24 Dec

Jesus, though He was God, did not demand and cling to His rights as God, but laid aside His mighty power and glory, taking the disguise of a servant and becoming like men.            Philippians 2:6-7

Of all the gifts God generously gave, nothing is more valuable than Jesus, who surrendered His rights to enter our world, that He might redeem us from the curse of sin.  Taking on our sin, He gave us His righteousness in full; not based on how hard we try, or how well we present ourselves.  All we need to experience Him, is to accept Him through faith.

It is impossible to describe Jesus as one gift.  Like a diamond, He is multifaceted, reflecting the riches of God's love, through His extravagant generosity.  Unlike many presents we open and eventually set aside, these gifts never fade or wear out.  They can be enjoyed and experienced anew every day, throughout our lifetime, drawing us ever closer to His heart.  Here, are five of my favorite facets:

                               First, Jesus reveals God’s heart to me.  

“Anyone who has seen me (Jesus) has seen the Father.”  John 14:9

Reading about the life of Jesus in the Gospels, I see God’s compassion for the poor, the oppressed and the sick.  I see His mercy extended to the outcasts, including those judged and condemned by the religious leaders.  He heals, touches and weeps for others; He feeds the hungry, eats with sinners and even provides wine for a wedding party. 

I delight in His stories about the prodigal son and how the shepherd leaves the 99 sheep to go find the one lost and alone. Over and over, parable after parable, Jesus paints a picture of the relentless love of God, who is with me no matter where I go.  He knows every hair on my head and forgives me, no matter how I’ve failed or fallen.

                               Second, Jesus invites me into a relationship with God; to live in His presence.

“In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” Ephesians 3:12

Before God came to earth, man went through quite a process to experience a relationship with Him.  Tabernacles were constructed, great temples built, altars raised, and animals sacrificed, all for man to come into God’s presence.  Yet, a great veil continued to separate God from His people.  Man had to rely on the high priest to mediate, and even then, only at a specially prescribed time. 

But, through Jesus, the veil that separated man from God was torn, and He invites me into His presence any time, day or night.  In fact, He urges, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”   (Matthew 11:28) “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.”  (John 7:37).

                               Third, Jesus came to heal my wounds.      

“’The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. Unrolling it, (Jesus) found the place where it is written:

‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
 because He has anointed me
 to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
 and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the captive free,
  to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ 

Then He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on Him.  He began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’”  Luke 4:17-21

Here, Jesus fulfilled God’s promises made in Isaiah 61. 

I will never forget the day I read these verses and realized that God truly cared about my pain.  Immanuel, God with me, came to heal my broken heart.  All the shame I felt for struggling with depression was washed away and hope began to pour in.  I realized He wasn’t judging me; He was drawing me to Him, so that He could heal me. 

Through Jesus, God has given me freedom, tearing down the strongholds of fear and despair.  He has opened my eyes, that I may see God as He is; my kind and loving Father!

                                Fourth, Jesus came, that I may have life today; life to the full.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  John 10:10

Jesus came to do so much more than to simply save me, that I may one day spend eternity in heaven.  He came to save me in the present day to day challenges as well.  I am no longer enslaved to regret and self-imposed limits, because He gives me victory, that I may know peace; not someday, but today.  Through Him, I can walk through my trials, knowing that He is with me; I am never alone.  

I am free to go my own way and do my own thing.  He will never force Himself on me.  But knowing that my way, independent of Him, ends in self-destruction and pain, He invites me to choose the way of life.

                                Fifth, Jesus is God’s power in me.

“…greater is He that is in you, than He that is in the world.  1 John 4:4

God does not expect me to follow Him faithfully in my own strength.  He does not stand high aloft, watching to see how hard I strive toward perfection, taking note of every blunder or sin.  He dispels the “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” mentality and offers His strength in my weakness.  “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Corinthians 12:9

Instead, He invites me to participate in His kingdom story, giving me everything I need.  My part?  Step out in faith, follow His lead, trusting Him with every detail.

Clothing me with Christ, He pours out His divine gifts upon me, filling my spiritual dresser with clothes of “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control,”  (Galatians 5:22-23) giving me everything I need for “life and godliness.”  2 Peter 1:3.

Not only does He clothe me, He enters my heart, becoming a gift through me, as I share His gift of love with others.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.  If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in His love.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.  My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  John 15:9-12

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