Monday, December 17, 2007

The Ultimate Christmas Gift

Where Will Your Name Be Written?
By: Tony Miano

Not long ago, a very wealthy man hosted a large Christmas party. The man had many friends. Some were genuine. Others hoped the man’s wealth would rub off on them. The party was lavish, and the guests were dressed for the occasion.As the evening wore on, the time came to give the man his Christmas presents. He sat on a chair in the middle of the room, with his guests surrounding him. One by one, he opened his presents. The man politely smiled as he opened each gift. Realizing that his friends had gone to a good deal of trouble and expense to give him the gifts, he took great pains not to let the bored look of a man who had everything show on his face.
He worked his way down through the pile of brightly colored, foil-wrapped gifts until only one gift remained. With a look of both confusion and disdain, the man stared at the object on the floor. The sound of embarrassed murmuring spread quickly among the guests. Sensing the uneasiness filling the room, the man reached down to pick up the object. He tried to lift it with one hand, but it was too thick and bulky. A layer of dust covering the object made it slippery and all the more difficult to handle. With two hands, and a bit of effort, the man finally picked up the object. The crowd in the room already tense now fell silent.
It was clear that the object the man had strained to place on his lap was a book. It was older than any he had ever seen. Its worn leather cover was tattered, yet it protected the pages with an air of dignity. The man noticed it was scratched&mdashas if thorns had been raked over its surface. It was held closed by a purple ribbon that unmistakably had been torn from a larger piece of cloth. Upon closer inspection, the man thought he could see drops of blood sprinkled on the purple ribbon but he quickly dismissed this as insignificant and determined it to be just another quirk among an already strange set of circumstances.The man untied the ribbon. Although badly frayed, it did not unravel further with the man’s nervous manipulation. As he slowly opened the book, it dawned on him that it had no title. To the man’s noticeable surprise, the condition of the pages within the book was not consistent with its cover. The paper was the purest white and felt like the most costly satin. On the pages, names were written in ink that was a deep, scarlet red. The man read some of the names, none of which he recognized. He noticed that many were written in foreign languages, recognizing the romantic languages of France, Italy, and Mexico, and the artistic characters of the many Asian languages. Yet, there were just as many names written in languages he had never seen.
Slowly, the man turned page after page, noticing that the book was filled exclusively with names. More unusual than that, however, was the way the names were written. The ink was the same color and consistency for each name, and every entry took up the same amount of space on the page. It was as if each name carried no more, and certainly no less, importance than any other. The man flipped through the pages for several silent moments, before he carefully closed the book and looked up at his bewildered guests. “Who gave me this book?” He asked.The crowd of smartly dressed people parted slowly. A small boy emerged from the crowd and stood in front of the man. “I brought the book, sir,” said the boy. “But the gift is not from me. If you will open the book to the last page, there you will find your gift.” The man opened the book, keeping a wary eye on the plainly dressed little boy. He flipped to the last page and, just as before, saw lists of names. “If you will look beneath the last name, I believe it is Terry Brown, you will see your gift,” explained the boy.The man ran his finger down the page until he found, Terry Brown. As his eyes moved below the name, he saw only a blank space. His puzzlement turned to frustration. “What’s going on? Where’s the gift?” He demanded.“Oh, I’m sorry, sir,” replied the boy. “I think you misunderstand the gift. The gift is not the book, nor is it anything you may have been looking for in the book. The gift is the opportunity to have your name written in the book.” The boy explained.
Becoming angry, the man stood up from his chair. He gripped the book so tightly that his fingers turned white. “Who are you?” he roared. “I don’t know you, son, but by looking at you, I can tell you’re not here with your parents.” “Look around you,” the host continued. “I have more money than I could ever possibly spend. I have a house full of people, some of whom I even like. I have spent the better part of the evening opening beautiful, expensive gifts, and you expect me to be impressed with a blank space in a book of names.” The man reached into his jacket and pulled out a pen. “You have an unusual way of getting autographs, kid,” he said. “As soon as I sign your book, I think you should go.” He tried to scribble his name on the page. To his surprise, the pen would not write. He asked his guests if anyone had a pen that worked. Time after time he tried to write his name on the page, but no pen worked on the regal and pristine pages.
“You don’t understand, sir,” the boy said, confidently. “The opportunity is not to write your own name in the book, but to have your name written in the book. You see, there is nothing you can do on your own to earn your name’s place in the book. To have your name written in the book is a free gift that can only be given by the Owner of the book. Having your name in this book will secure you a room in a mansion far greater than yours, for all eternity.”“Who is the Owner of this book?” The man asked. “I’m sure I could afford whatever price he is asking.”
With a look of pure joy on his face, the boy said, “The Owner of the book has already paid the price for you. The Owner is my Lord, Jesus Christ.”
