“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” -James 1:17 NKJV
Ask a child what their favorite part about Christmas is, and you’ll likely hear “presents!” (Okay, you can ask me, and I’ll give the same answer). I love presents. Big, small, chocolate, you name it. I just love the excitement of a gift- whether giving or receiving. It’s a thrill to find the perfect gift. It can also be a little nerve-wracking if you have to follow up said perfect gift, but I digress.
We often say that Christmas isn’t about the gifts, and while it may not be about material presents, it is about the Gift, Jesus Christ. We celebrate His birth, because He came as a gift to us. Without the birth, there would be no death, and there would be no resurrection. He had to start somewhere. His birth was Hope to a hopeless world. We definitely have a lot to feel hopeless about these days, but His Hope sustains us. We know that this is not the end. I’m thankful for that gift.
I firmly believe that the Bible is a gift, too. One, it’s a gift in that we have the direct words of God at our fingertips. We have stories that tell us of God’s grace and love. We have commands that keep us in line with a Christ-like life. We have the hope of salvation, and we have godly examples of those who have gone before us. Two, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and powerful”. It doesn’t change-ever- but it does show us different things at different times. I may read a passage of scripture ten times, and find something new on the eleventh read.
This Christmas season, I’ve been reading through the Gospels with several of my friends. Just today, I read Luke 23:6-12, which gives us an account of when Pilate sent Jesus to Herod, since He was from Galilee, and that was Herod’s district. I guess that means that Herod had jurisdiction over Jesus, rather than Pilate. Herod wanted to meet Jesus and see Him perform a miracle, yet he mocked Him and ended up sending Him back to Pilate. And then, get this, Pilate and Herod became friends, even though they had previously been enemies. Somehow, this entire chunk of Scripture has escaped me for thirty years. But even in a terrible situation, Jesus linked two enemies and brought peace. Isn’t that just like His character? Showing up in the most unexpected circumstances and bringing darkness to light.
Yesterday, I was reading a new book by Nika Maples, called Everyday Genesis, and she pointed out the connection between God hovering over the waters in the creation story, to Jesus walking on water (Matthew 14:22-33). Jesus walked on water like He had done it before, because he had! (Goosebumps and misty eyes!!) John 1:1-2 tells us “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” The Word here means Jesus. He was with God as He hovered over the waters, and God was with Jesus when He walked on the water. Have I read those passages? Yes! Have I ever noticed the connection? Absolutely not. If that’s not a shiny wrapped package with six inch ribbon curls, I don’t know what is!
Finally, although I eagerly await more of these spiritual presents, let’s talk about The Christmas Story. Our Ladies Bible Study has been going through The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs. You know what I realized? Elizabeth was not already pregnant with John when the angel appeared to Zechariah. It wasn’t a message of “your wife is pregnant”, it was “your wife will become pregnant”. No pressure when you leave here, Z. Oh yeah, and you can’t talk. I just felt like this added a new layer of faith demanded from Zechariah. The angel’s message was exciting, but it was still news of something to come. Zechariah had to trust that this angel was real and that he hadn’t gone crazy. I don’t know why that struck me, but it did. I saw the story in a new light. So, if that wasn’t enough, guess what. Mary wasn’t pregnant when the angel visited her either. Again, no wonder she was terrified. Not only was she being told she would have a baby without being married, the conception had not happened yet. Can you just see the wheels turning? When? Where? How? Yikes! Do you think she noticed a change right away? Do you think she knew when it happened? Since having children of my own, Mary has become one of my most revered women in Scripture. I know she’s probably everyone’s favorite, but I just love her obedience and trust. She knew how the story would end, but she was all in anyway. A new revelation about this treasured woman was possibly my favorite gift of the season.
You may be reading this thinking “Um, yeah Maddie, I knew that already”, and that’s great! I think we understand Scripture at different paces, depending on where we are in our walks with God. What He reveals to me now is important for my life right now. Notice, the Bible isn’t changing. The words are not different for me, but the lightbulbs turn on in different patterns and times. His Word is forever.
What have you read lately that has new meaning? If you haven’t gained any new understanding, I encourage you to keep reading and/or read a book by a Christian author that helps you comprehend what He’s telling us. I hope you experience the excitement. I truly value these moments as gifts from God.