“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. That whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” -John 3:16-17
September is “birthday month” among our church staff. Six (6) of us have September birthdays! As I add another candle to my birthday cake, I look forward to celebrating with my friends and family. I am excited to see the joy on my children’s faces as we enjoy cake and blow out the candles. Vivienne and Paul really like receiving presents, but they also enjoy giving them. It is so important for them to watch someone else open a gift they have chosen. From something as simple as picking a flower in the garden for mom, to creating an artistic masterpiece, they take great joy and a sense of accomplishment in the act of gift-giving. But what would happen if I never opened the gift they had worked so hard on? What would their response be if I said, “Oh, that’s such a nice package! I’ll just leave it all wrapped up nicely and never open it.” They would be devastated and terribly disappointed. That isn’t the reason they worked hard on the gift! They want me to open it and enjoy what is inside!
As I turn the page on another year of life, I am reminded of God’s faithfulness and the wonderful gifts I have been given. Of all the amazing gifts I receive, I am so thankful for the gift of Jesus Christ into the world. The most memorized Bible verse of all time is John 3:16. In these few words we hold the essence of the whole gospel of God. The Good News that God loves the world and gives us the most incredible gift of all… his Son. But just like a gift which is never opened, and therefore useless, we only benefit from the gift of God’s Son if we believe and receive. We have the gift of God’s presence, God’s peace, God’s promise of eternal life, if we will believe in Jesus, God’s Son… God’s gift to the world.
What is keeping you from opening the gift of God’s love today? Is it the false idea that you don’t need God in your life? When things are going well, and everyone is healthy, and our jobs are fulfilling, and our children are growing and learning, it’s hard to see our need for God. But when unexpected illness, or death, or loss, or disappointment hit us, we feel the need for meaning, purpose, a savior. Is the package too difficult for you to handle? Sometimes we need to help little Paul get a package open. His hands are not strong enough to break the tape or tear the paper. In the same way, saying yes to believing that Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of the world might be difficult for you to grasp. It was such a long time ago that Jesus lived, and we live in a world that is very different today. The things he did or taught are sometimes hard to believe and accept.
Let’s talk about those obstacles to faith which inhibit you from opening the most important gift of God’s love. I can’t convince you to believe, but perhaps in that act of searching for answers, we can peel off the paper and reveal a little more of the amazing gift of God’s Son to you.
Thank you, God for the most amazing gift of all, Jesus, your Son. Help us to believe in him and receive the gift of eternal life. Take away doubt and fear. Take away self-sufficiency and grant us a vision for the life you have called us to. Thank you for our staff and for birthdays. Help us to celebrate life every day and especially on birthdays. Amen.
Hanna P. Shearer