon was more blessed than we are because he had the privilege of actually holding Jesus as a baby. Truly, this was a special gift for a special person. But we must realize that even Simeon was exercising faith. He was holding in his arms an infant born to a couple that perhaps, he had never met before. His assurance came through the word of the Holy Spirit. You and I today depend on that same word of the Holy Spirit not in dreams or visions, but in written form as the basis of our faith. Near the end of our Lord*s time on earth, when He appeared to His disciples after His resurrection, He said to Thomas in John 20:29, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” Through the eyes of faith, we need to see the Savior, believe in Him, and be satisfied like Simeon.

There will be people today who will not be satisfied with their Christmas gifts. There are many people today who have a longing to be fulfilled. As people rush through life * hurrying from paycheck to paycheck and from job to home and then doing it all over again * many of them feel empty inside. What are you looking for? A satisfying life? A meaningful life? A fulfilling life? A happy life? Many long for something to make their existence more meaningful and fulfilling. Unlike Simeon, many people don*t know what will bring happiness. The Holy Spirit had told Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the promised Messiah. When that extraordinary day came and Simeon came to the temple to meet the promised Messiah, his satisfaction was guaranteed. There is a longing in every heart that only Jesus can satisfy. As someone has written: “Now none but Christ can satisfy, None other name for me; There*s love and life and lasting joy, Lord Jesus, found in Thee.”

— Mike McDaniel