Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What is the definition of a 'great' gift?  Christmas rolls around each year and many of us are stymied by the pressing need to figure out the best gifts for family and friends.  And it gets tougher each year!  Needs to be something different (not the same or too similar to last year or the year before), needs to be special depending on the recipient (an aunt or uncle versus son or daughter, to say nothing of husband or wife), needs to be something the person would really LIKE, which is not necessarily the same thing as something they really NEED.  All these thoughts swirl around in our heads as we face the long line of cars waiting to get in to the Mall or the crowd of people IN the Mall.  And to think, we do it because the Magi came and brought gifts to the Christ Child, and probably the shepherds did not come empty-handed either.  And of course the Babe was himself a gift from the Father.  

The Jewish people, God's Covenant People, were again enduring hard times.  Maybe the Romans were not as bad (for conquerors) as the Babylonians or the Assyrians had been all those centuries before, after all, the Jews were still in Jerusalem and not carried off into exile and the Temple was standing tall even if it had been built by one of the worst of the Roman puppet rulers, Herod the Great.  But they were not truly free.  There was no Israel, just a Roman Province (Iudaea or Judea in fact).  The people longed for a Savior, a Messiah, one who would be part Moses, part David, and part Ezekiel.  With such a figure, Israel would once again be a nation worthy of respect.  God's favor would return as well and the nation, along with its people, would prosper once again.  If only God would hear their prayers and send a Messiah.  What a great gift that would be!  

God heard their prayers and responded.  And, once again, Israel did not fully hear and understand.  No David or Moses or Ezekiel appeared!  Oh, yes, there was that strange fellow John, son of Zachariah, out in the desert eating locust and honey and preaching that the Lord was coming but when asked if HE were the Messiah he only said that he was not and that another was coming whose sandals John was not worthy enough to even tie.  One greater than John, who at least appeared to know God's will?  But who??

And so a gift in the form of a baby in a manger to whom wise men brought gifts.  It is no surprise that God answers prayers.  And it should also come as no surprise that God gave a gift to his people.  Not the gift they wanted, the package did not look right.  But it was most assuredly the gift they needed.

Blessings to all in this Advent Season!

Robert Watkins teaches the Steakly Bible Class at FBC and can be heard on The Word (98.5/99.3) each Sunday morning at 10:30 am.


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