Advent Devotionals

Advent Daily Devotional - The Perfect Gift

Day 13

Marielena Tillinghast

Day 13 – Friday, December 15, 2023


Key Verse:

“Jesus replied, ‘Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial.’” — John 12:7, New Living Translation

Today’s Reading: John 12

Listen to today's reading on her.BIBLE®

Whenever Christmas comes around, many of us exchange gifts with our family, friends or co-workers. Although I like to receive gifts, I have a hard time giving gifts to other people. It’s not that I don’t want to give, but I don’t always know what to give because maybe I don’t know them well. And many times, to avoid anxiety, I give a gift card or cash so they can buy whatever they want. Of course, I enjoy when I make someone happy by giving them “the right gift.”

John 12 tells the story of an excellent gift that was indeed given intentionally. This is the story of Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha, all who also appear in other Gospel accounts. In his Gospel, Luke contrasts the two sisters. Luke mentions that Martha was busy with everything she had to do, but Mary chose the best part: to be at the feet of Jesus and delight in Him, to listen to Him, and above all, to know Him (Luke 10:38-42). 

As the time of the Passover drew near, John tells us that in the house of Mary, Martha and Lazarus — whom Jesus had raised from the dead (John 11) — they had supper in honor of Jesus. Jesus’ disciples and possibly other guests attended. Suddenly, Mary approaches Jesus with a bottle of expensive perfume and anoints Jesus’ feet. The house fills with the fragrance of this perfume. 

Judas Iscariot, the one who would betray Jesus for money, hypocritically judges Mary by saying it would have been better to sell the perfume and give it to the poor. But Jesus defends Mary and says, “Leave her alone. This she did in preparation for my burial” (John 12:7, NLT). 

Whether or not Mary knew that Jesus would be crucified in less than a week, she knew that Jesus was worthy of her devotion and sacrifice. And God used her lavish gift to point to Jesus’ death and burial. He would need His loved ones to take action in the wake of his ultimate sacrifice, and Mary’s loving attention gave them all a picture of what that would look like.

Earlier in Jesus’ life, wise men from the east brought Him gifts similar to the one Mary gave Him (Matthew 2). By bringing Him frankincense, gold, and myrrh, they implied that they knew whom they had come to visit. These were gifts of worship to the King of kings who had come to earth. In fact, some scholars believe that at the same time, some gifts symbolized the balm He would need at the moment of His death for the sins of mankind.

Jesus gave us the greatest gift of all, Himself.



As Christmas approaches, how well do you know Jesus? Would you know what to give to the one who knows you and gave you “the perfect gift” so that you could know Him to the fullest?



Dear Heavenly Father, 
As Christmas nears, we are reminded of the precious gift of salvation that You gave us through Your Son, Jesus Christ. Just as Mary offered her intentional act of anointing, may we offer gifts that bring honor and glory to Jesus, reflecting our devotion and commitment to Him. Guide us in discerning the best ways to demonstrate our love for the One who knows us intimately and has given us the ultimate gift. In Jesus’ name, amen.

A Deeper Dive

Learn more in this article about how to receive the gift of Jesus.

Marielena Tillinghast is the Global Church Movements national leader in Cru Panama. She and her husband are the lead pastors of La Comunidad Bible Church. Her mission in life is to communicate the grace and truth that we find in Christ and to inspire and equip others to find and fulfill the specific call that God has placed in their lives. Marielena has been married to her best friend, Todd, for 23 years, and they are blessed with two wonderful sons, Juan Diego (16) and Lucas (11).

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