When I was in my early 20s, I attended a church convention in Charlottetown, PEI. Wanting to bring home souvenirs for my parents, I chose a hat for my Dad which read, “I got this PEI cap for my wife – good trade, eh?” It was perhaps a little cheeky, and I must admit, I don’t think I’ve ever seen my Dad wear it. Probably just as well!
We who follow him tend to think of Jesus as the best Christmas present ever – which is true. God’s gift to us at Christmas is the reason, the symbol, for why we give gifts at Christmas. But if you think a little further down the road of Jesus’ life, you’ll realize a more profound symbolism for a gift exchange.
It was Martin Luther who popularized, in the 16th century, the concept of the “glorious exchange”. That is, the whole purpose for Jesus’ coming was for him to take on our sin, and for us to receive his righteousness. Pretty good deal, isn’t it? (Even better than the deal portrayed in the hat I bought for my Dad!) By faith in this child born in a manger, we are given a righteousness we could never achieve on our own, or earn, or pay for; and our sin is removed from us and placed on the One who lived every aspect of this life as we live it, but never sinned himself. Pretty amazing.
How do we know this? The Scriptures are clear, but perhaps the clearest promise comes from the writing of Paul in 2 Corinthians 5.21: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (NIV).
So, when you exchange gifts with others, remember that Jesus is the greatest gift ever, yes; but also remember that the greatest exchange that ever occurred happened on Calvary, where Jesus took on our sin and gave us his righteousness. By faith, we stand before God with Jesus’ sinlessness! Awesome!
That’s the gift for which I am giving thanks the most this Christmas. How about you?
Merry Christmas to you and yours, and may God bless you richly as you celebrate the miracle of the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ.