The Everlasting Gifts of God

“If ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” —Matthew 7:11

ANOTHER year is rapidly drawing to a close. Embarrassed by the unhappy events that have marred its tenure, the year 1974 seems to be hurrying off the world stage to seek refuge behind the kindly curtain of time. But no matter how hard it tries to hide, the events of this year will not soon be forgotten, for truly it has been a most remarkable period. Here in the United States the most electrifying event was the resignation of Mr. Nixon from the presidency—an event unprecedented in the two hundred years’ history of this great country. This was followed immediately by the elevation of the rather recently installed vice-president, Mr. Ford, to the vacated office of the presidency. And once more the nation was left without a vice-president.

Looking at the world scene, we find double-digit inflation threatening to work havoc with the economies of many nations, even the richest of them. The high cost of petroleum (virtually controlled by a mere handful of Arab nations, and the very lifeblood of so many of the industrial nations) is creating serious balance of payment problems whose solution seems to be beyond the understanding of the leaders of the many affected nations.

The year saw yet another revolution in Latin America (Chile); the toppling after 44 years of the reign of the Emperor Haile Selassie, the so-called Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, (whose lineage is claimed to go back some 3,000 years to King Solomon’s first son, whom the Queen of Sheba is supposed to have borne); and the disintegration of one of the very last of the formerly great colonial powers, as Portugal prepares to grant independence to her vast African possessions.

Worrisome instability in the Mid-east, continuing war in Indo-China, a brand new conflict between Greece and Turkey, drought and starvation in North Africa, poor crops in the “breadbasket” of America, a tottering Great Britain, a near-bankrupt Italy—these continue to plague the world, and contribute to its ever mounting fears for the future. All this, and more, at that time in the final days of the year, when the so-called Christian world for many centuries has been wont to joyously celebrate the birth of the world’s Redeemer. Truly, the Christmas season this year will be bleak and joyless for vast numbers of our fellow men, not only in Christian lands, but throughout the earth.

When Was Our Lord Born?

The Word Christmas means Christ’s Mass; that is, a special Mass in recognition of Christ’s birth at the supposed time of its occurrence. We are told by some authorities that the observance of Christmas as a religious holy day began about the year A.D. 200, while others suggest that it did not predate the fifth century A.D.

It is interesting to note that the commonly observed 25th day of December as the date of Christ’s birth was chosen by its proponents because that date was sacred to the Romans in connection with their worship of Mithra, the pagan god of Iran and India. Mithraism dates from some five centuries before Christ, and in the second century after Christ it was more generally accepted in the Roman Empire than Christianity, hence the selection of December 25 as the date of Christ’s birth, in the hope that it might advance the effort to convert pagans to Christianity.

We know from the Scriptures, however, that Christ lived for thirty-three and a half years; and since he was crucified in the Spring of the year, it is obvious that he must have been born about the beginning of October. In any case, while our Lord told his followers they were to memorialize the date of his death, the Scriptures nowhere instruct us specially to observe the date of his birth.

The sacrament of the Mass, as performed in the Catholic Church, asserts that the bread and the wine that are used miraculously turn into the very body and the very blood of Christ himself, upon pronouncement by the officiating priest of the words, “This is my body,” and “This is my blood,” the elements being used in the ceremony merely seeming to retain the appearance of bread and wine. This is known as the doctrine of transubstantiation. Were this true, we would find, appallingly, that our Lord Jesus, who gave himself on Calvary’s cross almost two thousand years ago, is being “sacrificed” afresh, worldwide, more than 100,000 times each day!

Believers who partake of the Mass are said thereby to have attained to union with Christ, and with one another.

Christ Died Once for All

There is, of course, no scriptural authority for the sacrament of the Mass. The Scriptures clearly state that Christ offered himself once, and once only, on behalf of all mankind; and that single offering of himself is efficacious for all time. The Apostle Paul writes, “For Christ has entered, not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, … for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But … he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” (Heb. 9:24-26, RSV) Pursuing the matter further, Paul says, “When Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, then to wait until his enemies should be made a stool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.”—Heb. 10:12-14, RSV

