With the Christmas Holiday upon us, so is the time of giving and receiving gifts. Last week’s Yankee Swap was so much fun, as both the giving, and the “receiving” of gifts took place. As I thought about this tradition, I was reminded of a saying which goes like this, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” When someone would give another a horse for free, it was seen as ungrateful if the one receiving the gift looked in the horse’s mouth to determine its age; thus, it’s value. Although I understand this idea, there are times when grasping the value of a gift is equally important to the receiver and is intended to be understood by the giver.
I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it abundantly.
As Jesus walked among His creation, including God’s chosen at the time, Israel, few grasped the reality of the gift that was before them; a gift that came initially wrapped in “swaddling cloths” (Luke 2:7, 12), whose name would be Immanuel, meaning “God with us” (Matthew 1:23), and soon to be placed “on the tree” (1st Peter 2:24), not under it. It was He who proclaimed to sinful man that the gift of abundant life could be theirs. If there was ever a time to define a word, this is it. Abundant means exceeding some number or measure or rank or need. The example of the thief (this represents the false Messiahs and religious leaders who were leading people astray), which Jesus uses in John 10:7-10, seeks only the interests of himself: unlike Jesus, whose interest is in His sheep. This abundant life has within it the understanding of salvation and confidence (v9) for those who abided in the Good Shepherd.
Just a few days ago I was fumbling through some of my things and came across a watch given to me by my oldest son several years ago. Inscribed on one side were these words, “Forever in Christ.” It reminded me of so many things, but mostly this. Wherever life has you, no matter what circumstance you may be in, if you are IN CHRIST, you have abundant life! This is what empowered Stephen to utter the words, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin,” as they hurled stones at him and killed him (Acts 7:60). It is the same awareness of this abundant life that empowered the persecuted church that was scattered, to go “everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). It is the same amazing gift that gives us cause to “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is IN YOU” (1st Peter 3:15). Thank you, God, for the amazing, abundant gift of life that is found in no other one than Christ Your only begotten Son!