Unlike that gift card, this gift doesn't expire

Mary was the only person who was present at both the birth and the death of Jesus Christ. Jesus entered the world as her son, and he left the world as her Savior. He was conceived in her womb, and later he came into her heart.

When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and gave her the message that she would be the mother of the Messiah, she was living in Nazareth. This city was renowned for its wickedness. In fact, when Nathanael heard that Jesus was from Nazareth, he asked, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (John 1:46 NLT).

Cities are known for certain things. For example, Rome is called the eternal city. Paris is called the city of lights. New York is called the city that never sleeps. And Las Vegas is called sin city.

Nazareth could have been called sin city as well. It was a place where Roman soldiers stopped on their way to somewhere else. And because they spent a lot of time there, let’s just say that more than one young, unmarried woman in Nazareth found herself pregnant. But there in that godless place lived a godly girl living a godly life.

Maybe, like Mary, you’re surrounded by unbelievers where you live. Maybe the place is even known for its sinfulness. You wonder sometimes how you can live a godly life there. But you can. You can do it with God’s power, just like Mary did.

Scholars believe that Mary was very young, maybe 13 or 14 years old, when the angel Gabriel arrived with God’s message for her. And interestingly, the Bible is filled with the stories of young people who changed their world.

Jeremiah was only a boy when God called him to be a prophet to the nation Israel. Three courageous young men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, would not bow before the golden image set up by King Nebuchadnezzar. Then there was young Stephen, who courageously stood up for his faith and lost his life in the process.

If you are young, I want you to know this: God can use you. Let’s not forget that the last great spiritual awakening, known as the Jesus Movement, was largely a youth movement.

In fact, the apostle Paul wrote to young Timothy: “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity” (1 Timothy 4:12 NLT).

I began preaching when I was a very young Christian, at the age of 19. And I became a pastor when I was 20. I started young. I was willing to take risks and do something unexpected.

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God can use young people who are willing to say, “Let’s see what God will do.” You might be a young person like Mary, living in a godless place and seeking to live a godly life. I want you to know that your life can make a difference.

Mary was a nobody living in a nothing town in the middle of nowhere. But here’s the good news: God goes out of his way to use people like that. If you don’t believe me, then ask Mary and Joseph when you get to Heaven.

Think about this: God handpicked Mary to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14, which says, “The Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’)” (NLT).

Do you think that as a young girl, Mary perhaps heard that passage and thought to herself, “You know, I think I’m going to be the fulfillment of that prophecy. I think I’m going to be the virgin that Isaiah spoke of”?

I seriously doubt that was the case. But Mary was indeed the fulfillment of God’s promise. God chose this young, unknown girl in a relatively unknown city to bring about the most known event in human history.

This reminds us that God keeps his promises. There are more than 500 passages in the Old Testament pointing to the arrival of the Messiah. And these passages, which were written before Jesus was born, tell us how and where Jesus would be born. They also talk about his crucifixion and resurrection. God does keep his promises. Isn’t that great to know? So, don’t hesitate to hang on to the promises of God.

I think God’s promises are a little like gift cards, which are very popular during the Christmas season. And if you’re like me, you probably have a few that you haven’t used. Actually, an estimated $200 billion a year is spent on gift cards, and many of them go unused. We should take the gift cards we’ve received and start using them.

In the same way, we need to take God’s promises and claim them for ourselves. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10 NKJV). He was born in Bethlehem and came to this world to bring life in all its fullness, a life with purpose. Medical science can add years to our lives, but only Jesus Christ adds life to our years. He gives us a life that is worth living.

Right now, people are getting excited about what will be waiting for them under the Christmas tree. They think it will bring them some kind of fulfillment. But I would venture to say that in time, many will forget all about the gifts they receive this Christmas. Do you remember what you received last Christmas? Probably not.

Christmas is not about the gifts under the tree. It is not about getting something that we think we want. It is about a relationship with God. Jesus was born so that we could come into a relationship with God through him, and he offers us the gift of eternal life.

Truly what Jesus gives us is the only gift that keeps on giving, no batteries required. We simply need to receive it.

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This article was originally published by the WND News Center.

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