by Mike Constantine
Christmas season is a time we set aside for giving and receiving gifts in celebration of the greatest gift ever given, the Lord Jesus. But it would be a sad thing to give a costly gift and then find out that it was never used or enjoyed.
Imagine your own personal gift exchange with Jesus. Think about Jesus sitting down with you to exchange gifts. Think what it would be like for Him to give you precious things and how you would feel after you had received them. Since we can’t receive anything from Him until we first give Him something, let’s begin our imaginary scene with you giving a gift to Jesus.
This gift that you are going to give Him is all wrapped in beautiful gold paper. Very beautifully wrapped. The gold seems to shine, but something about it lets you know it is not real gold, but imitation gold. He says, “My, that is a beautiful looking box you have there. Can I have it?”
You say, “Well, Lord Jesus, I want to tell You about this gift. I have given it to several other people, but they didn’t know what to do with it. I was afraid to give it to You, but I had a friend who told me You would know just what to do with it. So, here.”
Jesus takes it. It is heavy, very heavy. He opens it up, tearing off all the imitation gold paper. And He finds inside . . . a stone. A hard, plain, gray, slightly burned stone . . . shaped like a heart.
Because Jesus can’t do anything for us until we give Him a confession from our lips. He will ask you, “Now, Child, what is this?”
“Jesus, it is my heart. Hard, cold, stony, burned, chipped, and ruined. You can’t imagine what it has been through. I’ve given it to other people. But they didn’t know what to do with it. I thought if I gave it to the right person, they could make it soft again, light and free. But nothing ever happened to it except that it got harder and more chipped and more burnt. But, Jesus, I have given it to You. What can You do with it?”
He said, “I’ve already done the most important thing. I stripped off all your false self-righteousness when I took off all the imitation gold paper. I took it down to where I could see that stony heart. Because you have given it to Me, my child, I have a new gift for you.”
He takes a box wrapped in pure gold and hands it to you. He says, “Take it. It is yours forever.”
You lovingly remove the gold and find a new heart. For the Word says, “I will take out of you the stony heart and put within you a new and living heart.” I can see Jesus saying to you, “Here, let me help you with that.” He takes that new and living heart in His hands and He puts it in you. Something lives in you that never lived before. You’re alive! “Thank you, Jesus for giving me a new heart! A heart that’s full of love for You.” “Yes,” He says, “and full of love for everybody.”
“Now, Child, do you have anything else you’d like to give Me today?”
“Why, yes I do. I have a box here that is really too ugly for anyone to want. Somebody told me that You would know what to do with it. So I brought it to You.” You bring out a box wrapped in the filthiest rags you can imagine. Just dirty rags. Unlike the heart you wrapped so impressively, you could not wrap this thing to impress. It is clearly evident that this present isn’t worth much, at least in your opinion. Still, you hand it to Jesus.
He says again, “Child, what is this?” And you say, “Open it, please.” He removes the rags and opens the box and finds it full of ashes, the burned up, charred remains of something. He says, “Child, what is this?” You answer, “Jesus, that’s all that is left of my life.”
“If there ever were dreams that were lofty and noble,
They were my dreams from the start.
The hopes for life’s best were the hopes that I harbored
Down deep in my heart.
But my dreams turned to ashes, my castles all crumbled
My fortunes turned to loss.
So, I wrapped it all in the rags of my life and I brought it to Your cross.” (1)
Now depending on who you are, this rag-wrapped package of ashes may be all that is left of a marriage that you had the highest hopes for ten or 20 years ago. Or maybe it is all that’s left of a ministry that you believed you would have. You tried and you failed; you tried and you failed again; until all of your great hopes and aspirations for a ministry were nothing but ashes wrapped in rags. Maybe you are a businessman and you decided you would enter into the business scheme of all business schemes. You pressed ahead, never seeking the mind of God or the counsel of others, never asking whether God wanted you to do it or not. Now it has been all burned up. It is nothing but rags wrapped around ashes. Nobody wants it, nobody has anything to do with it. But, there is One who will take it. “Child, I accept this from you and I’ve got something wonderful to replace it.”
He gives you a box that is more beautiful than anything you can imagine. He says, “Open it, open it.” And you open the box and just catch a glimpse of the inside of the box before you turn away. The whole interior of the box is covered with mirrors. And if you look too long you’re afraid of what you will see. He says, “Look in the box. Trust Me. It’s not what you think.”
“Jesus, I’m afraid to look in the box. I know what is in there; it’s a mirror. If I look in there, I will see how bad I am, how terrible I am, what a failure I am. I’m going to see that everything in my life hasn’t amounted to anything and I’m going to see the scars, the lies. I’m going to see all the marks of my ruined hope. I don’t want to look. Don’t make me look.”
“Child, trust Me. Look in the box.”
