Which Jesus Will You Unwrap This Season?
Scriptures: John 3:16; 14:15; 21:17; Matthew 26:7; 25; 31-40;
I have been thinking about what I should share with you this morning as most would expect to hear a message pertaining to Christ’s birth and the meaning of Christmas. But this morning I want to do just a little more than that, I want to challenge you. When you think about your last five Christmas’, is there anything different about this Christmas than those? What are you doing different this year versus previous years. I know that I asked each of you to only spend this year what you could afford to pay for this year and some of you may have done that, but does that represent a real change? In reality this is not the type of change I am talking about. The change I am talking about is spiritual.
I. For God So Loved The World
John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” We all know this Scripture but do we understand it? When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden and was spiritually separated from God, the decision was made that an ultimate sacrifice would be given in order to reunite man with his Creator. This decision was made out of love. (I will talk more about this gift of love in my message next week.) This Scripture states that Jesus arrival on earth was motivated by; determined by; and fulfilled an act of love on God’s part. Because He loved us so greatly He gave His only Son as a sacrifice for each of us so that we would be able to have a relationship with Him. This was the gift from whence we now celebrate this season we call Christmas. It was a physical gift that held a spiritual purpose. But what are we doing with the gift? Jesus was given to us – He was a love gift. What are we doing with the gift that God gave us in His Son and how are we demonstrating our gratitude for the love that He has shown us?
II. The Alabaster Box
I want to give you a natural example to demonstrate how you think about how you would answer the questions I just asked about what you’re doing with the gift that God gave us and how are we showing our gratitude for the love that was shown towards us. I will need two of my children to come forward and choose a gift. (For those of you reading this, one box appears empty while the other obviously has something in it.)
I want you to think about a one year-old who receives a gift for Christmas or for a birthday. What fascinates one year-olds more, the gift inside the box or the box itself? Oftentimes it is the box itself. A small child will open the box, cast aside whatever was within the box and then begin playing with the box. I am not sure why this happens, but maybe it is because in their small minds it is the box that they see as being given to them and not the gift that is on the inside. So they take the gift and cast it to the side and begin to play with the box. It is only after the parents pick up the discarded gift and places it before the child that the child begins to play with the gift – but the box is still kept close by. Although the child might play with the gift for a while, they are still fascinated by what can be done with the box. One year I suggested to Nikki that we should give the girls large empty boxes because if they received something in a large box then that box became a house, a carry-all for other things; whatever their minds could imagine. Think of the money we could have saved by giving out empty boxes when they were small and allowing them to use their imaginations as they played with it. They could have gone back to school and bragged about their empty boxes that became a house; fort; wagon, etc. (Ok, I know I am imagining this!)
We sometime treat God’s gift of Christ to us like a small child does with a gift wrapped box. As the child sets the gift to the side and plays with the box, we accept the outer image of Christ and never dig deeper into the box to understand and interact with what is on the inside of Him. You see, the outer imagine of Christ we display on our walls (pictures of man’s idea of what Christ looked like); on our cars through the bumper stickers that preaches to the world; around our necks with the crucifixes we wear proudly; through the tattoos that we imprint on our bodies; and through the Churches that we attend and worship in. All of these activities represent our playing with the box – the outer wrapping. The outer wrapping is what is needed to protect the gift that is on the inside. The small child sometimes sees the outer wrapping as the gift and the gift itself becomes meaningless. Let me share a story with you from the book of Matthew. This story is about an alabaster box filled with expensive perfume. Turn with me to Matthew chapter twenty-six. Look at verse seven.
Matthew 26:7 says “A woman came to Him with an alabaster vial (box) of very costly perfume, and she poured it on His head as He reclined at the table.” In some translations the word “vial” is translated as box. I want you to think of it that way this morning. Prior to Jesus being betrayed, a woman (some say it was Mary Magdalene) came to Him and opened an alabaster box filled with very expensive perfume. The alabaster box was not just an ordinary box. It was not made of paper, wood or cardboard. It was not a heavy duty shipping box. The alabaster box in and of itself was precious. The alabaster boxes of those times were made of a special marble. This marble was distinguished for being light in weight with a beautiful white, almost transparent, color. This was the box into which the perfume was contained. The box itself was precious and valuable in and of itself, but what it contained was even more valuable.
