Recently Carolyn and I went to Tijuana, Mexico for a Christmas Outreach with Reaching the Hungry ministry (led by our good friends Carlos and Lisa Sales). Carlos put me on the Christmas present wrapping team—he’s got a real eye for talent, haha.
Some of the wrapping team in action.
All told, we wrapped 350 donated Christmas presents for the underprivileged children there. I mostly just organized the wrapped presents in age-appropriate categories.
At the end, children left through the muddy streets of Tijuana carrying their beautifully wrapped presents.
I asked someone why the children didn’t unwrap them right away (like I would have). They said that the present was probably the only one they would receive, so they were saving it for Christmas Day.
What a precious and sobering thought.
Here’s an even more precious and sobering thought: on the first Christmas the greatest gift of all, the Lord of the Universe, was wrapped in rags so He and His gift of salvation could be given to all.
Wow, how amazing and wonderful!
How did all this happen?
Philippians 2 tells us how we received the greatest Christmas present wrapped in rags:
01. Jesus was eternally God, the 2nd person of the Trinity.
“Although he was in the form of God and equal with God, he did not take advantage of this equality. Instead, he emptied himself by taking on the form of a servant, by becoming like other humans, by having a human appearance.” (Philippians 2:6-7 GW)
Jesus was in the “form of God.” The word translated “form” here is from the Greek word MORPHE. It means a person’s permanent, constant being.
There is another Greek word for “form” that could have been used. It is SCHEMA and it means the fleeting, outward form of a person. For example:
In appearance, the form (SCHEMA) of a man is always changing because of aging and fashion.But in His manhood, the form (MORPHE) of a man doesn’t change.
Jesus was fully God who also became a man (starting as a baby) so he could do the incredible work of the Savior. He never stopped being part of the Godhead when He also took the “form [also MORPHE] of a servant.”
For more help understanding the Trinity see my article: “Five Keys that Help Unlock the Mystery of the Trinity.”
02. Jesus, the gift, was wrapped in rags (or swaddling clothes).
I prefer wrapping with Christmas gift bags—so much easier to just throw gifts in and you’re done!
But Jesus didn’t take a shortcut—he came in the humblest of appearances, as a baby. The Almighty Lord of the universe was born like other human beings, in very lowly circumstances.
The verse above tells us that He became a “servant, by becoming like other humans, by having a human appearance.”
Then Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes—he was wrapped in rags.
Why was it necessary for Jesus to come this way? This was necessary because only a human being can pay for sins.
A few years ago I got a ticket for rolling through a stop sign. In the ticket I had 2 options: pay or contest in court.
Could I send a dog to appear in court and plead my case or pay the fine? No, but I could hire a human being, an attorney. And pay them $500 per hour!
Jesus appeared in court for all of us, paid the price for our sins, and that’s why He came. He doesn’t charge a penny—He gives this gift freely to all who call on Him.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15 ESV)
03. Jesus was the greatest gift conceivable.
Why was Jesus the greatest gift conceivable? Here’s why: “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:8 ESV)
Jesus gave us a Christmas gift we could not give ourselves. He died for our sins and paid the price for us. Not only did he die, he rose again and overcame death and sin for us so we could have eternal life.
This is the greatest gift that could ever be given!
Earlier this year I received a very special gift for my 60th birthday. Carolyn and my assistant collaborated to give me a book of pictures, memories, and tributes from family and friends. It was a gift I couldn’t give myself—a gift of love.
Seems like usually the only time someone gets such a loving gift is at their funeral!
Jesus gave us a gift we couldn’t give ourselves: he died on the cross for our sins, in our place, and for all people and for all time. A gift of incomprehensible love.
Because Jesus is God, he could die for all sins for all time.
“Christ died once for our sins. An innocent person died for those who are guilty. Christ did this to bring you to God, when his body was put to death and his spirit was made alive.” (1 Peter 3:18 CEV)
04. Jesus rose from the dead, and will someday be worshipped by all.
“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11 ESV)
This is the “riches” part of this rags to riches story.
Jesus didn’t just suffer and die for our sins. He overcame death, sin, suffering, and was exalted over all.
He is the one and only Lord of the universe and will be worshiped as such one day when we stand before him.
This is already beginning to happen. More people worship Jesus and believe in Christianity today than any other faith.
It’s ironic: it doesn’t matter if you are Buddhist, Jewish, atheist or agnostic, in much of the world the Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ is recognized and acknowledged during the Christmas season.
A Jewish friend that I play basketball with says that on Christmas Day, when everything else is closed, and nobody else is working, he and his family go to the only restaurant that is open: a Chinese restaurant. Apparently that’s what many Jews and Buddhists do on Christmas Day.
I listen to a lot of Christmas music during the season, and it is striking to hear all kinds of artists that you’d never think are Christians singing Christmas songs and making Christ-mas albums: John Travolta, Olivia Newton John, Chicago, The Eagles, Jon Bon Jovi, Dean Martin, Elton John, John Lennon, Queen, Britney Spears.
They sing songs like:
Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King. Let every heart prepare Him room…
Silent night, holy night, all is calm all is bright.
Round yon Virgin mother and child.
Holy infant so tender and mild.
O Holy night, the stars are brightly shining, it is the night of the dear Savior’s birth.
But that’s just the beginning: one day EVERY knee will bow to Jesus and worship him.
Now, how’s that for a rags to riches story!
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