The joyous season is upon us and perhaps many won’t read this blog until AFTER Christmas. My last social media post said I’d be offline for a while so I can enjoy my family during the holiday season. However, SINCE my gang doesn’t arrive until the 28th, and SINCE I was greatly inspired today to write a new post (thank you John) I’m trying to get it finished before Christmas. When something stirs my heart deeply, this gal cannot keep her fingers off the keyboard.
This Christmas, all of our adult children are asking for the same thing. That very same gift in which millions of Americans have requested or are receiving whether they asked for it or not: GIFT CARDS. As a parent, sure, it’s an easy out. I could have practically waltzed into my local grocery store and purchased these plastic Christmas presents with the swipe of another piece of plastic. Oh, and they’d all fit neatly into my handbag, not to mention be the easiest gift-wrapping session ever. It was so very tempting.
But it’s CHRISTMAS! Who the heck wants to do that? Perhaps I’m a glutton for punishment but I love shopping for that special something for family and friends. I love wrapping them with paper that I put way too much time into choosing and don’t even mind that my legs go numb from sitting in the floor for so long. Mercy!
But there’s also another reason gift cards are not always the way to go.There should be a big warning attached: if your card doesn’t work and you don’t have verification that you actually purchased the gift card, it is null and void. You can call the company and you can go back to where you purchased it, but if you don’t have that little paper receipt, then forget it. Nope, nada, no sirreee bob. You’re just outta luck. Trust me, I know this from experience. I have lost a few dollars (that’s all I’m saying since my husband is reading this) from failing to get the card receipt, simply assuming that the cashier did their job and activated it. No, not so much.
The gift card explosion and it’s accompanying frustration really weighed on me today. Have you ever received a gift card from a store you rarely shop? You tear off the paper or open the little tin and can’t hide your look of confusion. It’s a bit frustrating isn’t it? I’ve carried them around in my wallet for months, thinking that surely I’d get around to going into that particular store at some point. But months turn into a year and that little sliver of plastic starts to look worn and sad in my wallet. I eventually look at it and wonder if it’s valid anymore. Occasionally I’ve found myself simply shrugging that it’s pointless to try and use the card after all this time and just write it off as a loss. Can you relate?
Or worse, can you imagine what the purchaser of that gift card would think if he or she knew you never even cashed in on the gift? Yikes. That, my friends, would not be good.
I know someone whom I can’t help but feels the same way. What if he’s thinking, “I gave you a gift that I picked out especially for you and yet, you don’t realize how incredibly special it is! You carry it around, you know it’s there, and yet you CHOOSE not to use it. Tell me, what’s up with that?!”
Yes, I wonder if that’s what God thinks. It goes through my mind anytime I see friends who love celebrating “the holidays” and simply see it as one of peace, love and thanksgiving. I soooo want to ask with sincere love, “WHO do you think inspires us daily to do that loving thing, that peace-seeking, that overwhelming feeling inside to be thankful? HE is who God sent, in human form, to love and redeem you, regardless of your past, present or future.” He didn’t send a tree, a rock, Charles Dickens, or any of his famous ghosts of Christmas past. He sent a SON.
Yes, the gift of Jesus, Emmanuel, the prince of peace, is THAT special. It’s THE gift. Deep in your heart you’ve carried it around with you all along. God made us that way—to have a place in our heart that only He can fill. Jesus, in a sense, is similar that gift card in your wallet or purse. He’s waiting patiently for you to choose the right time to cash in and embrace His value. It’s priceless and yet so many never see the gift that’s right under their nose.
I can’t help but speculate that some see Jesus like those gift cards: He has an expiration date.
“Oh, there’s no way Jesus wants anything to do with me. It’s been too long. Too much water under the bridge. Too many sins. There’s just no way He’d put up with me now. I might as well just forget about it.”
My friends, if you’ve had this conversation with yourself, I beg you to reconsider how you think Jesus would answer. After all, I’ve had that very conversation when looking into my own mirror. “Why or how could Jesus want anything to do with me? I mean, if He knows everything I do like my pastor says, then I’m up the creek. I’ll just ignore Him because truthfully, I’m just too embarrassed. Surely, others will see the rouse behind the smile. Oh well. No more thinking about that.”
But what if you “don’t shop at that store to begin with?” What if you don’t even acknowledge the gift? Perhaps you’re a bit of a skeptic and not so sure about the store behind this gift to begin with?
Perhaps it’s easier to just say, “I’m spiritual, but not a Christian, per se. I’m not into that scene so I’ll not cash in on this gift, thank you very much.” Please help me understand this. What spirit, when you say, spiritual? Nature? God created this. Yes, the trees, the skies, the air, etc. etc. All of this wonderment was brought to show you His power--to urge you to thank HIM, and more importantly, to praise Him in human form.
