This time of year people seem just a little kinder, songs announcing the birth of Jesus are heard in stores, the baking of the cookies - too many cookies, and then there’s the presents and shopping for the perfect gift for everyone on your list.  I’m sure if you took some time to think about it, there are some gifts that stand out more than others.  I have a few of those; my Raggedy Ann doll that my Dad bought me when I was about five.  To this day in my jewelry box is a heart shaped necklace, a Christmas tree pin, and two adjustable rings.  One pink and one, that my then 5 year old assured me was a real diamond, each purchased by one of my boys during their elementary school years.  Collectively that jewelry probably didn’t cost $2.00 and yet, I treasure them.  Years ago when I owned a childcare center one of my employees gave me a picture holder.  It’s a high heel shoe and has a piece of wire that you put a picture in - it still sits on a table in my living room and every now and then while dusting, I’m reminded how sweet that gift is.  It cost her a dollar.  I know this because I saw it while grabbing supplies one day at the dollar store.  That shoe is precious to me because at the time, she was a single mom and that dollar could have purchased a pound of pasta that would have fed her and her son for a couple of meals; but instead, she chose to buy something for me. 

     More recently, I got a food processor.  I was so excited!  I told everyone about it.  You know you’re getting old when you’re actually excited about a kitchen appliance. I heard wonderful things about them and knew it would save me a lot of time in the kitchen.  Of course, it was a busy time of year so I didn’t actually unpack it – it sat in the box for a couple of weeks and my husband asked me if I was ever going to find a home for it in one of the cabinets, so I made room – there was a lot more in the box than I thought so I piled everything on top of the base.  Several more weeks went by and after finishing canning salsa, my husband asked me why I didn’t use my food processor and I rolled my eyes and shook my head because, believe it or not, I forgot I had it!  So when it was time to make eggplant meatless balls, I decided to get it out.  I washed everything off, got the multi-purpose blade and assembled it.  Once I got the ingredients together, I put them in the food processor and pressed the button and ... nothing, it didn’t turn on.  I made sure I plugged it in, unlocked and locked the lid and still nothing.  My husband came over and tried a few things – but nothing we did made it turn on.  I grabbed my iPad, went on Utube and watched someone assemble hers and I had done everything exactly the way she did and yet, hers worked and mine didn’t.  This went on for a good 20 minutes, then I looked at the picture in the manual, looked at the food processor, and really, there was no reason this thing shouldn’t work.  So I took a deep breath, and read word for word how to assemble it and each step I looked at mine on the counter.  Sure enough, although the lid locked – I had the lid on backwards – the handle had to align with a certain part of the lid.  I turned it around, locked the lid in place again and sure enough – it started.  Using it, cut the time it took me to make those meatballs almost in half.  It has now become one of my go to gifts because not only did I get the basic food processor but it came with the dicing AND slicing blades.

     It’s fun to recall the gifts we’ve received over the years; but when was the last time you really thought about the gift of Jesus?  We say things like “You can’t have Christmas without Christ”, we sing about his birth in beautiful Christmas carols, we talk about the sweet baby Jesus in the manger, but He’s so much more than that!

     Jesus’ birth was prophesied in the Old Testament - Isaiah 7:14 says “Look! The virgin will conceive a child!  She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God with us’).  And then years later – just as it was told – he was born in a stable, in the little town of Bethlehem and was called Immanuel.  If that were the end of the story it would still be wonderful, but the beauty is, it didn’t stop there.  Jesus grew up, he healed the sick, he made the blind to see, he made the lame walk and then he willingly died so that we could spend eternity in Heaven.  That’s quite the gift.

     But guess what?  It doesn’t stop there either!

     Let’s just think about Immanuel for a moment.  “God with us.”   It doesn’t say, “God’s with us only when things are going good.”  It doesn’t say, “He’s around only when I can feel his presence.”  It’s a statement, “God with us” period.  The moment we accept Jesus into our lives, God is with us.  Even when we getcaught up in life - In the midst of dealing with that challenging child, in the midst of facing tough decisions, In the midst of missing a loved one; or when we think everyone else’s life is so much more exciting than ours.  His presence doesn’t depend on our devotion to him.…He loves us, so he’s with us. 

