This article is by Ed Welch and published by CCEF
Consider those who excel at giving gifts. First, they take joy in finding what seems to be the perfect gift. Their excitement begins before any gifts are opened. I know this because my wife is an excellent gift giver, and she is filled with anticipation at the point of purchase. Second, these gift givers take joy in your joy, assuming you are quite pleased with the gift. Joy all around, with double joy for the givers.
We know that Jesus is the great gift giver. Whereas most kings receive gifts from the people, Jesus gave his people gifts, and his most excellent gift is the long-awaited Spirit. “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh” (Joel 2:28). Even before Jesus gives us the gift, you can detect the unleashed joy and overflowing generosity of the Father, Son, and Spirit. They found the exact right gift. It is perfect. The gift is the Spirit, and the Father, Son, and Spirit have all contributed to the surprise. Why? Their desire and joy have always been that the Spirit would “bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18).
Then we get to the actual giving of the gift. At Pentecost, the Spirit is poured out on “all flesh.” The Father gave the gift of the Spirit to Christ, and the Spirit is given to us by Christ (Acts 2:33). The Spirit’s power is apparent immediately. Fearful men preach; prison and the likelihood of a horrible death are not deterrents. And there are even a few blatant miracles of healing. All this is, indeed, very good, and should evoke some heavenly pleasure. But if the Spirit is only about power, God’s joy would be restrained, because Jesus’ desire was that we would be with him, in glory itself (John 17:24). Our joy would be restrained too. If we have power without the presence of Christ, the rhythm of human joy would go like this: the disciples have sorrow because Jesus goes to the cross, then they have joy because he is raised from the dead and they see him again, and then he ascends into heaven and their joy is again diminished. But that is not the storyline of joy.
Before he died, Jesus said to his disciples “You have sorrow now but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22). This is the storyline of joy. Jesus’ incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascension lead to enduring joy. Joy that no one can take away. He has brought us to God, and he has done this by sending his Spirit. The same Spirit who rested on Jesus like a dove at his baptism, was with him every step of his ministry, and raised him from the dead (Rom 8:11), is the Spirit who connects us to Jesus now. And this Spirit is the eternal presence of Jesus with us. It brings us enduring joy even as he is seated in heaven and we are still here.
So there is celebration in heaven. The joy of the Father, Son, and Spirit in conceiving the gift now reaches a climax as the gift is given. It is God’s joy to bring us to himself so we can have what he always intended for us—to see his glory and to enjoy his fellowship. Now comes the doubling of his joy as we grow in the joy of receiving his great gift.
I am not a great gift giver, and there are times when I am not a great gift receiver. Some of our grandchildren are excellent gift receivers. They truly celebrate most anything they open, and we love it. My celebrations are more muted and sometimes delayed. For example, once my wife gave me a new lamp for my side of the bed. My response was . . . dull but politely appreciative. The key to the gift was that the lamp I had before demanded a nearly impossible stretch every night to turn it off from the bed. The lamp she gave was a clear upgrade, but it also had the on/off switch on the cord, which was ten inches from my head and could be turned off with no effort. After a less-than-celebratory beginning, I am making up for it now by genuinely gushing over that lamp at least four nights a week. Though I gush after the light is off and I can’t see her reaction, I think that she takes some joy in my joy.