Jesus – The Greatest Gift

Baby Jesus Christmas by Art in Mind Creative Wellness Studios

Giving and receiving a gift is often way more complicated than it should be. When giving a gift, many thoughts come to mind: “What if they don’t like it?” “What if they don’t give me a gift?” “What if they already have it”? “What if they don’t want it”? These are all valid thoughts that we may have when we are on the side of giving gifts.

In addition to giving a gift, receiving a gift carries many challenges for the recipient: “I already have this.” “I do not need this.” “How much did this cost?” “Did you even put thought into this gift?” Why does giving and receiving gifts have to be so difficult?

Giving and receiving gifts is such a significant practice throughout generations. We are created as humans in the image of God with the same characteristics as our Heavenly Father. God the Father is the greatest gift giver of all time. The thought of the Father and His Son dwelling with one another in the midst of perfection is unfathomable. In all the glory, perfection, beauty, and awesome qualities of being in the presence of one another, there was still something they were missing. How could something be missing? What could possibly be desired by the triune God Himself? It was me and you.

I love that the Father was not only desiring us, but He acted upon His desire by sending His precious Son, Jesus, to be born of a virgin. What an incredible gift that the Father has given us in Jesus, and I am overwhelmed with thanksgiving that the Father has bestowed upon us such a gift.

A gift is such a beautiful symbol of receiving something that is not earned. Scripture says in Romans 6:23,

“For the wages of sin is death, but the FREE gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

If we received what we earned, then we would receive death. However, the promise is that we are given eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. So, what gift did Jesus bring?

Three major focus points of what Jesus has bestowed upon us:

  • He gave us the gift of eternal life to all who believe. He gave us a way by bearing the weight of not only our sins but the burdens of life, knowing we could not handle the difficulties of this world on our own. He gave up being in the form of God and became the most vulnerable form of creation, a baby.
  • He gave us the gift of redemption. What a powerful concept being redeemed is. Redemption is the act of gaining possession of something in exchange for a payment or clearing a debt. He completely cleared the slate of our filthiness and made us righteous before Him. He turned death to life, despair into hope, mourning into rejoicing, emptiness into fullness, loneliness into an unconditional relationship, and chaos into peace. He changed the outcome.
  • He gifted us with a choice. He has allowed us to choose His life, now, with Him, and in a way, we choose what our life looks like in following Him. He has given us the gift to choose who we want to follow, where we want to go, and what we want our results to be. Just as Jesus chose to come into this world, bringing God to Us – Immanuel, but also us to God, in uniting with us in our humanity. He has given all people a choice and opportunity to be with Him forever.

I am grateful I do not have to question what the gift of Jesus cost. I am joyful and overwhelmed to know that God thought about me when He sent Jesus to be born. I am merry to know that God knew exactly what I needed as a human because He humbled Himself in human form, experiencing and overcoming life on earth. What a beautiful gift Jesus is and has given!

Father, thank you for your precious Son. Thank you for the gift of Jesus. Jesus, you are the greatest gift. I am in awe of who you are. Thank you, Jesus, for your obedience and humility in taking the form of a human. Thank you for allowing us to relate to you. I am grateful for the gifts that you never stop giving. I thank you that these gifts are not only for me but for everyone. Help me to share the greatest gift, You, Jesus, with the people in my life? I love you, Jesus. Thank you!!!

Magi – The Gift of the Journey

Journey of the Wisemen by Trijsten Leach

During my childhood, Nana had a heartwarming tradition. Once the house was decorated for Christmas and the nativity scene was up, she would playfully move the wise men (Magi) around the house until Christmas Day, when they would be at the manger. Although this is a sweet memory to look back on, it makes me wonder, outside of the nostalgia, what is it God wants us to see in the Magi’s journey?

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the East came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:1-2)

The Magi’s journey, much like my Nana’s tradition, mirrors the spiritual journey of all believers—the path to Christ. Just as the Magi set out to follow a star on a quest to find the newborn King, our spiritual journey had a beginning. It may have started with curiosity or a desire for purpose; either way, that spark of light caught our attention. The Magi moving through the house reminds us that the search for God begins from a distance, but it is a journey worth undertaking.

