Summary: God's inexpressible gift is a sacrificial gift. What are we willing to sacrifice in order to help others open that gift?
If you’ve been to almost any store lately, you know that Christmas is on its way. Given the stakes for many retailers, it’s not surprising that so many stores begin their preparations for Christmas earlier and earlier every year. According to the National Retail Federation, the holiday season of November and December can account for as much as 25-40% of annual sales for many retailers.
Some of you who aren’t procrastinators have already begun your preparations for Christmas as well. And many of the rest of us will be joining you soon. There is the cleaning, the re-arranging of furniture, the decorating, the baking, and, of course, the shopping. And while there is nothing inherently wrong with any of those things, I wonder how many of us put that same kind of time, effort and resources into preparing spiritually for Christmas. Because for our unchurched and unsaved family members, co-workers, neighbors and friends, the stakes could not be higher.
The reason that I’m taking a break from our journey through the book of Revelation to share a series of three Christmas messages so far before Christmas is because I want to challenge all of us to approach the Christmas season differently this year. My prayer is that all of us will use this season as an opportunity to focus on how we can take advantage of this time of year to share the gospel of Jesus with those whom God has placed into our lives. And that is going to take some advance planning, preparation and prayer that can’t wait until we’ve already been caught up in the worldly hype of the season.
Someone once said that Christmas is a time when we exchange a whole lot of gifts we really like for a load we don’t want. I don’t know about you, but the greater challenge and source of stress over the years for me has been to try and find just the right present to give to others. So like many others, it seems like I’ve just resorted to buying gift cards that will allow others to buy whatever they want for themselves. But there is one gift that really lives up to the claim that “one size fits all”, a gift that every single person regardless of age, gender, religion, skin color, position, or financial position actually needs. It is the gift that Paul wrote about in 2 Corinthians:
Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!
2 Corinthians 9:15 (ESV)
Over the next three weeks, we’ll take some time to look at three aspects of that inexpressible gift. It is a sacrificial gift. It is a relational gift. And it is an eternal gift. It is a gift that has been offered by God to every person here on the face of this earth. But the problem is that there are a lot of those people who have never opened up that gift. And it is our responsibility as well as our privilege to help them open up that gift.
Since we know that people tend to be more open to think about spiritual things and about Jesus during the Christmas season, I want to encourage all of us to take advantage of that opportunity over the next month and a half or so. The messages over the next three weeks are designed to both encourage us and equip us to be able to do that. As part of that process, we are also planning a Christmas Eve service that is specifically designed to be a safe place to bring unchurched family members and friends to hear a clear presentation of the gospel. So I want to encourage you to begin thinking right now about those you can invite and to begin to pray for those people on a consistent basis.
With all that in mind, let’s begin this process by looking at the first aspect of God’s inexpressible gift to us:
JESUS’ SACRIFICIAL GIFT
There are many Scriptures that we could go to this morning that would demonstrate what a sacrificial gift God gave to us that very first Christmas, but we’ll look at just one this morning. Go ahead and turn in your Bibles to Philippians chapter 2.
This morning, we’ll be reading a portion of what may very well be the first recorded Christmas song. I agree with many Bible scholars who believe that verses 5-11 of this chapter come from a hymn which was well known in the early church. Follow along as I begin reading in verse 5:
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.