To the King who enriches His subjects with great wealth, the people bring gifts. Celebrating the birth of the King, whose birth itself brings richest gifts for the people under His reign, is appropriate. To celebrate the birth byworshiping the King (with gifts) is obligatory.

Our brethren of Presbyterian background in Northern Ireland, Australia, and elsewhere, do not celebrate Jesus’ birth on December 25. They commemorate His birth, but not with a special worship service on a special day. The history of Presbyterianism excludes worship on special days. These brethren will not think ill of us if we take time to call the church to honor King Jesus—with gifts.

Royal Son of David has given us gifts.

King Jesus has fulfilled God’s covenant, God keeping the promise to be Emmanuel, God withHis people (Is. 7:14; see Matt. 1:23). That the King Himself would come down to live among His undeserving people is the surprise of greatest joy. What delights them is not so much what He would give them as what he would be for them. His birth is their boon. He came to them as poor among poor, joined them in their suffering, united with them in their woe, assumed their responsibility to make right what they had wronged.

Those for whom He comes are all those, and those only, who were given Him by the Father (John 6:39John 17:2, 9, 11, 24, etc.). So His commission was not to look for subjects who might be willing to be His. It was to gather to Himself the elect citizens by giving them willing hearts. “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power” (Ps. 110:3).

To accomplish all this, God the Son must come among His people. He descends among His subjects. He is born. Being born, He can suffer as one of His own to satisfy the strictest justice of Father—who would otherwise discard us, find us as repulsive as a faithful husband would a filthy whore. King Jesus accomplishes His saving, covenant work.

This is news worth celebrating!

By this suffering, which satisfies God’s justice, King Jesus established His kingdom. By it, He also earned and “gathered up” gifts—kingdom gifts. Since then, these gifts have overflowed from His hands and heart to His own. First, to each of His family He gives membership in His kingdom (church!). Second, each receives the essential (do not minimize that word!) blessing of righteousness, justification, the “forgiveness of sins according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7). Third, not one of His children misses out on the gifts of faith, victory over sin, holiness, hope, charity (read Luke 1:67-79 for the blessings this newborn King will bring). Fourth, for all but the fewest, He grants lengthy membership in His kingdom on earth (the church institute). Those other few are granted heaven before or at birth, or perhaps are isolated by persecution where oppressive governments suppress Christianity. Fifth, according to His perfect wisdom, King Jesus even gives to each one ability to live a full and rich life in the world—in family, church, school, business, and the earthly state. Finally (although this list does not exhaust His gifts), by trying His children as with fire He places in their hearts the growing hope for His return: “Someday soon our King will perfect His kingdom in the glory of heaven!”

If we know this about King Jesus’ gifts, what are a few large or small gifts of earthly possessions? Who should care about a set of titanium golf clubs, or a shiny Kitchen Aid mixer to replace the yellowing Wal-Mart set, or even a studded diamond ring? What joy does a new bike give that even comes close to the joy of knowing God is with us?

The King has gifted us. These are His gifts.

For them we give thanks.

But not everyone is satisfied with these gifts from the King. Some in the church would excite you with the hope of different gifts, better gifts (according to them). They turn up their noses at the “old gifts” of faith, righteousness, hope, and church membership, like a school boy would at the gift of a pack of new underwear for his birthday.

Instead, they would have the King’s citizens anticipate the boon of earthly power over earthly enemies, the wealth of silver and gold, the joy of a Christianized world, and this for thousands and thousands of years. Along with this hope, these teachers (in churches, Christian colleges, and Christian day schools) call the King’s citizens to put “earthly power in government” on their wish list to the King. They urge the citizens to ask for the gift of strength to eradicate poverty, clean up slums, eliminate diseases, and restructure society according to justice. They even dare to hope for (and because hope is not doubt, they really expect) the gift of a Christianized entertainment industry. These are the gifts newly desired from King Jesus.

Although they would deny it, those who hope for these gifts show by their writings and by their prayers to the King that they esteem lightly the other gifts—forgiveness, strength to overcome unholy desires, power to live godly in marriage, families at peace, and churches where elders rule in wisdom and preachers skillfully wield the Sword for the King’s name.

