The secular part of preparing for Christmas has shifted into high gear. It seems to come earlier each year.
It seems to me that God's coming in Christ brought with it several presents, which we may well miss if we choose just to celebrate only the secular part of the season of Advent.
First, some background. In the prophet Isaiah's day, preparation for the coming of a visiting monarch sometimes required smoothing the bumpy roadbed, straightening the crooked roads, lifting the valleys and making low the hills.
A messenger was sent to prepare the people so they would be receptive, eager and quick to profit from what the king had to say; therefore, it was only natural that Isaiah, in chapter 40, would use similar language in forecasting the coming of the Messiah, preparing the highway for God's incarnate son.
Whatever else God had in mind in sending us "his only begotten Son," God wants to help us know that with him the possibilities are unlimited. Why? Because our hopes for things to change are based on God's unlimited resources, not just the puny resources we can muster. The Creator can re-create.
When we accept Christ as our personal Lord and Savior, nothing remains the same. All things become new. Miracles can take place. Of course, if we want to walk on water, we have to get out of the boat. This action helps us realize another present God wants us to receive each Christmas: renewed faith.
As we have faith in our faith, a world of new discoveries can be experienced. People who have started tithing their income find that they can still enjoy an abundant life on less money each month. People who have started tithing their time and talent at their local congregation have found out that they still have time to devote to their families, successfully achieve at their daily work and engage in recreational activities.
Still another gift that God wants us to receive again at Christmas is unconditional love.
One of the most powerful and meaningful verses in the Bible is "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). Now translate that verse to the people we work or live with every day. Jesus said the same thing when he told us that we are to love our enemies. John 3:16 says it another way, "God so loved the world, he gave his only begotten Son."
I believe all three of these gifts from God are tied together: For us to so love requires faith, which in turn requires that we acquire hope for a better tomorrow based on God's presence, power and peace.
Gene Norris is a local Presbyterian pastor.