Over the years, the legendary Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog has featured some pretty extravagant gifts.
The 1963 catalog offered his-and-her submarines for $18,000. In the 1964 catalog, you could buy a hot air balloon for $6,000. In 1967, the catalog’s offerings included a pair of camels for $4,000. And in 1971, an actual mummy case was selling for $16,000. But in 2006, Neiman Marcus upped the ante with a trip to outer space for $1.7 million.
Maybe a ticket to space isn’t at the top of your wish list this year, but perhaps you have certain expectations of what you hope to find waiting for you under the Christmas tree. If you put your hope in what Christmas offers, however, you will be very disappointed.
But if you can get past that to what Christmas is really all about, it truly can be “the most wonderful time of the year.”
The wise men brought the rather unusual gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to Jesus. But the first Christmas gifts were not gifts to the Child. The first Christmas gift was the gift of the Child.
Christmas, at its best and purest state, is a promise of something else, something that no holiday or experience or earthly thing can satisfy. Galatians 4:4-5 says, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons” (niv). Isaiah 9:6 offers a description of what God has given to us:
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (nkjv)
Each of the above names of Jesus deals with an important area of our lives. They are like five Christmas gifts that we can open, and each is special and unusual.
First, His name is Wonderful. That takes care of the dullness of life. “Wonderful” comes from the root word “wonder.” The word used here could also be translated as “amazing, surprising, astonishing, or awe-inspiring.” And as I contemplate the fact that the Almighty God made this sacrifice for me, it will produce in my heart a sense of bewilderment, awe, and worship.
Second, His name is Counselor. That takes care of the decisions of life. We all have very important decisions that we have to make. The God who is Wonderful wants to give us counsel and direction. God has a plan for each of our lives — an individual plan, not a one-size-fits-all plan. When you are overwhelmed with the decisions of life, remember that there is a God who wants to counsel you.
Third, He is the Mighty God. That takes care of the demands of life. We need to be reminded that Jesus was not just a good man. He was the God-man. And this God who is Wonderful, this God who wants to be your Counselor, will give you the strength to live the life He has called you to live.
Fourth, His name is Everlasting Father. That takes care of the destiny of life. We believe in an Everlasting Father with no beginning and with no end. It reminds us that life on earth is temporal, that heaven is so much better than anything this world has to offer.
Also, this hope of an Everlasting Father resonates with those who have never had an earthly father. Because of what Jesus did for us, we can now refer to the Almighty God, Creator of the universe, as our Father who is in heaven.
Fifth, His name is the Prince of Peace. That takes care of the disturbances of life. Life is filled with disturbances and, quite frankly, Christmas can be one of the most stressful times of the year. Old problems are often brought back to the surface. Friction, stress, and problems that you are having with various family members can be at the forefront of your life at this time of year.
But here is One who is the Prince of Peace, One who will help you with the disturbances of life.Whatever gifts you may have waiting for you this Christmas, they pale in comparison to God’s gift for you. It is better than anything the Neiman Marcus catalog can offer. It is the only gift that truly keeps on giving: the gift of eternal life.
The story of Johnny Cash’s life and spiritual struggles offers hope to anyone who has had trouble staying on the straight and narrow path—and reminds us that God redeems broken lives and makes them whole again. My new book, Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon is a fascinating look at a unique and talented musician and follower of Christ!