Acknowledging the real gifts of the holidays

By Leonard Lauriault: QCS columnist

So, what’d you get for Christmas? Was it what you wanted?

We often look forward to gift-giving (receiving) times with eager expectations. Many knew exactly what they wanted and were excited at the prospects of receiving that, only to be disappointed because they were given something different, even an item they’d like to have and could use. Others got what they thought they wanted, only to find the anticipated enjoyment was short-lived. Some of us hadn’t the foggiest idea what we wanted, but we looked forward to receiving a thoughtfully selected gift only to realize we wouldn’t have it.

Those satisfied with their presents were likely not as concerned about the present in particular, but realized and enjoyed the more important gift — the love that inspired the concept of giving. Nothing in the whole world, besides love, can make up for the disappointment in our lives.

God’s gift of love was his only son, Jesus, who later proved the magnitude of his love by dying in our place for the sins we’d committed (John 3:16; 15:9-14; Romans 5:6-8). If we return our love to Jesus, we can have eager expectations not only because of the presents received in this life (when we experience his presence in our surroundings, Romans 1:20), but also about our future because he’s preparing a place for us where there’ll be no disappointments (John 14:1-4, 23, 24).

Disappointments certain to come in this life give us hope for a better future (John 16:33). God’s Spirit dwelling in Christians also reminds us of our future hope, helping us survive present disappointments (including the one we didn’t get earlier this week or in which our interest has already waned) (John 14:15-21; 1 John 3:21-24; Romans 8:15-17; 5:1-5). In fact, if we place much hope in the present life, disappointments will abound, especially if we’re living the Christian life here only to benefit from clean living in the here and now (Matthew 6:19-21; 1 Thessalonians 4:13; Ephesians 2:12, 13; 1 Corinthians 15:19). First Timothy 5:5, 6 applies to us all.

Now, we don’t know exactly what our future life will be like, just like we usually don’t know what Christmas presents we’ll receive. But, we do know heaven’s going to be good and we know that, as Jesus is preparing a place for us there, we also must prepare ourselves for that place (1 John 3:1-3).

Nothing and no one impure can enter the place being prepared for those who love Jesus (Revelation 21:27; 20:15). The impure (those who disobey Jesus) will be sent to an unpleasant place prepared for someone else (Matthew 25:41).

God’s word tells us the way to the place Jesus is preparing (2 Timothy 3:15-17; James 1:22-25; 2:17). Purification and the indwelling of God’s Spirit begins and continues with obedience to God (1 Peter 1:21-25; Acts 2:36-41; 5:32; Romans 8:9-11).

Christianity has value for the present and for eternity (1 Timothy 4:8). Concentrating on the future part causes present disappointments to be nearly completely minimized and God will give us our present desires in addition to our present needs (Romans 8:18-25; Matthew 6:25-33; 7:7-11; 21:22).

Faith and hope are magnificent gifts to us from God because they shield us until Jesus returns, if we practice them (1 Corinthians 12:31; 13:13; Ephesians 2:8; 2 Thessalonians 2:16; 1 Peter 1:3-5). Love is the greatest gift, however, because, after we’re in God’s presence, faith and hope aren’t needed, but God’s love never fails (1 John 4:16, 17; 1 Corinthians 13:4-12). If we put our trust, faith and hope in God, we’ll not be disappointed and we’ll realize the magnitude of his love completely forever (Jeremiah 29:11; Galatians 5:5; Ephesians 4:1-6; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; Psalm 22:4, 5).

What do you eagerly anticipate? Although the gift-giving season is nearly over for 2005 (there still are some birthdays to celebrate), a new year is upon us, giving hope for overcoming past failures. God’s love keeps no record of our past failures if we continue preparing ourselves for eternity (Romans 8:12-14; 1 John 1:5 to 2:6; Hebrews 10:14-18).

If we accept God’s gift of love, every day becomes a new day in which we can eagerly look forward to Jesus’ return (2 Timothy 4:7, 8; Titus 2:11-14; Matthew 24:42).