Coming into the Body of Christ

Furthermore, the mere participation by a worshiper in the ritual of the Mass does not bring about his unity with Christ. No mere ceremony, be it ever so elaborately garnished with befuddling, mysterious and unscriptural ritualism, could ever accomplish that. Priestly ministrations are not necessary to bring one into the body of Christ. Coming into Christ in wholly a matter between the Lord and the individual. It is the result (on the basis of one’s recognition and confession of his own sinful condition, and his acknowledgment of Christ as his Redeemer) of offering oneself and life in complete consecration to the Lord, and the acceptance by the Lord of that full consecration. Paul speaks of this as being “baptized into Christ.”—Rom. 6:3,4

This wholehearted consecration of the believer to the service of the Lord is beautifully symbolized by water immersion, wherein the candidate indicates the burial of his own will into the will of the Lord, his being raised up by the immerser picturing his rising to newness of life, thenceforth to do the will of the Lord.

Having thus presented himself as “a living sacrifice,” he is no longer to be conformed to the things of this world, but transformed by the renewing of his mind into the image of his Lord. (Rom 12:1,2) This is a full-time task, for every day of one’s life. Jesus outlined this transaction in simple words when he said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it, but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” (Luke 9:23,24) Only thus may one come into Christ.

In the course of time various other customs came to be associated with the observance of Christmas—the burning of the Yule log, the Christmas tree, Christmas cards, the crib, the giving of gifts, and especially feasting. None of this is in any sense scriptural; indeed the present-day trend seems to be continually away from any true religious significance, and toward more and more commercialization, with a holiday, rather than a holy day, atmosphere as the dominant theme. It is interesting in this connection to learn that the observance of Christmas was banned for a time in Scotland, and it was suppressed also in New England until the 19th century—perhaps for some of the reasons above set forth.

A Wellspring of Hope

But does this mean that we should wholly banish observance of Jesus’ birth? We think not. While today most people give little or no thought to the rich and far-reaching significance of our Lord’s birth in that lowly setting in Bethlehem almost two thousand years ago, yet there are many good and sincere people whose hearts are made happy by their simple meditation on that great event. The giving of little gifts to one another can be a real blessing if it serves to call to mind the giving to the suffering and dying world by the Heavenly Father of that greatest gift of all time, the gift of his only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him, in this present life or in the age to come, might have life. If the hearts of even just a few of sorrowing mankind are lifted up ever so little by their contemplation of this great gift, may we not rejoice? If the season serves in the smallest measure to mellow the hearts of even the most fallen, are we not gladdened?

We rejoice for any occasion that brings hope to a grieving heart; that replaces a tear with a smile. What can be a greater power for hope and joy than being reminded of God’s great love for mankind, manifested through the gift of his Son to be the Redeemer and Blesser of all mankind—reminded, not just one day of the year, but every day! What wondrous blessings are to be showered upon the world as a result of that great gift!

The Gift of the Truth

The Apostle Paul writes, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit.” (I Cor. 2:9,10) What unspeakable treasures the Heavenly Father has made available through the priceless gift of his own dear Son!

Some of these treasures, yea, the most glorious by far, are even now attainable by those whose hearts are in the right attitude; those whose spiritual eyes have been opened to view these gifts, and to lay hold on them. One of these jewels is especially cherished in this present troubled world by those who have given themselves to the Lord. It is the priceless gift of the truth. In explaining the Parable of the Sower to his disciples, the Lord said to them, “Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.”—Luke 8:10

This understanding of God’s loving plan and purpose on behalf of fallen mankind is a very present blessing, as we witness day by day the increasing chaos that baffles the world’s wisest men and threatens to destroy civilization itself. How comforting it is to know that even in this great time of trouble the great Creator is in complete and constant control of the conflicting forces at play in the world, and that all things shall ultimately be resolved for the blessing of mankind! But this knowledge, this comfort, is the special and unique joy, today, of the Lord’s people. And it is their privilege to make known these glad tidings to a troubled world as they have opportunity—“good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” as a result of God’s great gift to the world of his only Begotten Son.—Luke 2:10

What Manner of Love!

Another of these gifts—indeed, one of the most precious—is the gift of sonship; sonship to the Heavenly Father, the great Creator of the universe. Unbelievable! But there it is, before our very eyes; we have but to reach out, and claim it! “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God”! (I John 3:1) Where can be found an earthly prize to match that?