     He still heals the sick – sometimes that healing comes in the form of a physical ailment being taken away; and sometimes the sickness is our heart hurting because of a situation we have no control over.  He still makes the blind see – it can be restoring actual sight; and sometimes it’s showing us something in our lives that is holding us back and not allowing us to live the life we should be living.  He still makes the lame walk – that may be a doctor correcting a broken bone; or it might be gently guiding us towards stepping out of our comfort zone to tell others what a difference he’s made in our life.

     I realized for a really long time, I treated Jesus a lot like that food processor.  I had him the moment I accepted Him.   I told people I had him. I’d think about him on Sunday mornings and talk about Him with my church friends.  Then I started watching my Christian friends and doing things they did, I learned “church talk”, and I got involved with various ministries.  I was doing and saying all the right things – but having Jesus in my life, wasn’t really making too much of a difference.  I realized I looked like a good Christian, but I wasn’t really doing anything with him; nor did I do anything to get to know him better.   I wasn’t going to the source for my knowledge, I wasn’t taking time to open the manual to see what God wanted to show ME –because that’s another beautiful thing about this gift – it’s personalized. 

     We each have unique situations.  What is a struggle for me, someone else might think is ridiculous; and just as we each have our own struggles, we also have individual strengths.  Sometimes we know what those strengths are, and sometimes we need a little help finding them; but one thing is certain – we were each made for a purpose. 

     There are a lot of hurting people in this world.  I would guess, some of them may be reading this blog right now.  That’s the beauty of really getting to know the Man who grew up from being a baby in the manger.  He meets us right where we are.  Maybe right where you are is trying to make a really difficult decision and you just don’t know what to do.  Maybe right where you are is struggling with a stronghold that you desperately want to be free of.  Maybe right where you are is, you know him but it’s been a long time since you’ve marveled at who he really is.  In the middle of whatever it is we are going through, He meets us there and says, “Here, let me help you with that.” 

The Bible tells us He’s the author and perfector of our faith – Hebrews 12:2 that means he already knows the outcome and if we turn to him it will work out perfectly for our good.

He’s the Bread of Life – John 6:35…He can sustain us even when we feel like the world is crashing down around us.

He’s Faithful and true – Revelation 19:11 – when we’re feeling everyone is too busy and we don’t have anyone – He’s still there.

He’s the light of the world – John 8:12 – His presence brings a new perspective and allows us to see what we couldn’t see alone.

He’s the good shepherd – John 10:11 – Like an actual shepherd that makes sure his sheep are with him at all times – he loves us enough to come and find us if we get lost, and gently brings us back and loves us still.

He is Lord of all – Phillipians 2:9 – so no matter what is happening around us – He’s got it, and we don’t have to worry because at the end of the day – He is still on the throne.

He’s our indescribable gift – 2 Corinthians 9:15 – I could spend hours telling you the difference His presence has made in my life…but this post would turn into a novel.  Talk about a gift that keeps on giving!

     It’s a relationship we get when we say yes to the gift of Jesus.

    Trust me when I tell you…He’s my comforter when I’m lonely. He’s my strength when I don’t think I can make it through. He listens when I whine to Him; and then there are times when he shows me that I’m the problem and need to change something I’m doing.  I’m learning that no matter how old I get, there are still things I want that I don’t need; but he loves me enough to help me let go of those things – my stubbornness chooses how long that learning process takes. 

     In the past several months there have been some significant changes in my life...and with each thing that has happened, I’ve asked why.  “Why couldn’t that have happened before I left?” or “Why is this taking so long?”

     I’ve learned answers to some of those questions.

     If that thing would have happened before I left, maybe I wouldn’t have ended up where I know God wants me to be; and I think it took a little longer, because I was getting wrapped up in wanting to do the things I KNEW how to do, instead of learning to trust Him and do the things he wants me doing. 

     You see , there is nothing more precious than the gift of Jesus, we just have make time to get to know the true value of the gift.

     Absolutely adore the baby in the manger, but don’t stop there.  Take the time to get to know Jesus.  He will take what you thought you wanted and give you things you never expected, nor knew you desperately needed; and at the end of the day you will realize, Immanual – God with us - is all you really need.

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. ”
— Isaiah 7:14


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