When a man asks a woman to marry him, he generally has a ring in a box. The box that holds the ring is not your typical, cardboard ring box. No, this box has to measure up to what it carries on the inside. The woman, knowing that there is a ring inside quickly surveys the box to get an idea of how much he paid for the engagement ring (unless she went with him to pick it out.) The box, how it looked; what it was made from; and everything else about it could give the woman some small idea of the value that was contained within it. If she liked the box and the way it looked, her excitement would grow because surely only a very nice, expensive ring could be contained in such a very nice box. Guys listen up; don’t spoil the surprise. If you cannot afford a very nice ring; get a very nice box to put it in! But let me get back on track.
The alabaster box was important and expensive, but what it contained was more valuable. The woman in the story took what was in the box and poured it over Jesus head. In some of the other gospels it includes His feet. Why would someone take something that expensive and pour it all on one person? Because she was led to do it! Jesus said she did it in preparation for His burial. He also said that wherever the gospel would be preached, what she did to Him would be told. If we view this from the woman’s perspective, she had an expensive box that held something even more expensive. She bypassed the outer box and gave up what was inside it. You see, she saw Jesus Christ and He meant more than the box or what it contained. She suffered through some complaints as some wondered why she wasted such expensive perfume on Christ – can you imagine? Because of what we know about Christ this would not be an excessive act for us. However, at this time they did not see Christ as they would come to understand Him later. They were still dealing with the “outer box” of Christ not the true gift on the inside.
III. Which Jesus Are You Unwrapping?
Jesus made the following statements:
John 14:15: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” Loving Jesus is like loving the outside box that contains the gift. Jesus is what we see, are drawn to and whose presence we want to be in. But when we start dealing with His commandments that is when we begin to open the box and handle the gift on the inside. You see, Jesus is much more than just a picture on a wall; in a bible; or figure on a crucifix. You remember the story of when some of Jesus’ disciples left Him? In the book of John, the sixth chapter, Jesus was teaching His disciples (all of them, not just the twelve) about what it meant to truly follow Him. He used terms like “eat my flesh and drink my blood” in reference to having eternal life (just as someone eats and drinks to live a natural life.) He was talking about the dedication that His disciples must put forth to follow Him. Many of His disciples upon hearing this chose to stop following Him (John 6:66). Only the twelve remained with Him. The other disciples were having fun with the “outer box” Jesus. They walked with Him; was taught by Him; and participated in His healing meetings. However, when it came time for them to begin interacting with the “gift on the inside of the box” Jesus, they did not want to. They were happy following along and not making any drastic changes in their life. Which Jesus are you unwrapping this Christmas season?
John 21:17: “He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me?’ Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’ And he said to Him, ‘Lord You know all things; You know that I love You.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend My sheep.” When Jesus had risen from the dead, He appeared several times to His disciples. On one of these occasions, He had a talk with Peter. During this conversation He asked Peter three times if Peter loved Him. Peter answered Him by saying “yes” and Jesus responded by telling him to “feed (or tend to) His sheep. Peter had a relationship with the “outer box” Jesus but Jesus wanted Peter to open the box and truly experience Him. Remember, just a few days/weeks before Peter had denied even knowing Christ even though many knew that he was one of Christ’s disciples. At this junction Jesus was inviting Peter to move beyond the knowledge of Him and truly enter into the fullness of Him. Jesus invited Peter to move beyond the open box and enjoy what the box contained. This can only be done when we are fulfilling what Christ has commanded us to do for others. Serving Christ privately in the safety of my home and not doing anything for anyone else is enjoying the “outer box” Jesus. Jesus wants us to enjoy the fullness of Him and that can only come through our interacting with others on His behalf.
Matthew 25:31-40 says “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked , and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You? The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.”
If we love Jesus we will keep His commandments. If we love Him, we will serve others. If we love Him we will move beyond the outer box and enjoy the fullness of the gift on the inside. When I was a child the box excited me. I am grown now and the box is the wrapping. I look for what is held on the inside. I am looking for the fullness of Christ, not just the outer layer that we are all so familiar with. Spiritually are you enjoying the outer box of Jesus or have you opened the box to receive the real gift? What are you doing with the gift that God has given you?
As you celebrate Christmas with your family on Tuesday think about the gifts you’re spiritually unwrapping in Christ. We are celebrating His birthday but in reality the primary gift that we have received did not come from a store, it came from God. He gave us His Son. Through His Son we are given continuously answered prayers; healing; financial blessing; and the opportunity to help someone else. It is the latter which allows us to really begin to interact with Christ. When we begin to represent Him to others it changes how we interact with Him ourselves.
I pray that each of you will have a blessed Christmas day with your family and friends. As you celebrate, remember how blessed you really are!