I then drove to our office, parked my rental car, and walked into the tall building with my briefcase in one hand and Mary’s bright red poinsettia in the other. But when I walked through the glass doors into the huge lobby, my heart sank. Covering nearly every square foot of the building’s lobby were hundreds of poinsettia plants, even in the same pot and wrapping as what I held in my hand. What I had spent two determined hours to locate and purchase suddenly seemed all too commonplace.
Heartbroken but with no other option at this point, I still took my own poinsettia up to Mary and presented my humble gift to her with my appreciation for all she had done for us. Being the kind woman she was, she thanked me, protested that I really didn’t have to buy her anything, and then sat my plant down next to the other three poinsettias she already had in her office. Throughout the day, other co-workers who saw me arriving with my gift even teased by asking if I had just swiped a plant out of the lobby on my way in.
This reminded me of the effort we often go through to offer our gifts to God. While he asks for our praise, our obedience, our prayers, our tithes, and our service, we shouldn’t forget that while we may owe him everything, he doesn’t need anything. We can make a mistake when we bring our various gifts to God in order to earn something or to justify ourselves. There is nothing we can give to God which can ever atone for our sins, make us right in his judgment, or even repay him for the countless blessings we receive from him every day. In Isaiah 64:6, God even says "our righteous acts are like filthy rags." It is only when we offer our gifts to him out of pure gratitude and faith that he mysteriously transforms them into pleasing aromas and worthy offerings.
If our sinful hearts were naturally inclined to obedience, God wouldn’t have given us the Law to define sin. If we weren’t prone to stray from his law, he wouldn’t have sent all the prophets to call us back. And if we weren’t utterly lost in our sins, and had any way at all to redeem ourselves, God wouldn’t have had to send his only son to die for the price of our sins. Only the gift of the righteousness which Christ earned for us can ever satisfy what we owe to God.
In this Christmas season, when we drive ourselves frantic and crazy trying to find the right gifts for everyone we love, don’t forget to pause and consider the greatest gift of all, the gift of salvation freely given to anyone who calls on the name of Jesus Christ as their Lord.