I take this opportunity to celebrate King Jesus’ birth by giving thanks to God for preachers who hold before the people of God the Christian’s true hope. I thank God for the teachers in our many Christian grade schools and high schools who teach antithetically about worldviews and the future. I call us to praise God for administrators who point the teachers to good literature that makes clear the difference between the prevailing worldview and the old Reformed worldview, and the proper view of God’s kingdom (readers may ask the SB for a list of such articles). In these days when many of our school teachers are trained in secular institutions, and the others are trained in institutions that have this new view presented as the Reformed view, we ask God for this gift: preachers and teachers who know their way on the “old paths,” and can lead us on that “good way.”

To the King who enriches us so, we give gifts. To the King!

That people would celebrate Jesus’ birth by giving gifts to each other is another matter. True, for believers to exchange gifts in celebration is not unheard of in Scripture. In the time of Esther, the Jews memorialized their victory over their would-be destroyers at a feast of “Purim” by exchanging gifts. Mordecai mandated that the people rejoice that their sorrow was turned to joy and their “mourning into a good day.” The celebration included “sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor” (see Est. 9:16ff.). But this kind of celebration was unusual.

More common was the giving of gifts to the king.

In the days of godly Hezekiah—but there are other examples, too—when Sennacherib invaded God’s Judah and threatened to destroy Jerusalem and all God’s people there. Wise king Hezekiah comforted the people … and then kneeled in prayer with prophet Isaiah. God answered their joint prayer with a miraculous deliverance. An angel “cut off all the mighty men of valor, and the leaders and captains of Assyria.” Sennacherib returned “with shame of face to his own land.” The wicked king was butchered by his own family. Judah’s response to this deliverance was wonderful: They “brought gifts unto the Lord to Jerusalem, and presents to Hezekiah … so that he was magnified in the sight of all nations from thenceforth” (II Chron. 32:1-23).

We rejoice in King Jesus’ deliverance of us and in His giving us the spoils of His victory. So believers today bring Him gifts. They are thankful for His beneficence and wish to promote His name among the nations. Let all the earth magnify King Jesus … with gifts!

Bring the gift of worship, the sacrifice of praise, the fruit of your lips, confessing Him (Heb. 13:15).Psalm 72 indicates that appropriate gifts for the king are that men “fall down before him; all nations … serve him.”

One gift laid at the feet of the King is praise inpublic worship. Protestant Reformed (and other) congregations gather on December 25 to spend the morning in celebration of Christ’s birth. As in a normal assembly for worship, they sing Psalms, give offerings, and hear a sermon on a particular aspect of the birth—usually the history. What better activity than this on a day when most of the members are relieved of their obligation to work? They awake with the consciousness that this is a day of praise in the sanctuary with believers of like faith. It is one gift to the King.

Bring the King the worship-gift of battling for His cause: with the spiritual Sword of the Word, against evils within the PRC and without, against both moral and theological sins. The worshiping Christian is a battling believer. These are the activities of a people that honor him for His coming.

Let your celebration of His birth be the offering of love for His kingdom—for His church and for His rule in our hearts. Let it be love that shows itself in a liberal support of the kingdom’s causes, Christ-like care for the poor, humble devotion to the needy in the congregation. Why gifts for the rich? Even Mordecai’s mandate for exchanging gifts in Esther’s day was to give “gifts to the poor.”

Return to Him the life he gave you. The “reasonable sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1, 2) is your body, and the whole of your life.

Celebrate His birth with gifts to the King!

In my judgment, such celebrations of the King’s birth by Reformed believers would go a long ways toward gaining a hearing from our Presbyterian brethren on the matter of commemorating Christ’s birth on a special day. That is, celebrations on the day which focus on God’s gift to His people and theirs to Him. And if we are too optimistic in our wish for a hearing, certainly we can pray for a better appreciation of our engaging in a God-centered activity.

Giving gifts to each other lasts a day. Gifts of thanks to God go on all year. And the next. Till the King returns. Then, into eternity. Imagine!

Every morning of December 25, congregations of believers gather to offer the gift of singing (joining hosts of saints already gone on). Maybe this year some will offer the gifts of these Psalms:

Let all to Him their presents bring, 

To Him Whom all the world should fear; 

Ye kings and princes, own your king, 

With rev’rence and with awe draw near.¹ 

Vow, and pay ye to Jehovah, 

Him your God forever own; 

All men bring your gifts before Him, 

Worship Him, and Him alone.²

Give gifts to the King. “Praise is thy holy duty.” Why would we not?

¹ The Psalter #208, a versification of Psalm 76.

² The Psalter #207, a versification of Psalm 76.