The journey of the Magi was not straightforward; it involved challenges and moments of uncertainty. Just like our own spiritual journeys are often marked by twists and turns, it requires patience and faith to persevere, trusting God to guide us along the way, just as the star guided the Magi. Moving the Magi through the house also reminds us of our need to trust in God’s guidance despite obstacles we encounter.

It is important to note that these were not Jewish men; they were scholars and astrologers from the East, known for their wisdom and study of the heavens. They observed a new star rising in the night sky, a celestial sign of unparalleled significance. This star was the harbinger of hope, beckoning them to seek the newborn King. When the Magi finally reached Jesus, they bowed and worshiped Him, offering gifts to the Christ child. This is it. This is what all the travel, perseverance, and dedication had been for, reaching Jesus. In our own spiritual journey, the destination is encountering Christ. It is there where we find true meaning and fulfillment. And when we arrive at our destination, at the feet of Jesus, like the Magi, we offer our lives in worship and surrender to the Savior.

Nana’s tradition of moving the Magi now makes me think of how our path to Christ is transformative. Each step towards Him changes us, making us more like Him in the process. It’s a reminder that we are shaped and molded by our pursuit of Jesus. The Magi’s journey speaks to us of patience, worship, and surrender, not based on our culture or upbringing. No, it is based on our seeking.

Father, as we think of our Christmas traditions and ponder the Magi, remind us of the importance of seeking, being guided, and following the path. Teach us patience, Lord, and help us to trust You when we face obstacles along the way. And as we travel with You, each day growing closer to You, help us to surrender to worship. During this Christmas season, Thank You for the sweet memories and all the ways You speak to your children. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Magi – Wise Worshippers

Three Kings, 1949 by Edmund Lewandowski (American, 1914-1998)

Reflecting on the Christmas story, particularly the account of the wise men, initially seemed relatively straightforward. These intelligent individuals arrived at the manger, guided by an unusual star, presenting three significant gifts—gold, frankincense, and myrrh—to baby Jesus, whom they worshipped then and there, right?

However, digging deeper reveals intriguing possibilities and some outright errors in the timeline, making the story of the wise men even more amazing:

First, contrary to common belief, these figures weren’t kings. Rather, they were close advisors to kings. They were indeed men of intelligence, or “wise,” leading some to believe they were astronomers, learned men of a priestly class, and perhaps even astrologers! Remember, there were no Apple Watches back then—so people relied on the sun, moon, and stars to tell them the times and seasons. Could God have spoken to them in that “language” they knew and understood to guide them to Jesus?

Secondly, and quite remarkably, they were Gentiles! Their culture may not have normalized hearing from God. Nevertheless, they might have been acquainted with the words from the prophet Daniel, 

“I continued watching in the night visions, and suddenly, one like a son of man was coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was escorted before him. He was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, so that those of every people, nation, and language should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13-14).  

Or maybe they knew the prophecy from Numbers, 

“I see him, but not now; I perceive him, but not near. A star will come from Jacob, and a scepter will arise from Israel. He will smash the forehead of Moab and strike down all the Shethites.” (Numbers 24:17).

Thirdly, they came from the East. Followers of Eastern teachings believe in divine revelation from the gods, often deriving insights from celestial cues that influenced events on Earth. Many actively sought these signs, eager to witness their fulfillment firsthand. Scholars propose that these wise men likely originated from either Arabia or Persia. Those leaning toward Arabia associate it with the valuable gift of myrrh, which was a prized product from the region (more valuable than gold!). Conversely, proponents of Persia suggest these men belonged to the same order as the “magicians, enchanters, astrologers, and diviners” mentioned in Daniel 5, where the prophet Daniel held authority. 

 Regardless of their specific origin, Matthew 2:1 tells us they came from the East, marking them as the first documented Gentiles to worship Jesus! Their journey to the newborn King would likely have spanned weeks if not months! Given the distance they had to travel and the fact that the Bible does not say they came to the manger but to “the place where the child was” (Matt. 2:9), they probably arrived in Nazareth when Jesus was approximately one year old. 

