In today’s church, this part of Christmas is missing …

Mitchell Dillon, senior pastor of Soncoast Community Church in Boca Raton, Florida, once reminisced on Christmases past …

“When you grow up poor, Christmas can be more about getting what you need than getting what you want. I remember how disappointed I was as a young boy the year I tore into a present only to find a package of underwear! Another year it was socks. As badly as I needed underwear and socks, that’s not what I wanted to find under the Christmas tree. For most of us Christmas is about getting the things we want, not the things we need.”

When God was doing all the giving on that very first Christmas, He, like a good Father, gave us what we needed rather than what we wanted.

Dillon expounded on his reminiscing …

“The true meaning of Christmas eludes most people today because they fail to realize that they are spiritually impoverished. After all, who puts a Savior on a short list of Christmas wishes? But that’s what God offered the world on that first Christmas, not because it was on our wish list, but because that’s what we most desperately needed.”

God’s gift to us on that first Christmas may have been His giving to us what we needed rather than what we wanted, but it was also the most lavish display of a gift given in love the world had seen up to that point in human history …

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son …” John 3:16a.

The love that saturated that gift would blossom into a Savior who, like His Father, would give an astounding gift of His own life for ours. When we deserved only the justice of God, we received the benefit of love.

During the 17th century, Oliver Cromwell, Lord protector of England, sentenced a soldier to be shot for his crimes. The execution was to take place at the ringing of the evening curfew bell. However, the bell did not sound. The soldier’s fiance had climbed into the belfry and clung to the great clapper of the bell to prevent it from striking. When she was summoned by Cromwell to account for her actions, she wept as she showed him her bruised and bleeding hands. Cromwell’s heart was touched and he said, “Your lover shall live because of your sacrifice. Curfew shall not ring tonight!”

Curfew didn’t ring on Christmas, either.

When we deserved nothing but God’s judgment, we received instead the boundless gift of God’s love …

“But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children,” Galatians 4:4-5.

As I look at the church today, it’s that lavish, unconditional, undeserved love that is often missing from God’s family comprised of His adopted children. But it’s not supposed to be that way …

“If we love our brothers and sisters who are believers, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead,” 1 John 3:14.

When we see today’s church stand by and watch brothers and sisters suffer and lack basic needs and take no real action, when we expect the government and other agencies to care for the orphan and the widow and the homeless among us, when we see today’s church argue and fight, when we see more culture and politics in our preaching and beliefs than we see of God’s truth, when we see today’s church watch people go to hell from a refusal to share the love of God by sharing the Gospel with those who are lost, it’s obvious that the core part of Christmas — God’s love — is the central part of what is missing in many churches today.

At Christmas, God lavished the world with His love, and His love is something we, as His adopted children, are supposed to continue to give away every day of our lives. Instead, many congregations today are utterly bereft of any real demonstrations of the love of Christ.

This Christmas, if you want to give to people something they desperately need, even though it might not be on their Christmas wish list, give them the love of Christ!

Christmas is a powerful reminder of the great love God gave to this world through the gift of His Son. May that inspire us as His children to give the same way, by lavishing this world with the love of Christ through us.

What are you giving this Christmas?