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One of the most common themes of Christmas is gifts. Presents. Things we give and receive. But it’s also about exchanging what you don’t want, what doesn’t fit, or what you already have. Exchanging is not about what we give but about what we receive.

Have you ever been a part of a White Elephant gift exchange or a Yankee gift swap?

Throughout our lives, we all find ourselves constantly trying to exchange things. We exchange for something better, whether that's a job, a relationship, where we live, work, or circumstances – switching old for new.

There are some things we really don’t want that we’ve been handed in our lives, so we have to do something about them.

  • Things we’re stuck with that we wish we could trade for something else
  • Things that seem great but turn out not to be
  • Things that are good, but we still think we can find a better version or option

But then we come to the dilemma and the mystery of things we’ve tried to exchange but can’t.    

We've tried to improve, shift, run, or even hide from.

  1. Circumstances we can’t change
  2. Our own flaws, failures, shortcomings, struggles
  3. Our broken world, despite our efforts of goodness and trying to make things better

And whether we like it or not, this is the thing we keep bumping into, not only in our lives but in ourselves. It’s demoralizing. The Bible gives us a word for all of this.


We can respond to it in different ways.

  • We keep struggling against it
  • We play our cards
  • We exchange one thing for another
  • We give up and cope – this is how it will always be, this is how we’ll always be, this is how the world will always be

When we do this, we find ourselves trying to make sense of WHY. In doing that, we end up having to assign the blame for why things are the way they are:

  1. That other person or people
  2. That other political party, ideology, lifestyle, or religion
  3. Chance
  4. Cosmic evil (Satan/The Devil)
  5. And the heaviest of all, ourselves – This weight is crushing. Shame, helplessness, anger.

In this place, we then come to Christmas.

Think about what we do.

The same songs, the same traditions, the same things. One of the reasons even the most cynical of us look forward to the expectation is familiarity.

The familiarity of Christmas is a respite from the other way we sometimes live.    

But even there, the perfect gift given or received, the perfect family gathering, the perfect party or moment, only gives us a temporary reprieve or distraction at best. But then, December 26th hits, and we’re back at it.

If this is ever to change, we need something completely different, something brand new. And that’s the good news of what this season really means. We celebrate the coming of Jesus to earth in the form of a baby.

God in a body. As the scriptures say, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

Hear how this plays out in the words of our Christmas story.

Luke 2
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.” 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

We have these idealized nativity images of them. But the life of a shepherd in ancient times was poor, lonely, crushing in its boredom, and probably depressing in the dead end that it was. Shepherds are shepherds until the day they die. No social mobility, nothing to exchange for something better, just sheep, year after year.

It was so sketchy and looked down upon that shepherds were not seen as respectable or reliable witnesses. God shares this great news with people who wouldn’t even be believers. How can we not love that?

Here’s how Christian writer Phillip Yancy put it:

“In Jesus something new happened. God became one of His own creatures, an event unparalleled, unheard of, in the fullest sense of the word. The God who, fills the universe, imploded to become a peasant baby who, like every infant who ever lived, had to learn to walk and talk and dress himself. In the incarnation, God's Son deliberately handicapped himself, exchanging omniscience for a brain that learned Aramaic stroke by stroke, omnipresence for two legs and an occasional donkey, omnipotence for arms strong enough to saw wood but too weak for self-defense. Instead of overseeing 100 billion galaxies at once, he now looked out on a narrow alley in Nazareth, a pile of rocks in the Judean desert and a crowded street in Jerusalem.”

So why all this?

So, we can feel a little better about things for a while until the nostalgia wears off? No, it’s something so much better!

Remember where we started. Our whole lives are a series of exchanges. We trade one thing for another in hopes of arriving at something better.

What Christmas is about is the ultimate exchange, but it’s one that Jesus has done for us.    

Why would he trade heaven for flesh? What would He make that exchange? Why were the shepherds so excited?

It’s because Jesus made the exchange that none of us can. Remember, at some point, we each run into the things we can’t exchange, and we figure out a way to cope. Jesus comes to break the cycle.

1 Corinthians 5
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. 19 that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf. Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin to us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.

Jesus is God. But Him becoming flesh is not demonstrated in a light show or prominent portrayal of His power. It’s not in the earth crumbling or with crashing waves. Instead, it’s found in meek humility. It's His exchange for heaven's riches embodying humanity's frailness.

But why?

For you and me.

The exchange is the theme of His arrival that we celebrate now, but also His ministry, death, and resurrection.

It’s all about what’s in it for us, what we receive. His arrival is an exchange for His presence with us. His ministry is an exchange for religion. His death is an exchange for our death. His life is an exchange for the life we now live in Him.

What has Jesus taken on from us? What has He given us in exchange? He offers us…

  • Joy for our sorrow
  • Beauty for our ashes
  • Hope for our despair
  • Righteousness for our sin
  • Purpose for our meaninglessness
  • Freedom for our bondage
  • Life for our death
  • A Savior for our lost cause

And I want to very simply invite you to make that exchange. To receive Jesus and release those other things.

Maybe some of you are doing this for the first time. All of us have some place in our lives we need to exchange.

Where do you need to make an exchange and receive the gift of Jesus in your life today?

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