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Encouragement for Today - December 6, 2011


Rachel Olsen

December 6, 2011

The Gift
Rachel Olsen for She Reads

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 6:23 (NIV)

Every year around the middle of December I find myself in a bookstore. Jazzy Christmas carols play over the speakers. The smell of coffee wafts from the café, melding with the smell of new books. Mmmm. Friendly people raising funds offer to wrap my purchases.

I'm in search of a gift – my dad and my daughter love receiving books for Christmas. So with my cup of gingerbread-flavored coffee in hand, I browse the shop with them in mind.

But I don't make it far from the café before I stop. It's always the same display table that gets me. The one filled with Christmas novels. Snowflakes or sleds adorning the covers. Else, small town scenes, blanketed in white, with the warm glow of firelight coming from the window of a grand Victorian house. They all look so inviting, so heart-warming.

I imagine myself with one of them. Curled up beneath a blanket by the Christmas tree, letting holiday cheer fill me from the pages within.

Then I realize the date.

It's about a week away from Christmas, which in my house is preceded by my son's birthday party. I doubt I'll have time to read a whole novel. And for some possibly irrational reason, I'd feel like a failure if I didn't finish a Christmas novel before Christmas. (Am I the only one?)

I lay the novel back on the display table, sniffle just a little, and continue on with my holiday shopping. This scenario has repeated many times in the past, and likely will again in the future.

But here's the thing. Each year I do curl up beneath a blanket by the tree and read a great Christmas story. It's a travel memoir of sorts. With drama and intrigue, love and murder. It's Matthew 1:18-2:23 about the birth and early years of Christ.

There are no snowflakes or sleds in this story. No Victorian style houses. No one bakes gingerbread or hangs ornaments on trees. But gifts are exchanged. Wise men bring them to the young Jesus to honor Him and celebrate His birth.

Not only that, as this story continues, it traces the outline of the ultimate gift exchange – our sin for Christ's righteousness. Our faith in Him for eternal life. It's the gift we're all in search of, whether we recognize it or not.

This story, and our key verse, shows that Jesus is God's greatest gift to us. What I deserve based on the way I have lived is death at the end of my days. What I get based on the way Jesus has lived is eternal life! There's no store-bought gift that competes with that. No sweet tale any novelist could ever tell will compare.

God has written the greatest Christmas story ever told. Every year I read this story and let Christ's cheer fill my soul from the pages within. It's not only heart-warming, it's life-changing.

Dear Lord, thank You for the free gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. And thank You for ensuring the story of His life has been recorded for me to read. Fill me with Your presence as I do, and help me to be as gracious and as (for)giving as You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
I actually did manage to read a couple Christmas novels this year – I started back in October. Visit She Reads for my reviews of them. While there, enter to win a Christmas novel gift-pack featuring cozy items and great Christmas novels to savor yourself, or to give to someone you love.

See Rachel's blog for more on how Jesus is the greatest story ever told, and for her top book gift ideas.

Application Steps:
Pick up your Bible and curl up with the must-read story of the season – Christ's birth in the gospels.

Do I know the One who lived the greatest story ever told?

Power Verses:
John 17:2, "For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him." (NLT)

John 17:7-8, "Now they know that everything I have is a gift from you, for I have passed on to them the message you gave me. They accepted it and know that I came from you, and they believe you sent me." (NLT)

© 2011 by Rachel Olsen. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
Matthews, NC 28105

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