Of course, if you don't believe in Him, this is a problem. Or, if you've never really thought about what happens after you die, the gift may not seem that important. Or, if you believe that you are a "pretty good person," you may not think that you even need the gift.
So, to understand the true meaning of Christmas, you have to begin with two premises. The first premise is that God exists. The second is that He created the universe and everything in it. If you don't accept either of these premises, then the logic used in the rest of this blog won't be valid.
We can argue all day long about these premises. However, my own view is that if you don't subscribe to them, then life quickly becomes meaningless. If there is no God, then there must be no afterlife. Therefore, this life is it. And if this life is all that there is, then there's not point in doing anything other than getting what you can, and avoiding as much pain and trouble as possible. It's kind of depressing, isn't it?
I believe in God because I see evidence of him all around me, in His creation. I believe in God because there are just too many things that have happened in my life to be attributed to random chance and coincidence.
At the same time, if I believe in God but believe that being a "pretty good person" is good enough to get me into Heaven, I've overlooked an important point.
I believe I'm a "pretty good person." However, I also believe that being a pretty good person isn't good enough. A cosmic "scale of justice" may sound pretty good to the human sense of fairness, but it overlooks an important point. God gave us everything we have. Directly or indirectly, He gave us life; therefore, everything we have is derived from this gift. Certainly, we can all make the most of this gift, but we all started out owing Him. As a result, even if we live perfect lives, in complete accordance with His will, we break even. And the truth is that none of live perfect lives
There is a third premise that is a bit more difficult to accept. The premise is that a perfect God requires perfection from His creatures. It seems harsh. Why doesn't God simply forgive us for our sins?
Asking God to forgive our sins is essentially asking Him to overlook them. My own view is that a perfect God cannot tolerate sin. Think about it this way. A brand new car on the lot isn't brand new after it has been driven. It may look new. But there are little signs of decay- a small chip in the underbelly from a stone; a grain of sand has microscopically marred the paint. The minute a small imperfection occurs, the car is not longer a brand new, perfect car. If God were to tolerate sin, then He is no longer perfect. And if God is flawed, then all bets are off.
This leaves mankind with a very difficult problem Imperfect humans seek a perfect God. After that first sin, we become imperfect. Without some external intervention, we can never commune with Him. It becomes impossible for any imperfect human to have a relationship with a perfect God.
Mankind tried for thousands of years to earn its way to God. Some religions are still trying- they make offerings to a plethora of gods; they do all kinds of things in an effort to be good enough for these gods; most likely, out of fear. I've already described the problem with this. We simply can't do enough to perfect ourselves with a perfect god.
Instead, He reached out to us. He became a human. His name was Jesus. He lived among us. He taught us about Him. Finally, we killed him. It was crucifixion, preceded by humliation, beatings, and floggings. It was perhaps the most heinous and cruel way to kill someone ever devised by man.
It balanced the scales. If God, who gave us everything, paid the price for our sins Himself, then it's over. His payment is enough to take care of everything that we have ever done, and will ever do.
Is there anyone for whom you would die? Perhaps it's your spouse or children. Or, perhaps you might even die for a stranger. It may seem far-fetched, but it happens every day. Soldiers who defend this country do it every day. So do police officers, firefighters and other public servants.
It's an incredible gift. It's what Christmas means. When we humans give each other gifts at Christmas, we are emulating the biggest gift ever given. In our own little ways, we give to one another in celebration of His gift.
Think about how you feel when you give a gift. You take great joy in the look of delight on the recipent's face when they open it. If you have kids, there is almost nothing like seeing their surprise and excitement when they open their presents.
Think about how God feels when we finally open His gift to us. Perhaps we've struggled for much of our lives. And then something happens; perhaps an evangelical outreach or chance encounter. Or it might happen after years of bible study. But one day, it all comes together for us. We understand. We believe. Like a child at Christmas, we open the Gift of all gifts, the Gift of Jesus Christ.
We receive the gift through simple faith. We believe that Jesus was who He said He was. We accept the gift and commit ourselves to following in His footsteps, out of gratitude, rather than fear. We do it through a simple prayer.
A gift with no strings can be difficult to accept for humans who choose to believe in "cosmic scales." We think, "there must be more to it. Surely, I have to do something." We scratch our heads. We rationalize. "How can my eternal destiny hinge upon a simple prayer of faith?"
The answer is simple. God loves you. He's given you an incredible gift.
All you have to do is open it.