“Well, Lord, somebody told me that if I’d look I’d live, so I’m going to trust You.” You open the box. As you look into the box, a miracle starts to happen. True, the first vision you have is a bad one. But the longer you look, the more it becomes a part of you, and the better looking you become. “The man who looks into the perfect mirror of God’s Law, the Law of Liberty, and makes a habit of so doing, is not the man who sees and forgets. He puts the Law into practice and wins true happiness.” (James 1:25 Phillips) You look up and see Jesus and then look down into the box. You say, “I’m starting to look like You. The more I look, the more I look like You. I see, I really do see! You gave me beauty for ashes.”
“Do you have anything else you would like to give Me, my child?”
“Why, yes I do.” You bring out a box wrapped in black paper. We never wrap things in black paper, do we? We wrap things in blue or gold or some festive color. But you have a box wrapped in black paper. You bring it out and give it to Jesus.
He pulls away the black paper. But inside it is just as black as the paper. “Child, what is this?Confess to Me what this is.”
“Jesus, for a long time I’ve been wanting to give this to someone. I’m so sad, so very sad. There’s mourning and sorrow inside of me that no man has ever seen. My friends tried to understand, but they couldn’t fathom the sorrow deep within. Some said the right things; some prayed very good prayers for me. All of them wanted to help, but they couldn’t. So I’ve left it inside for a long time. Jesus, what can You do? What can You give me to replace the sorrow?”
“Child, I have just the thing for you.” He gives you a tiny package. He says, “Here, this is for you.” You open the package and find inside a beautiful little bottle. “Oh, Lord, it looks wonderful. What is it?”
“Child, this is the oil of joy. Because you gave me your mourning, I’m giving you My joy. Remember that another one of my children, King David said, ‘You have changed my sadness into a joyful dance; you have taken away my sorrow and surrounded me with joy!’ (Psalm 30:11, GNB) This is a very special bottle of oil. You can’t put this on yourself. If you’ll just close your eyes for a moment, I will put a drop on your head. One drop is all you’ll need. I have given you enough to last a lifetime.”
As the Lord touches you with the oil, everything melts inside of you. A great welling up of song is released from your spirit. It has been hidden down there for a long time. A new flow of praise and worship is released from your life.
“Lord, I have something else to give You.” This package is wrapped in really neat paper. Smile face paper. There are smiles all over the outside of this package. You give it to Jesus, knowing by now that all the outer wrappings will have to be removed. He eliminates all those outward smiles, to find the reality inside. He finds this grey, heavy hair-coat, yet for all its weight it has no warmth.
“Child, what is this?”
“It’s my spirit of heaviness. I’ve worn it for a long time. You can see it’s pretty messed up. Notice the tear stains. Oh, I put other things on the outside so nobody sees it. But I can’t get rid of it. When I go to church on Sunday morning and fellowship on Sunday nights and prayer meeting on Wednesday, I don’t let anyone know it’s there. I put the smiles on, just like I wrapped them around this package.”
“I’m going to give you something that will never, ever make you a pretender again. You won’t have to pretend you’re happy with this. I’ve got a great gift for you.” He brings out a gift that is so light that it almost floats out of your hand. You open it up and inside you find a beautiful white garment . . . light and airy, not cumbersome. One size fits all.
Admiringly you say, “My goodness, that’s gorgeous!”
“No, Child, not your goodness. Not your goodness at all. This is your garment of righteousness and praise. Nobody can stand and praise God unless he knows that he stands in the righteousness of God. Because I am dressing you in my genuine righteousness, your praise can always be genuine as well.”
Now that the Lord has given you all these wonderful presents, do you know why He could do it? Because you gave Him all the things that were occupying your life and filling the space that His presents, and presence could fill.
“One by one He took them from me,
All the things I valued most.
Until I was empty handed
Every glittering toy was lost.
As I walked along life’s pathway,
In my rags and poverty,
I could hear His voice inviting,
‘Lift your empty hands to Me.'” (2)
He cannot give us what He has for us until we give Him what we can no longer live with.
“Jesus, these are such precious gifts. They must be very expensive.”
“To you, Child, to you they are free. Just for coming to Me I give them all to you. Yes, they were costly. The new heart I gave you cost Me a broken heart on Calvary. The beauty that I gave you was purchased when I was beaten until I was unrecognizable by the fists of men that I died for. The oil of joy that is now yours cost Me a sorrow never known by any other man, the sorrow of separation from My Father. The garment of praise was paid for by my death, because by my death you were made righteous and given a standing whereby you can praise the Father at all times. Yes, they are costly. But worth the price, if only My people would use their gifts, the gifts I’ve given them. You know how badly you feel when a gift you’ve given lies unused. I have given these gifts to many of My children, but they don’t use them. Child, use My gifts. They are not luxuries; they’re necessities. Precious, costly necessities. And I’ve given them all to you. Use My gifts.”
(1) “Something Beautiful” by Bill and Gloria Gaither,
(2) Author Unknown