I heard that someone actually tried to calculate how much it would cost to give the gifts named in the classic Christmas song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas." The grand total came to about $15,000.
Some items were affordable, like a partridge in a pear tree for $34.99. Six turtledoves will run you somewhere around $50. Six geese-a-laying will cost around $150.
But the price takes off when you add 11 pipers piping. That is $1,000 right there. Then there are the 12 drummers drumming. With current union scale for musicians, they will run you another $1,000.
The price really soars when you get 12 lords-a-leaping. We are talking $3,000 for them. Granted, I don't know where you would find them, but they are very expensive.
Still, the real message of Christmas is not the gifts that we give to each other. Rather, it is a reminder of the gift that God has given to each of us. It is the only gift that truly keeps on giving, so I want to point out four things about it.
First, it is surprising. When Christmas rolls around, you often try to figure out if certain people have bought that gift you really wanted. Maybe you already know what they bought, because they didn't hide it very well. Or maybe you uncovered it by accident-or maybe not.
But when the day comes and you open the present, you have to pretend you're surprised. Yet all along, you knew what it was.
God's gift to us, however, was a complete surprise. It was not expected, and as you examine it more carefully, you realize how great a gift it actually was.
Second, God's gift came to us in the humblest of wrappings. What would you think if you saw a gift under your Christmas tree that was wrapped in newspaper and tied up with string? At first, you would probably assume that a guy wrapped it.
But think about God's gift to us. Jesus was not born in a palace of gold; He was born in a stable. He was clothed with rags. He was laid in a feeding trough.
Yet these things do not, in any way, diminish the story of Christ's birth. If anything, they help us realize the great sacrifice God made for us. God's gift to humanity, the ultimate gift of eternal life through His Son, Jesus Christ, came in the simplest and humblest of wrappings.
Third, we don't deserve this gift. At Christmas, we give gifts to those whom we care about, who have been kind to us over the past year, or who have given us a gift first. We don't give gifts to the person who has been slandering our name or to the angry neighbor who never has a kind word to say.
Yet God gave us His gift when we were His enemies. He didn't give this gift to us because we deserved it. In fact, it was just the opposite. The Bible tells us, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8 NKJV).
Fourth, the gift tells us something about the giver. When you want to give someone a gift, you start thinking about it ahead of time. Hopefully, you try to find what that person wants or needs.
When God decided to give us the gift of eternal life, it wasn't something that He just thought of on the fly. Long before there was a town called Bethlehem, a garden called Eden, and a planet called Earth, a decision was made in eternity that God would send forth His Son, born of a woman, made under the law, to redeem those that are under the law.
The Bible says that He was slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). Make no mistake about it: this gift that God has given to us was the most sacrificial thing He possibly could have offered.
So Christmas isn't about those gifts that you have under your tree right now. All of those things will be gone one day. All that will be left after this life is the human soul, and that will live forever. We will put so much stock in what we have, but this is all going to pass away.
Life is about what happens beyond the grave. Life is about knowing the God who made you and who gave you the greatest gift you will ever receive.