“So this is about religion. Interesting approach, kid.” The man said. “Look, you’re entitled to your beliefs, and I’m sorry I was rude, but nothing is free in this world. I’m a good person. I give to charities. Everything I have, I’ve earned. Except for the occasional hostile takeover, I’ve never stolen anything from anyone. When my time comes, I’m not worried about where I’ll end up. Like I said, I’m a good person.”
The man closed the book and handed it to the boy. “Thanks, son. I’m not interested. Since it looks like the party is over, I’m going to bed. You all can show yourselves out. Thanks for coming. Someone make sure the kid gets home.” As he walked up the majestic spiral staircase, he turned to see his guests huddled around the little boy. He could hear them questioning the boy about the Owner of the mysterious book. He shrugged his shoulders, stepped into his dark bedroom, and closed the door behind him.
Many years after that unusual party, the man became very ill. Neither his money, nor his possessions could save his life. Sadly, the once wealthy man passed away, and at the moment he breathed his last, he found himself standing before a Great White Throne. Seated on the throne was One who could only be described as Holy, and standing right next to the throne was a small figure. The man quickly recognized the person as the child who brought the book to the party, all those years ago.
Both curious and fearful, the man asked the One on the throne, “Are you..........God?” “I Am,” He said. After a brief moment, He continued:“Why didn’t you accept my gift of eternal life that the boy presented to you? The book he showed you was the Book of Life. There is no greater gift you could have received and no greater gift you could have rejected. You threw a Christmas party to glorify yourself, instead of remembering the precious gift I gave you through the birth of My Son&mdasha gift the prophets foretold and My angels heralded. ‘For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord’ (Luke 2:12).”
The man’s jaw dropped and his eyes filled with great sorrow as the Lord pulled the old tattered book from within His spotless, majestic robe. The Lord gently caressed the book’s cover and said, “The leather cover is made from the sandals that my Son, God in the flesh, wore as He shared My gospel throughout Judea. My Son told the people, ‘I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose’” (Luke 4:43). “The scratches in the leather are from the crown of thorns He bore for you. The purple ribbon is from the robe He wore as He was publicly mocked, much the same way you mocked Him at the party. The drops of blood on the ribbon are His blood, which He shed as the payment for your sins. ‘They stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. And after twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand and they knelt down before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat on Him, and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head’” (Matthew 27:30).
“The pages are whiter than snow because all the names written in the book are of people who were washed clean by the blood of the Lamb of God, My Son, Jesus Christ the Lord. These people were forgiven their sins because they confessed and turned away from their sins and, by faith, put their trust in My Son alone for their salvation. They received the gift of eternal life that only I can give.”The man began to sob for he knew how this conversation would end.
“But Lord!” He cried. “I’ve been a good person! Please don’t send me away!”
“How can you say that you were good?” God asked. You broke My Law and mocked My commandments every day of your life. You lied, stole, blasphemed My holy name, and committed adultery in your heart every time you looked at a woman inappropriately. Your hatred for your fellow man amounted to murder in My eyes. I certainly wasn’t first in your life, and you worshipped the false god of your money and possessions.“I’m sorry,” said the Lord, with a tear in His eye. “I am the God of mercy, but I am also Holy, Righteous, and Just. Your deeds cannot save you. They condemn you. I do not know you. You are not one of my children, so you must depart from Me.”
The man walked to an open door with his face in his hands. The doorway was as black as coal. In the distance he could see roaring flames. The man, weeping bitterly, stepped through the door, never to be seen again. The boy standing next to the throne was also weeping. His tear-stained face glistened as the glory of the Holy One shined upon him. “I’m sorry, Lord,” he said through quiet sobs. “I tried to share You with that man. I couldn’t make him listen.” The Lord softly cradled the boy’s chin in His hand and lifted his head. “One never fails when one shares My gospel with others. The failure is when one does not take up his cross and follow me. Your work at the party was not in vain, my little one.”
The Lord pointed to a group of people that were now standing in front of the throne. The boy wiped his eyes and saw that the group of people had all been guests, all those years ago, at the man’s Christmas party. They saw the book for what it really was. They came to know the Lord for who He really is and received Him as their Lord and Savior. Like the boy, they received the perfect gift, paid for by the ultimate sacrifice, and given by the only One who could give it.One by one the members of the group stepped up to the throne, bowed humbly, confessed that Jesus Christ is Lord, and spoke his or her name. The Lord reached down and helped each one to his or her feet. With tears of joy now streaming down His face, He embraced each one as if he or she were His only child. “You may enter into Heaven,” He said, “for your name is written in the Book of Life.”
One day, everyone will stand before the Lord. Will your name be written on the pages of His Book?

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