Yesterday, I thought I was completely ready to celebrate Christmas.
I was wrong.
Up until last year, I was known for my miserly ways. I treated my apprentice shabbily and my nephew and his family like pariahs. My name is Ebenezer Scrooge.
Last Christmas Eve, I was visited by three spirits and my life was changed. I embarked upon a life of philanthropy. I believed this would gain me a lifetime of happiness. As this Christmas approached, I wanted my gifts to be perfect: for Bob and his family, an open account at the market. For his son, Tim: the finest orthopedist in London. I even purchased a fine new carriage for my nephew. Last night, as I anticipated the joy those gifts would bring, I couldn’t imagine any other way to demonstrate my Christmas spirit.
But, last night, I had a visitor. A midnight knock on my door made my blood run cold with memories of a similar knock, last year. But it was the local Vicar. I assumed I knew his purpose. “Dear Vicar, I will gladly give a donation.”
“Thank you, no, Ebenezer. Tonight, I come to give you a gift.”
I couldn’t imagine what he might give me. He began: “Ebenezer, I know you’ve been profoundly changed by your … experience.”
“Good Vicar, I am a new man. Why, just look at this collection of gifts. They comprise only a part of what I’ll give my friends and family.”
“Ebenezer, they are fine gifts. But my gift to you is more precious than these. It is within God’s Word.”
“Vicar, I know the Scriptures are precious to you, but their worth cannot exceed that of these gifts.”
He opened the Book. Incredulously, I realized my “gift” was contained within its pages. He pointed first at Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” “This is your first gift,” said the Vicar. “It is the Gift of Truth.”
I was as stunned as I’d been during last year’s visitations. Sinned? Perhaps in my past life, when greed had consumed me. But, surely, not now. Still, the Vicar told me everyone sins - and all the gifts anyone could give can’t earn us God’s favor.
What was I to do? If my gifts weren’t enough, was I forever doomed? The Vicar turned to the Bible again. This time, he indicated Ephesians 2:8: “For it is by Grace you are saved; through faith – and this not from yourself, but it is the gift of God.” “This is the second gift,” he explained. “It is the Gift of Grace.”
He went on to say none of my wealth could purchase God’s Grace… and it is the only thing needed, to atone for the sin I hadn’t realized I possessed. I sought clarity: “So, I need Grace, and I need only have faith in God order to gain it?” The Vicar assured me: if I had faith in God’s Son, Who died for my sins, I would then possess His precious Grace.
Of course I desired this gift! I prayed with the Vicar, to obtain God’s Grace. What a thrill! Truly I was now equipped not only for life, but also for eternity.
And yet, I wondered: “Vicar, does God’s Grace mean that I will now never sin again?” I couldn’t imagine such a thing.
In answer, the Vicar smiled as he turned to Galatians 2:20: “For I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” “This is the Gift of Victory,” revealed the Vicar. “Even though you will sin, because you are human, once you invite God into your heart He’ll begin to transform you – and keep on transforming you, until the day you die.”
What precious gifts! Although I had thought my wealth could purchase whatever anyone might need or desire, I did not even know of these gifts before last night. Yet, now I know I cannot live without them. Just as my three visitors changed my heart last year, these three gifts have changed my life - and my very eternity.
So, tonight, as I venture to give my tangible gifts to Fred and Bob, I know - beyond any doubt - that I must also tell them how receive God’s Gifts. And, beyond tonight … well, perhaps I shall now use my wealth to spread these gifts to the world.
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