Sonship, in turn, carries with it the matchless privilege through Christ of entering into the presence of the Heavenly Father; of communing with him; of unburdening our hearts to him, and of seeking his comfort and guidance, even as did our Lord Jesus. Just as Jesus was strengthened and directed in the way of sacrifice, so also will we, his privileged sons, be encouraged. Our Father’s eye is ever upon his every child, his ear attuned to their earliest cry, his love aware of their every need. And even before we ask, he is ready to answer, to supply, to guide, to encourage, to bless.

The worried and fearful world does not know the meaning of the storms raging about; it has no inkling of the glorious outcome. But the Lord’s people know! The Heavenly Father’s children understand, and they have peace in their hearts, even in these trying days. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” (Isa. 26:3) What a glorious gift is this understanding, this perfect peace!

The promise, if faithful, of gaining immortality, and of reigning with Jesus in the kingdom for the blessing of the world—is not that a marvelous present joy? Does not its daily contemplation stir us to overcome weariness, and encourage us daily to faithfulness to continue in the way of sacrifice? Truly the Heavenly Father has opened a bountiful hand, and poured out upon his people blessings and Joys and gifts beyond measure and price—not just for one day in the year, but for every day in the year, and for all of the days of our lives!

But the great Lord of the universe does not stop there! Indeed, the whole purpose of granting these great blessings to his special people in this age—the footstep followers of Jesus, the little flock—is that these may be prepared for the great work of blessing all the remainder of mankind in the Kingdom Age, which we believe is shortly to come into being. What marvelous gifts has the Heavenly Father in store at that time for all who have ever lived on this earth!

Come, Ye Blessed of My Father

When the called-out class, the little flock, has been fully tested and taken home, and the marriage of the Lamb has taken place, then all who are in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of man, and come forth; for Christ did not die for the few, but for all mankind. (John 5:25-29; I Tim. 2:3-6) These will be given an opportunity under the righteous laws of the kingdom then in operation to gain everlasting life here on earth. (Matt. 25:31-46; Acts 3:19-23) Then there shall be no more sickness, suffering, and death. The blind shall be made to see, the deaf to hear, the lame to walk. There shall be no more wars; and there shall be economic security for all, for the earth shall blossom as the rose, and every man shall have shelter.—Isa. 35:1,5-7; 65:21-25; Micah 4:1-5

Yes, the world is weary of sorrows and sufferings; it has long been satiated with wars, and hunger, and blindness and disease and death, and is almost ready for the new order. Unconsciously, unwittingly, it is yearning for the time when the Creator himself will pour out these foretold gifts of life, and joy, and peace. Even in Paul’s day the apostle described the world as groaning and travailing in pain, pointing out that they were waiting for the time when those who are called out during this age to be God’s sons, shall be reigning in the kingdom with Jesus. He said the world is waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God.—Rom. 8:19-22

So also is the Heavenly Father himself waiting for that glorious day! Even as an earthly father tenderly wipes away the tears from the face of his sorrowing child and eagerly watches for the smile of joy to come, so also the Heavenly Father is looking to the time when this present evil world order will have been banished along with all its sorrows, and he can pour out his bounteous gifts of everlasting life, of peace, of heavenly fellowship, and of love upon the whole restored world of mankind.—Rev. 21:1-5

The Prophet Isaiah foretold the birth of Jesus as the Redeemer and Blesser of all mankind some seven centuries before that wonderful event occurred. He wrote, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

He then briefly described the righteous government that would be established in the earth as a result of Christ’s glorious thousand-year reign. “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.” Christ’s rulership shall be worldwide, and the resulting peace and joy shall extend to the ends of the earth, and justice shall be meted out to all of resurrected humankind! To assure the fulfillment of this glorious promise, the great God of the universe himself affixes his seal to it, saying, “The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”—Isa. 9:6,7; Rev. 20:6

As a result of that kingdom reign the ultimate purpose of God sending his Son into the world will finally be accomplished, and that purpose is the reestablishment of that atonement between God and man which was lost when Father Adam transgressed. Of that time the Prophet Jeremiah writes, “I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”—Jer. 31:33,34

Truly these are priceless treasures, glorious gifts—made available through that greatest of all gifts of all time—the gift by the Heavenly Father of his only Begotten Son. Precious gifts, not for just one day in the year, not merely for a season—but forever!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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