Lastly, while it was customary to present extravagant gifts to leaders, with the expectation of reciprocation, the gifts of the Magi carried greater spiritual meaning. Gold symbolized royalty, frankincense represented deity, and myrrh, used in anointing oil and embalming, foreshadowed Christ’s sacrificial death. Their gifts revealed a deeper understanding and belief in who Jesus was! These wise worshippers’ gifts provided Mary and Joseph with resources to travel to Egypt, where they remained until Herod’s death. And even though the Magi went home without a reciprocated tangible gift, God granted them the invaluable gifts of protection and safety through a dream, guiding them to avoid Herod and take an alternative route.


  1. There may be servants of God in places where we should not expect to find them.
  2. There is usually more to the story, making its meaning more profound and impactful. God is a God of detail. He does not do anything by chance. 
  3. The Gentile Magi came to worship the newborn King, while the Jewish priests and king did not.
  4. The gifts presented were acts of worship and important to God. They demonstrated respect, honor, and acknowledgment of Jesus’ true identity, and the Magi worshipped Him accordingly.

Things to ponder:

  • What would be an appropriate gift for you to bring to Jesus this season?
  • Will you give God permission to work in your life in unusual ways, knowing His ways are best?
  • In what ways can you utilize the gifts God has given you as gifts to share with others?

Shepherds –  The Gift of Presence

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified,  but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!  And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them. Luke 2:8-20 NLT

Let’s set the scene here – Mary just gave birth to her first child in a very very rustic, unfamiliar place. She and Joseph are probably dazed, Mary’s in some pain, and Joseph is cleaning stuff up. They aren’t surrounded by family to celebrate with them. They made this trek alone. The reality of all they’ve had to deal with for the past nine months is hitting them hard. Probably some tears, some wonder, some awe, maybe even a few really human moments of “Can you believe this is happening?” Just the two of them.  

Then some shepherds show up, with crazy eyes, running from their fields, and they share what the angels told them. Other witnesses to God’s great plan; it’s happening, and it’s bringing joy to all people! The Savior, the Messiah, has been born! Imagine what that meant to Joseph and Mary’s hearts. The encouragement that came from their presence and proclamation of the good news!  

How did they bring such joy and astonishment to Joseph Mary and anyone else who would hear?  

The shepherds gave three gifts: 

  1. They gave the gift of their presence. If you notice in the above passage, the angels didn’t tell the shepherds to go. They simply decide to go (they are the originator of the saying, “Let’s go!!”). They showed up for Joseph and Mary’s biggest moment of their lives with excitement and celebrated with them!
  2. They gave the gift of good news by sharing with everyone they saw what they SAW and HEARD. It’s like they couldn’t keep this incredible experience to themselves. They shared the details—what they saw and heard—with anyone who would listen. The hills probably echoed with the tale of the heavenly encounter.
  3. They gave God the gift of praise. They celebrate with the Creator of the universe and rescuer of humanity that HIS PLAN was happening. They joined in, not just as witnesses but as participants, praising the Creator of the universe.

What gift do you bring?

For each of us this Christmas season, let’s take a cue from the shepherds. Take time to celebrate with God the fulfillment of His plan of rescue! Let’s praise the Creator of all and the Rescuer of humanity! And, inspired by those shepherds, let’s go a step further.

Let’s give the gift of our presence to those around us. Just as the shepherds showed up for Joseph and Mary, let’s show up for others in our lives. Be present in their biggest moments, share in their joys, and lend a supportive shoulder in their challenges. Sometimes, the simple act of being there can be the greatest gift.

In the midst of the festive chaos, let’s not forget the power of encouragement. Like the shepherds who brought excitement to a manger, let’s bring encouragement to those who need it. Your words and actions can be a source of light and hope, just like the dazzling radiance that surrounded those shepherds on that extraordinary night.

And as we celebrate this season, let’s share this good news with others. God loves humans and still rescues us from the messes of our lives! After all, the story of Christmas is not just a tale from the past; it’s an ongoing narrative that we continue to write with our own gifts of love and grace.

