I’m bad at selecting gifts, but I enjoy the gift-giving tradition at Christmas. I disagree with C.S. Lewis on this point. He calls Christmas gift-giving “a commercial racket.” Perhaps with tongue-in-cheek he says, “The modern rule is that anyone can force you to give him a present by sending you an unprovoked present of his own. It is almost a blackmail. Things are given as presents which no mortal ever bought for himself – gaudy and useless gadgets.”

I suspect I have given gadgets that went straight to the re-gifting shelf. Now, Mrs. Fowler should earn an award for her giving prowess. She’s good at it even when she’s not trying. She taught an adult education course in music appreciation, focused on the orchestra of Andre Rieu. After class, a widow wrote a heart felt note saying, “I signed up for the class just for something to do. But you have given me joy I have not had since my husband died.” Imagine that…giving someone the gift of joy!

The right gift given at the right time is the essential gift. The ancient Israelites received the gift of hope with the promise, “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity” (Mic. 5:2). The Magi followed the star to Bethlehem to see this ruler. When Jesus became a man, He affirmed this hope saying, “The kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:21).

Christ Jesus is the essential gift, not just promised to the ancients but given to you. How could you describe the gift? I offer three answers. It is belonging. “To them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12). It is being held blameless and equipped to survive life’s chaos. “Those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:17). It is new life from the One who gave His life. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20).

Lewis was resisting the commercialization of the season, not denying the essential gift of Christmas. He wrote, “Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed.” He was so “surprised by joy” at this realization that he so named his autobiography. On this point I agree with Lewis. The essential gift brings joy. “Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Let earth receive her King!”