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Receive the gift of Jesus this Christmas season

This is a common question right about now, "What do you want for Christmas?" If a child is being asked, then the question might be, "What do you want Santa to bring you for Christmas?" Think of the possibilities! The child has been told that Santa has a special home at the North Pole where an entire village of elves (Santa is the chief elf) is hard at work making presents for all the boys and girls around the world. If you are on the nice list, you get a present tailor-made to fit your wishes. My guess is every child in Minnesota gets a Santa present. After all, we practice Minnesota Nice, don't we?

But let's get it straight about what Santa requires to get a present from him. We all know the rules: "Oh you better watch out, you better not cry, better not pout, I'm tellin' you why -- Santa Claus is coming to town. He's makin' a list, checking it twice, gonna find out who's naughty or nice..."

How does Santa's rules line up with the message of Christmas? When God sent Jesus to us, it was so that we could receive a gift, the greatest gift to ever bless humanity. Do we receive God's gift because we are nice? Do we keep looking over our shoulder to see if God notices that we are not crying, pouting and that we are being good? Are we on God's nice list? Santa's gifts are conditional -- you get them because you performed. Is that the message of the angels Christmas night?

In Luke 2:8-11 we read, "And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord."

God sent us a gift, not because we earned it, but because we desperately needed it. Because, frankly, we are not nice. Not nice enough to earn God's favor, but far from it. We were meant to live in complete harmonious love with God and with each other, but something horrible happened. Just like a Christmas toy that we abused and used for something that it was not meant for, we broke our relationship with God and with each other. We are broken. We have broken hearts and minds and spirits. We live in a broken world, and we are headed for the trash heap of the ages, separated from God. That is our desperate situation.

But the message of the angel is, "Do not be afraid!" God is sending us a present we don't deserve, but it is just what we need! Jesus comes to us as the Messiah. What does that mean? It is a rich and wonderful word that means, in one important sense, that the Messiah is our restorer.

I own a wooden dining set that was a wreck. Cracked and broken, warped and blemished, it was worth nothing. But I brought it to a restorer. I can hardly believe it is the same furniture. Through his deft skill and master craftsmanship, it now shines with renewed elegance and function. It is back to the way the creator made it.

That is what Jesus came to do. By the power of his gift of laying down his perfect life for us at Calvary, he comes to restore us.

What do you want for Christmas? All I want for Christmas is for each of us to receive the greatest gift ever. I want us to hear and embrace the gift wrapped in the Angel's proclamation. Allow Jesus to reign as your Messiah the Lord, who restores your soul, for that is who he is. Merry Christmas. -- Pastor Jim Osvold, Lund Lutheran Church and Shepherd of the Lakes Lutheran Church, Detroit Lakes