Shepherds – The gift of priority

Seeing Shepherds by Daniel Bonnell

It was nighttime in the hills outside of Bethlehem. The shepherds were hard at work keeping their flocks safe. You could hear the sheep bleating occasionally and the breeze across the fields. As they watched over the flock, talking amongst themselves, there was suddenly a great brightness with a man in the middle of it. I’m sure they reacted like I would, with a startled jump and a scream. As the man spoke, they felt an unexplainable sense of peace and calmness as God’s angel told them not to be afraid. As this heavenly messenger continued to tell the shepherds about the long-awaited birth of the Messiah, a great company of angels appeared, singing praises to God. Then, as suddenly as they appeared, the messengers of God ascended back into heaven.

The shepherds responded immediately. They went to “see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about” (Luke 2:15-16). They not only left the sheep, they also immediately believed what God, through His angels, had told them. Something so grand and momentous that angels were heralding; they just had to see it!

 I can see them talking among themselves as they searched for the manger; “Did we really see that?” “Can this truly be the Messiah?” “He is supposed to be born in Bethlehem according to prophecy.” “Why did God choose us to tell? We are not royalty or Temple Priests?”

After the shepherds experienced Jesus in person, they left changed and excited. Scripture tells us that they returned to their field, “glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told” (Luke 2:20). Their experience that night had a radical effect on them. Can you see them walking back to the pastures, singing, and praising God? Can you hear the excitement in their voices as they tell those they meet on the way? Can you see the amazement on their friends’ and families’ faces as they share the experience with them when they go home?

As God gave us the greatest gift ever given, His Son, the Messiah – our Savior, the shepherds gave back to God with their response. They responded with trust and belief. Not only did the shepherds believe the angel’s message, they also trusted God to watch over the sheep as they left the fields to see the miraculous event. Even if they went to see the manger in shifts, the sheep would only be partially protected. They made Jesus their number-one priority that night.

After they experienced Jesus, they responded to God’s gift with the gifts of their praise and exaltation. Not only did they honor God through their praises, but they also honored God through sharing their experience with others.  

As we think about the birth of Jesus so long ago, take a few minutes to picture the scene as the shepherds were surprised by God’s heavenly messengers. Picture the stillness being broken by the chorus of angels. The darkness giving way to light. How would you respond to the message that the long-awaited Messiah had been born?

Now, picture yourself standing before a manger with a baby lying in it. The angels said this was God’s promised Messiah. What are your thoughts as you look upon the hope of mankind lying in a stable in a manger? Like the shepherds, having encountered Immanuel – God with Us, would you tell others your experience? Would you praise God for allowing you to be a part of His plan?

Now, let’s think about today. God gave us the gift of a Savior that first Christmas day. Jesus went on to die a horrible death on a cross and pay for every bad thing that you, or I, will ever do. How do we respond to that? What gifts do we give back in thanksgiving to God? Is God a priority in our lives or a convenience? Are we willing to make time for Jesus? Are we filled to overflowing as the shepherds were? Do we go about praising and thanking God? Do we share our experience of God with others?

What gifts do you give back to God? I challenge you and myself to follow the shepherd’s example. Make Jesus your top priority. Believe the message you have been given and respond with praise and thanksgiving. Like the shepherds, go investigate. Read God’s word. Spend time in His presence. Then, tell others about how you have experienced God in your life.

“All the things in this world are gifts of God, created for us, to be the means by which we can come to know him better, love him more surely, and serve him more faithfully.” Ignatius of Loyola

Joseph – The Stepfather of Jesus

St Joseph and the Christ Child in the Carpentry Workshop, by Pietro Annigoni 1963 at Church of San Lorenzo, Firenze © Christian Art Today

Joseph, the earthly stepfather of Jesus, is a misunderstood and unappreciated hero of the New Testament and the earthly father of God’s heavenly Son. Let that sink in; it could not have been easy. 

