February 29, 2024

“One Solitary Life”—the Greatest Christmas Gift

I once asked my grandchildren, “What were the first Christmas gifts?” And one of them showed she was on the right track….up to a point. The answer she gave was, “The first Christmas gifts were given by the wise men, and they gave to the Baby Jesus, ‘Gold, Frankenstein, and myrrh.’”  Out of the mouth of babes.

A group of wise men from the east (likely Iran and Iraq, using today’s geography) were respected scholars, astronomers, scientists, and advisors. They came to worship a king born in the west, and they brought with them gifts fitting for a king: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And thus was born the tradition of giving Christmas gifts.

And Christians have been giving gifts ever since. Even many others have joined in the festivities, without necessarily understanding the essential message.

It’s estimated that last year, Americans spent $920 billion on Christmas gifts. The best month of the year for retail is generally December because of the birth of Christ, whether people knowingly worship Him or not.

As Dr. D. James Kennedy, my long-time pastor, once quipped that the merchants should all  gather together on December 26th, hold hands, and sing together, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”

But, of course, the truly important Christmas gift is not one you can find under the tree or in the stocking. It’s the One found in the manger.

Jesus is the first real Christmas gift and the most important one.

Who was Jesus? We Christians hold that He was divine and human. We believe He was foretold 750 years before His birth by Isaiah the Hebrew prophet: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

C.S. Lewis, the long-time Oxford and Cambridge scholar, who is often touted as the greatest Christian writer of the 20th century, once remarked on the incarnation—the belief that God became a man in Jesus and was born, ultimately so that He might pay for our sins on the cross

Lewis observed: “The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation….In the Christian story God descends and reascends. He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity; further still, if embryologists are right, to recapitulate in the womb ancient and pre-human phases of life; down to the very roots and seabed of Nature He has created. But He goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him.”

Jesus is the gift that keeps on giving. For example, the late Mother Teresa worked for decades helping the poorest of the poor in India. She said: “Today God has sent us into the world as he sent Jesus, to show God’s love to the world. And we must sacrifice to show that love, just as Jesus made the greatest sacrifice of all.”

Many years ago, the pastor of First Baptist Church of Los Angeles was Dr. James Allen Francis. Back in the 1920s, he wrote a beautiful passage called, “One Solitary Life.” (Note: Different variations of this short essay have shown up in slightly different variations, often attributed to “Anonymous.”)

Said Francis: “He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village, where he worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years, He was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a home. He didn’t go to college. He never visited a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place He was born. He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself.

“He was only 33 when the tide of public opinion turned against Him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves.

“While He was dying, His executioners gambled for His garments, the only property He had on earth. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend. [Twenty] centuries have come and gone, and today He is the central figure of the human race.

“All of the armies that ever marched, all of the navies that ever sailed, all of the parliaments that ever sat,, all of the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that one solitary life.”

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Dr. Jerry Newcombe is the executive director of Providence Forum, a division of D. James Kennedy Ministries, where Jerry also serves as senior producer and an on-air contributor. He has written/co-written 33 books, including (with D. James Kennedy), What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? and (with Dr. Peter Lillback), George Washington’s Sacred Fire.