Summary: I’d like to suggest tonight that the all-time best gift that has ever been given is Jesus Christ. And, once you open this gift, you will never want to return it, and you will never be the same!
A Gift Ready to Be Received
A little girl is sitting on her grandpa’s lap rattling off her long Christmas list. The grandfather recognized that this was “a teachable moment,” and so he said, “Honey, it’s more blessed to give than it is to receive.” To which the granddaughter replied, “I know that, Grandpa, but receiving is good enough for me.”
What are you hoping to receive this Christmas? American Express did a survey recently and found that 31% of people said that receiving a “fruitcake” would be the worst gift of all. In fact, more people indicated that given a choice between a fruitcake and receiving nothing at all, they would choose “nothing.” The survey then went on to find out how people get rid of a gift that they don’t want.
30% hide it in a closet
21% return it
19% give it to someone else
One of the best ways to get rid of a gift you don’t want is to have a white elephant exchange. That’s what we did at our staff Christmas party for PBC and PCS. Gifts ranged from a broken toilet seat to casserole dishes that had never been used. People were often speechless when they opened their gifts. It was fun to be able to give away the junk that we had stored in our basement. The only problem is that we went home with other people’s trash!
I’d like to suggest tonight that the all-time best gift that has ever been given is Jesus Christ. And, once you open this gift, you will never want to return it, and you will never be the same! The Apostle Paul, when gazing at the gift that was given to him, said in 2 Corinthians 9:15: “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” Paul, who was never at a loss for words as one of the best communicators of all time, when pondering the present he had received, could only say, “I can’t describe Him. All I can do is fall on my knees and thank God for His inexpressible gift.”
Some of you have received this gift and like Paul, you can’t even put into words how much He means to you. Some of you have come close to opening the gift of Christ. Maybe you’ve accepted Him but have been trying to hide Him somewhere.
As we’ve learned the last two weeks, God came near in the person of His Son. The baby in Mary’s womb is Immanuel, God incarnate, born to be with us. He revealed His plan to Mary and she responded with, “May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38). Joseph struggled to figure out his part in God’s drama, but eventually “…did what the Lord had commanded Him and took Mary home as his wife” (Matthew 1:24). Christmas always comes with a choice. Mary and Joseph chose to respond and receive the greatest gift of all time. Will you do the same this Christmas?
Let’s go back right now and see how this gift of grace was both given and received as I read Luke 2:1-20 from the New Living Translation.
[Read Luke 2:1-20]
In commenting on the crux of Christmas, Max Lucado captures the indescribable incarnation in his book, God Came Near, when he wrote this: “That particular moment was like none other. For through that segment of time a spectacular thing occurred. God became a man. While the creatures of earth walked unaware, divinity arrived. Heaven opened herself up and placed her most precious one in a human womb. The omnipotent, in one instant, made Himself breakable. He, who had been a spirit, now was pierce able. He who was larger than the universe became an embryo. And He who sustains the world with a word, chose to be dependent upon the nourishment of a young girl. God as a fetus. Holiness sleeping in a womb. The creator of life being created. God was given eyebrows, elbows, two kidneys and a spleen. He stretched against the walls and floated in the amniotic fluids of His mother. God had come near.”
The Greatest Presence of All
I hope many of you read the excellent article that Pastor Jeff wrote in last Saturday’s Daily Leader. I really liked how he ended it when he referred to Jesus as the greatest “presence” of all. That sums up what Immanuel really means. The greatest present is the presence of Christ. This involves three things.
1. The gift is Jesus Christ Himself. With all the other trappings of the season, we must never forget the Christ of Christmas. While it’s become a cliché, Jesus is the reason for the season.
John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…”
John 4:10: “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”