Jesus was the true offspring of Mary and the Holy Spirit. Male humanity was not involved. That is unprecedented. How do you respond to that as a father? How do you manage that as a family? As we revisit this story, let’s remember that they lived this. They were people with passions just like us (James 5:17).

It had to be a crazy adventure for Joseph, and it all started with a bang. One day, he hears from his betrothed, Mary, that she has become pregnant by a miraculous work of God. His life and future now appear ruined. As he is trying to figure out what to do, an angel shows up to comfort him. He tells him it’s true and what he must do. He obeys. 

The next couple of years are a whirlwind of intrigue and near catastrophes. Faced with the societal consequences of a pregnancy outside of marriage, they quietly slip out of Nazareth. Any public knowledge would jeopardize Jesus’ future involvement in the synagogue. They probably stayed with Zacharias and Elizabeth before going on to Bethlehem – only three miles further down the road. Guided by Old Testament prophecies predicting the birth in Bethlehem, the census serves as a perfect cover for their discreet relocation.

After Jesus’ birth and after fulfilling the Temple requirements, Joseph and Mary returned to Nazareth. The Magi, guided by a divine hand, miraculously find them. They honor the child with lavish gifts. After the Magi leave, God intervenes once again, waking Joseph in the night with a dire warning: “Get up and leave immediately, Herod’s men are coming for you and the child.” (Matthew 2:13). The family barely makes it out of town in time. They go to Sepphoris, a bustling nearby Roman city, and then travel to Egypt. They use the gifts from the Magi as money to live on until Herod is dead, and they can return to Nazareth.

The adventure continues. What father comes prepared to raise the sinless Son of God? Even though Jesus was fully human, aspects of His desires and motivations had to be at odds with their lifestyle and expectations. Joseph essentially had joint custody of Jesus with the God of the universe. How does that work? Jesus may not even have looked like His half-brothers and half-sisters. Jesus, as the oldest son, would have been expected to take over the family business. But, He had no desire for that. He spent most of His time in the synagogue reading the scriptures or alone in prayer with His heavenly Father. This had to cause tension within the family.

They knew Jesus’ significance as the Messiah but struggled to understand His path. Tradition anticipated a great leader like King David. No one realized that the Messiah should first come as a Suffering Servant and die for their sins on the Cross. How could they grasp that He was the human-born Son of God? Who thinks of that as a possibility? 

There was an instance when Jesus was 12 when His family traveled to Jerusalem. Something they did every year. But this year, Jesus decided to stay and didn’t feel the need to tell anybody. A day later, while on the road, Joseph and Mary realized He was missing. After frantically searching through their extended family, they traveled back to Jerusalem. Three more days, and they finally found Him in the temple, casually conversing with the priests. Astonished, Mary asks the standard parent question, “Son, why have you treated us this way? Your father and I have been beside ourselves looking for you.” I’ve been there as a father, and probably so have you. 

Jesus responds flatly, “Why have you been looking for me, wouldn’t you know that I would be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49) Think about that. He’s telling His earthly father that he should’ve known he would be in his heavenly Father’s house. Wow! Joint custody is a difficult thing. Especially when the other father is God. Even Jesus had to be a teenager once.

Jesus goes back with them to Nazareth, and this is the last we hear of Joseph. By the time Jesus started His ministry, if Joseph were still alive, he would be around 50 years old. Most men didn’t live that long. 

Jesus, of course, never took over the family business, and His ministry and teachings ultimately got Him killed. The family only fully grasped Jesus’ identity as the Son of God after His resurrection. However, none of this would’ve happened without Joseph and his thankless efforts. He never fully comprehended his prominent place in eternal history. 

“And these all were commended for their faith, yet they did not receive what was promised. For God had provided something better for us, so that they would be made perfect together with us.” Hebrews 11:39-40 

When you hear his story this Christmas, realize these were real people. Ordinary people, walking out their part within the big picture of God. They didn’t understand it all. We are just like them.

 Take time to reflect on these people. Allow this meditation to deepen your appreciation of the profound journey they undertook. Then consider that you, too, have a role in God’s plan. You may not see it or understand it, but God and you are at work on one beautiful story.