During the 1998 Christmas season when I was seven years old, I started thinking a lot about the true meaning of Christmas. We reviewed the story of Jesus' birth every year at home and at church, but up until then, I had never fully grasped the real reason for celebrating it. Sure I knew the Christmas story - how God had sent His only Son, Jesus, to earth in the form of a baby in the virgin Mary's womb, so that He could willingly offer Himself as a ransom for the sins of the world. I knew the story, I knew it was true, but I didn't completely grasp it with my heart. Slowly God began to show me that this wasn't just a nice story. It had a meaning much deeper than I had realized. It had meaning because Jesus had died for me. He loved me personally, and He had come to earth as that baby to save me from my sins. The bad things that I had done, even in my short life; lying, picking on my little brother, giving Mom a hard time about eating my beans and cornbread. . . I knew that God had come to forgive me of all my sins if I would only ask.
All my life I had been taught about God, my home was permeated with reverance for the Creator. I was taught how to pray and learned about the Bible. Knowledge of God was all around me and I loved it. But something was missing. Something more than knowing the stories or even the simple prayers that I prayed. I loved God, I trusted in Him, now all I had to do was tell Him.
So on the morning of December 25th, 1998, before I got dressed to go downstrairs and discover what treasures were nestled under the tree, I knelt down by my little white cardboard dresser with the green leaf decorations, and I accepted the greatest Christmas gift ever given. The first Christmas gift ever given, the very reason why we give gifts this time of year. . . I accepted Jesus Christ into my heart.
Immediately an air of utter peace and joy filled the room, or rather - filled my heart. I was bursting with excitment! I ran downstairs and found Mom in the kitchen. Dad sat at the table drinking his dark roast coffee. I squeeze-hugged Mom and announced with an undying smile and childlike innocence, "Mommy, guess what? I just got saved!"
She smiled back and ran her fingers through my bangs. "You did?" she commented, somewhat confused. Dad perked up and exchanged glances with Mom. Of course they would be ecstatic if I truly was saved. They just wanted to make sure that I understood what I was talking about. After all, it's a serious life-long commitment. Dad invited me to sit down with him at the table, and asked me a few questions. Once he found that I was sincere, everybody got emotional! Tears of joy welled up in his and Mom's eyes as they took turns hugging me and telling me how happy they were that I had made the decision on my own. There was extra reason for celebrating that Christmas!
December 25th, 2009, marks my 11th anniversary with the Savior. He's taught me a lot since I first accepted His gift of salvation, especially in the last few years. I'm sure that I haven't matured as much as I could have in the years I've spent with Him, but I thank God for where He's brought me and praise Him for what He has yet to do. I look forward to the lessons and blessings that He has in store for me in the year ahead and I pray that He will deepen my knowledge of Him and strengthen my relationship with Him more with each year.
And I encourage you, dear reader, if you have not yet received God's gift of love, that you would stop and think a moment about the story of CHRISTmas and realize that Jesus gave up Kingship in Heaven to come to earth and be your Savior. He did it for you because He loves you. You don't even have to wait till Christmas to unwrap this present. He's given you a gift - will you accept it?
To those of you who have already received this gift, I say congratulations on the one gift that grows as the years go on! You have the greatest Christmas gift ever given and it will never pass away.