It's the time of year when our thoughts turn toward Christ, both His birth and His eventual death on behalf of all mankind. As we busy ourselves wrapping presents, addressing cards, and baking cookies, it's easy to get distracted from the real reason for this joyous season. It's almost incomprehensible to think of a young woman giving birth for the first time in a stable, surrounded by animals and hay. Think of the bravery of Mary, and imagine infant Christ, perfectly fresh from heaven and lying in a manger. Do you think at that time He understood the divine role He would play on earth?
Later on, the wise men came bearing gifts to the infant king. Although often pictured at the manger, the wise men arrived when Jesus was a young child sometime after the glorious night of His birth. It took the wise men years to find the child and worship at His feet, and so it is with us. In order to give what meager gifts we can to Christ, first we must seek Him.
Coming to Christ
The Christmas season is a perfect time to reflect on our personal relationships with Jesus Christ. Unlike the Magi of old, our journey to Christ is not one made over miles, but rather a journey of heart. As we study the life of Christ, we come to find that He is always there, and He is always ready to comfort us in our time of need. However, this deeply personal relationship with Christ takes work on our part. Coming to recognize Christ in our lives is not a passive, one-time event. Just like the wise men, it takes years, a lifetime even, of constant seeking.
Offering up our gift
After we've recognized Jesus' presence in our lives, we become aware that the atonement is a precious gift in our lives. When we recognize that Jesus literally died to redeem mankind, we feel the burden of debt upon our shoulders. But what can we give the all-knowing master?
The only thing we have to offer is our free will. Everything else in our lives - our bodies, homes, families, everything - is a gift given from God. Our agency is the only thing we truly possess. When we submit our will to the will of God, when we choose to follow Christ by forsaking the world, that's how we give of ourselves to Jesus. It is also the only gift He wants from us.
What you can give this year
While it's fine to talk abstractly about giving our will over to God, there are practical ways to make that happen this year. As you prepare your gifts for family and friends this year, don't forget to set aside a gift for Jesus. Any time you give up sin and choose to live consistently with scriptural teachings, you are giving back to Christ who gave all for you.
This year, you might think about giving up your favorite sin. We all have one little bad habit that we haven't turned over to Jesus yet. What's yours? You might consider giving up gossiping or envious thoughts. You might try to make more time for prayer and scripture study, or more diligently use your time for your family. Maybe it's time to commit yourself to greater service, following Christ's command to "love one another" (John 13:34).
Make this gift a tangible reminder of your devotion to Christ this coming year. You can write your gift in a journal, or set it aside in a special box to open again next year. However you choose to commemorate your gift, make it in gratitude for the baby born of a virgin who lay in a manger all those Christmases ago.