There is a connection between Christmas and spiritual gifts. But you must use your imagination to see it. And that is what Paul asks us to do when he teaches about gifts in Ephesians 4. In this blog I only have space to slightly open that door and let you peek in to glimpse the wonder. But isn’t that what children do at Christmas?

In Ephesians 4:7-11 Paul reveals that we are showered with spiritual gifts by Jesus out of the dramatic journey of his birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension. Paul shortens it to Jesus “descending” (the incarnation we celebrate this season) and then “ascending” in victory. Our gifts, he reveals, come to us from Christ out of that journey. Paul wants you to visualize this picture when you think about spiritual gifts.

In Spiritual Gifts Reimagined (SGR) I present why we should imagine this Christ-centered picture rather than the popular idea that spiritual gifts are simply about identifying which ones you have and using them. Paul invites us to wonder: “Look! This Jesus! He descended to earth, from manger to cross, and emerged victorious, ascending again higher than all the heavens and giving us gifts!”

The other day I sat looking at the nativity set we put up for Christmas. It was sewn by my wife several years ago, and our grandchildren love to play with it. My mind went to the wonder of love: this child, this incarnation of God’s Son, was born to walk a journey that would go through pain and sorrow, suffering and execution, all because God’s love magnificently moved to meet our need.

Having descended to earth, Jesus did not dodge the battles in his journey here. His victory in those battles bought our salvation, and the spoils of his victory are our spiritual gifts. In SGR I show you how that way of thinking about gifts is revealed in Scripture. This is the big story connected with spiritual gifts, and it includes Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, and Ascension.

I think if Paul were to show up in a spiritual gifts class in your church or mine, where the focus is defining each gift and testing for them, he’d ask, “Why are you ignoring the big picture?” This story calls for humility as we consider his descent to the manger, incredulity as we see him engage the battles in his journey, astonishment and grief as we behold his sacrifice on the cross, and amazed joy and worship as we see gifts flowing to us from his resurrection and ascension.

His descent to earth inspires us to wonder in silence. “Silent night, holy night; all is calm, all is bright….” Christmas is at its best when we wonder at his love in silence, only then breaking into joyous carols of worship. The silent wonder is first that he is here: this baby is really him, from on high! But then it continues, mouths hanging open in disbelief at what he endured once he revealed who he is, what he came to do, and what he experienced in his journey here.

The giving of our spiritual gifts, Paul teaches, arises out of this dramatic story of battles and victory. And our silent awe as we imagine this gift-giving story is to be matched by our listening fascination with each other’s gift-receiving stories. For as we follow Christ, we each fight our own battles in our journeys, just as Jesus did in his. And the spoils of our victorious battles of growth are the spiritual gift potentials Jesus won for us in his victory.

We are invited to listen attentively to one another’s journeys into and battles for these gifts. We each need others who will be silent enough in their hearts to hear our stories and to help us follow Jesus as we grow into our uniquely gifted selves. May we in this season be silent enough to wonder at the Jesus story and to give the gift of listening attentiveness and wonder to one another.

This is why my book is called Spiritual Gifts Reimagined: The Journey View. Learn explanations and details about this fresh perspective in the book.

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