On a recent visit to Russia, a group of pastors presented me with a gift—a simple hand-painted picture on a rough wooden plaque. This Russian landscape may have little monetary value, but I carried it home like a precious treasure. Now on display in my office, this gift serves as a constant reminder of the love and devotion of those dedicated colleagues in ministry. One was a former KGB agent; another used to sing in nightclubs until he had a life-changing encounter with Jesus and found a new song to sing; some suffered in labor camps; many were persecuted because of their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Every time I look at that painting, I thank God for each one of those pastors.
Their simple gift reminds me of a much greater Gift. Heaven offered its most precious Treasure when the Son of God came to dwell with us. He came in simple packaging, wrapped in swaddling bands, lying in a manger. While angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest” (Luke 2:14), many on planet Earth did not recognize this precious Revelation Emmanuel, God with us. He came to His own, and they did not receive Him—and it is still so today (see John 1:11). The Gift is passed by, unnoticed, unappreciated.
We are entering a season of the year when Christians focus in a special way on the First Advent of Jesus to our world. We sing Christmas carols and watch Christmas plays, but many of us do so in the midst of a culture where “Season’s Greetings” has replaced references to the One who came as Heaven’s Gift. People often think more about gifts that they either need to purchase or wish to receive rather than focusing on the greatest Gift of all.
So how should we, as Christian leaders, respond? I encourage you to take this opportunity to retell the story of God’s precious Gift. Gather your family together and read the inspired and inspiring accounts in the Gospels. Invite neighbors and friends to hear about Heaven’s precious Gift. Don’t miss this unique occasion to share the truth about Jesus.
Some Christian churches are developing creative approaches for telling the old, old story of Jesus and His love. One pastor shared with me about a live Christmas play that attracts thousands of visitors from his community. Others provide Christmas dinners and food baskets as tangible demonstrations of God’s love. Countless numbers of volunteers around the world sacrifice time, energy, and resources to tell the story of Jesus. Many have learned that in giving they also receive.
In this issue, Stephen Bauer’s study of Genesis 2:17 reminds us of the need for Heaven’s greatest Gift. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (see Romans 3:23). Without divine intervention, we have nothing to look forward to except certain death. We can all give heartfelt thanks that Emmanuel did indeed come to dwell with us, full of grace and truth. Jesus reminded us that God did not send “his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17). As a Christian leader, you know that story. But what about those who live across the street or down the road? What about those who have grown up in biblically illiterate families where Advent stories are never told? The treasure that we can bring to those within our circles of influence is the good news about Heaven’s greatest Gift.
What are some ways that you share with your community the most precious Gift our world has ever received? Just go to our Web site at www.ministrymagazine.org, click on Contact, and share your story. You can even send a short video clip as an attached file to webmaster@ ministrymagazine.org. We will share your ideas with your colleagues in ministry around the world so others can hear about Jesus and His love. Let this be our gift to each other and Jesus, the greatest Gift of all.