“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” –Ephesians 2:1-10
Christmas is known to be the season of giving and in an effort to bypass secular holiday traditions Christians are always reminded to make Jesus the reason for the season. How are we to use this holiday to highlight the gospel truth of Jesus? We are reminded that the point of Christmas is not shopping for gifts to share with one another but to reflect on the gift of Jesus Christ coming into the world.
Paul explains to the Ephesian church that they were once dead in their sins. Being in that state they walked in the fruit of sin; following the course of the world and carrying out the desires of the flesh. In our sin, we are children of wrath. He then says that God saved them from this state and brought them into a new one by raising them to life through Jesus because of his rich mercy and love. Paul explains that God has given this gift of salvation that cannot be earned through works. He has freely given immeasurable riches of grace and kindness in Jesus. He is our gift.
This passage gives us insight to help us reflect on the gift of Jesus during this season. Paul says that salvation through Jesus is the gift of God, which is enough to let us rejoice and give thanks but he elaborates on our gift even further. The richness of the gift does not end with our salvation from our state in sin. The gift is not merely an avoidance of punishment but it is everything we have received in Christ. We are also saved from the fruit of sin and have been given the gift of walking in Jesus. Paul explains that we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus FOR good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. We were created to walk in the things of God and through Christ we have the gift to freely walk in the things that we were destined to but unable to do because of sin. God has given us the gift of freedom. Jesus does not just give us an example of this but he is the vessel and power by which we can walk in it.
Sometimes, we forget that sanctification (the process of becoming more holy) is part of the gift that we can receive in Jesus through the Spirit. We have been rescued but we are also being restored. Without this perspective, holy living can be motivated by guilt. We rely on ourselves to make it up to God for our great gift of salvation, but everything we are called to be cannot be achieved without God. He is the great giver of gifts. Sometimes Christmas ends up being a time for Christians to reflect on how to give back. We think things like, “How can we be better at doing the things we haven’t been doing all year for the sake of Jesus?” or “What can I present to God to show my appreciation like the Wise Men in the Bible?” But just like the rest of the year, Christmas is not about giving, it is about receiving.
This Christmas let us reflect on and rejoice in the fact that God has given us the most precious gift in Jesus Christ and all we are called to do is receive it.
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