I remember asking for a pogo stick when I was growing up. I suppose I saw one on TV and thought it was the coolest thing in the world, since, at that age, anything that was expensive and on TV was the coolest thing in the world.
I woke up early on Christmas Day and ran into my mom’s room, yelling something about it being Christmas and wanting her to get up.
Now, in case you didn’t know, there’s really not a good way to wrap a pogo stick. So as I walked into the living room, my prize caught my eye. There, by the corner of the couch, was a brand new, green and silver pogo stick. I was so excited that I grabbed it and immediately started playing with it, trying to figure out how to bounch successfully. After a few minutes, I figured it out and was ready to jump around my house.
Problem: We lived in the upstairs apartment. And the downstairs neighbor wasn’t exactly sharing my holiday cheer. Not 45 seconds into my bouncing, I heard three successive knocks on our floor. From that point on, all my “pogo sticking” was down downstairs in the breezeway.
I think stories like this, stories that everyone has, show us an important point of receiving gifts.
Gifts are meant to be received with joy and with appreciation, with a respect for the person giving the gift. We cheapen the gift when we question the giver’s motives, doubt that the gift is real, or try to pay back its price (for then it would not be a gift).
Christmas has never been about material gifts. The giving and receiving of material gifts is a wonderful gift from God, an experience of His common grace, and, to be completely honest, I still enjoy making a Christmas list and ripping open gifts on Christmas morning.
But the point of these gifts is to point us to the greatest gift, Jesus. Pogo sticks, video games, hand-knit sweaters and Apple products will all be gone when Christ comes back. But Christ and His kingdom will last forever. Our relationship with God will last forever.
There’s a flip side to this wonderful truth, though: We must receive the gift. If we reject God’s gift, we reject God, and instead of being in relationship with Him forever, we will spend eternity in hell apart from God.
John 1:12 is one of the greatest verses in the Bible: “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”
The mark of a Christian is one who has RECEIVED Christ.
What does it mean to receive Christ?
We receive Christ as all that He promises to be. John Piper defines saving faith in Jesus Christ as trusting Him to be all that He has promised to be for us: our Savior, our Lord, our Treasure, our Friend, our High Priest, etc. We simply trust Him to be this for us and follow Him in faith.
This is why we need to fight against doubt and unbelief. It does not honor God to doubt the sufficiency of His Son, His greatest gift. We need to trust in this gift of salvation through Christ, receive it and follow Christ with confidence and joy.
Don’t miss this: This Christmas, God is calling you to receive, whether for the first time or the five millionth time, the gift of His Son Jesus Christ. Christ is the perfect gift that will never fail to satisfy. We will never grow tired of Christ and His gift of salvation. We will never grow tired of being saved by His work and trusting Him as the Lord of our lives. And one day, we will see Him face to face to thank Him for being that priceless gift.
So, if you’ve never received Christ, I beg you to be reconciled to God through Christ. Turn from living for yourself and in sin, trust Christ to come be Lord and help you obey Him, and obey His first command by trusting what He has done for you in His life, death and resurrection. He has accomplished a perfect salvation for “all those who receive him.” If you will agree with God about your sin, and trust Christ to be your Lord, and trust what He’s done for you, you can know the peace and joy that goes beyond anything a holiday season can provide. Lasting peace is found in Christ. I urge you to consider Him this Christmas.
May we never forget your love for us, God. May we marvel at the miracle of the incarnation, at the grace you showed in coming to live life for us and with us. May we receive you as our Lord, our Savior, our Friend forever. May we worship you for all that you are and for all that you have done.