It’s so incredibly simple that there lies the rub. Many wonder that it’ not complex enough, that there’s just no way one can simply say, “Jesus is the Son of God. “ To those that may be tearfully whispering, “That’s me, Angie” you’re in good company.
There are millions that question the GIFT so they don’t even attempt entering the store. They arrive at the conclusion that it’s not their thing, not their style, and they’d rather just let it go null and void. They’ll simply overlook the whole thing, or even worse, not think about it at all. The odds are just too great to fool with.
And you ARE correct—the odds ARE amazing. Over 200 prophecies would have to be fulfilled for Jesus Christ, that baby born in a manger, to be the Son of God. That's a tall order to fill!
In a recent article, “The Path of the Prophets. Was Jesus the Real Messiah?” the contributing authors make some incredible points. I beg of you to take a look:
‘So the question that either vindicates Jesus or makes him the world’s greatest hoax is, did he fit and fulfill these Old Testament prophecies?
Let’s look at two of the specific prophecies about the Messiah in the Old Testament.
“You, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village in Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past.” (Micah 5:2, NLT)
“The Lord himself will choose [a] sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel-‘God is with us.'” (Isaiah 7:14, NLT)
Now, before considering the other 59 prophecies, you have to stop and ask yourself how many people in the category of potential Messiah throughout history were born of a virgin in the town of Bethlehem. “Well, let’s see, there’s my neighbor George, but … no, never mind; he was born in Brooklyn.” In the case of 61 detailed prophecies being fulfilled by one person, we are talking about virtually impossible odds.
When forensic scientists discover a DNA profile match, the odds of having the wrong person is frequently less than one in several billion (something for deviants to keep in mind). It would seem we are in the same neighborhood of odds, and numbers of zeros, in considering a single individual fulfilling these prophecies.
Professor of mathematics Peter Stoner gave 600 students a math probability problem that would determine the odds for one person fulfilling eight specific prophecies. (This is not the same as flipping a coin eight times in a row and getting heads each time.) First the students calculated the odds of one person fulfilling all the conditions of one specific prophecy, such as being betrayed by a friend for 30 pieces of silver. Then the students did their best to estimate the odds for all of the eight prophecies combined.
The students calculated that the odds against one person fulfilling all eight prophecies are astronomical-one in ten to the 21st power (1021). To illustrate that number, Stoner gave the following example: “First, blanket the entire Earth land mass with silver dollars 120 feet high. Second, specially mark one of those dollars and randomly bury it. Third, ask a person to travel the Earth and select the marked dollar, while blindfolded, from the trillions of other dollars.”¹
It’s important to note that Stoner’s work was reviewed by the American Scientific Association, which stated, “The mathematical analysis … is based upon principles of probability which are thoroughly sound, and Professor Stoner has applied these principles in a proper and convincing way.” ²
The eight prophecies we’ve reviewed about the Messiah were written by men from different times and places between about 500 and 1,000 years before Jesus was born. Thus there was no opportunity for collusion among them. Notice too, the specificity.
Bible scholars tell us that nearly 300 references to 61 specific prophecies of the Messiah were fulfilled by Jesus Christ. The odds against one person fulfilling that many prophecies would be beyond all mathematical possibility. It goes into the trillions of trillions for all of these events to line up so perfectly.’
I realize the above is a rather long passage, but isn’t that incredible?! He loves us THAT much! That kind of math is way beyond my pay grade, but to God, that’s just how He rolls. He loves to astound us with His unconditional love and omnipotent power. He proves it time and time again to me. And praise Jesus, He has to be so ever-lovin’ patient with this southern gal. I am stubborn, a skeptic and often still wonder, “is it truly this simple?”
And yet time and again I feel the Holy Spirit whisper to me, “Yes, Angie, it is.” Our response to love, to be kind to others and to seek peace, should be just that—a response to the gift He gave us. Our actions show just how much we love the gift we received.
It’s the story of Christmas-- the greatest story ever. Many love the story of a baby in a manger, but it’s when Jesus grows up that they have a little trouble. Oh, but that’s really when the story gets earth-shattering and you realize Jesus finds you cross- worthy!
Yes, you and me, carrying all that yucky baggage that He already knows we have. Oh, what a reason to celebrate! As this post draws to a close and you prepare to open gifts from your loved ones, please consider their intentions before deciding if you’ll use the gift or make a return. And then, sweet one, go to a quiet place and pull on that ribbon. Open your heart and let the Prince of Peace bless you from head to toe. Try it on, allow it to warm you and realize that the fit is absolutely perfect.
After all, God wouldn’t do it any other way....
¹Peter W. Stoner, Science Speaks (Chicago: Moody Press, 1958), 97-110.
³Lee Strobel, The Case for Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 262.