General John Gowans
BY JOHN GOWANS –
Most of us have had the experience of receiving gifts that we don’t like. “Why did they send me this?” we mutter ungratefully. “What good is it to me? I don’t need it!”
There’s nothing new about unwanted gifts. The first Christmas gift had a mixed reception though it was blindingly beautiful. Wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger, God had made a gift of Himself to a world which badly needed Him but didn’t know it.
In the first chapter of St. John’s Gospel we find a stunning statement. Speaking of the Son of God it says: “He came to His own…” (1:11). He came to the human creatures which He had made and joined them. He came to the vulnerability, which is part of being a human being; the limitations, the hurts, the disappointments, the suffering and the distress. Christ was God incarnated, totally sharing the human experience, including the messy business of coming into the world and getting out of it. God identified Himself with humanity. He made the gift of Himself. It beggars description. It’s wonder-full. It deserves ten billion candles on a billion Christmas trees.
But John’s most wonderful phrase is followed by the most sad. “He came to His own…and His own received Him not”! They showed Him the door! God was not welcome. He was an unwanted gift.
Christmas is part of the world’s history. But it is also a contemporary event. God is forever coming into the world, your world and mine. He is always offering the gift of Himself as a counselor, a protector, a companion, a comforter, a healer, a Savior. Christmas is a cheerful reminder of all this but it seems we have neither the sense nor the courage to receive the Gift. We are needlessly afraid of Him. We put up the “Not Wanted!” and “Not Necessary!” sign and our desperate spiritual poverty is the result.
Happily the message does not finish on this sour note.
He still comes to His own…that’s the good news.
And His own still don’t want Him…that’s the tragedy.
But those who do accept the gift of His presence in their lives still receive with this the right and the power to become God’s children, bearing a strong family resemblance to the Christ…that’s breathtaking!
God is renewing His personal offering of Himself to us again this Christmas. Inside the parcel wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger we will not only find a Love that will not let us go but also a Power which will make Christ-likeness possible for us. Possible, not easy. Not suddenly, but certainly.
Don’t say you don’t want it. Take it! It’s for you!
If you do, I promise you, you will have an extremely happy Christmas.