Summary: Because of God's love, Jesus came to save people from every nation on earth.
“Christmas Around the World” – John 3:16
I’ve never hidden my strong dislike of Santa Claus. I mean I’ve never met the bloke, so it’s nothing personal, but I don’t like what he stands for.
Perhaps, deep down, it’s because every year at school I get asked to dress up as Santa at Christmas. I’m not sure what they’re trying to say about me – I mean, I don’t have white hair!
Santa is known for his gift-giving. And, according to the songs at least, the way Santa decides the quantity and quality of the presents is whether you’ve been naughty or nice throughout the year.
But we all know it doesn’t work like that, don’t we? The good kids don’t get all the presents.
Instead, children seem to get presents based on where they come from and how much money their parents have.
So, if you hold to the naughty or nice principle then everyone in the African desert and rural China is incredibly bad, but all the kids who live in Vaucluse and Hunters Hill are practically angelic!
It’s just one of the reasons why I object to Santa Claus.
What Santa gets right, however, is that Christmas is about giving. This also creates other confusion, however.
There was a kid who really wanted a bike for Christmas. And in the weeks leading up to Christmas every day he would have go down to the Christmas tree to see if there was anything large and biked-shaped wrapped up there. But it was never there.
Now this kid was a bit confused between Santa and Jesus, so he prayed to Jesus for this new bike.
First, he prayed: “Jesus, I’ve been really good this year and I deserve a bike. Please give it to me.” He looks the next day, and no bike.
Next he realizes he needs to be a bit more honest. “Jesus, I know I haven’t been that good but can you please give me a bike anyway. I really need it.”
Still no bike.
So the next day he goes to the nativity scene his parents have put up on the mantle piece and takes the little figurine of Mary.
He goes up to his room, kneels down and prays, “Jesus, if you ever want to see your mum again you’ll get me that bike.”
He had a bit of a distorted view of God, but it’s no worse than the naughty/nice, rich/poor Santa system either.
God gives gifts to people, too. But fortunately for us, he doesn’t seem to discriminate like Santa. And nor is he open to extortion!
Perhaps the most famous verse in the Bible is John 3:16. It goes like this: “For God so loved the world, he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Let’s look briefly at the context. We heard the whole first section of John 3 read for us earlier, and it contains this wonderful conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. Now Nicodemus was an educated Jew, a religious leader, a member of the ruling council. He’s heard about Jesus and is interested the find out more about him. Unlike most of the Pharisees, he hasn’t just written Jesus off. He can tell that there is profound wisdom in Jesus words. Now whether it’s out of wisdom or lack of courage, Nicodemus goes to Jesus at night no doubt so he can’t been seen by his fellow Pharisees speaking to this enemy of the state.
Nicodemus approaches and, rather than asking a question, begins with a statement. "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him."
In other words, Nicodemus says – you perform miracles so this proves you’re from God. Now that’s an interesting observation to make, especially given that in Matthew 12 the Pharisees accuse Jesus of performing miracles by the power of the devil. But for Nicodemus at least what he has seen Jesus do at least requires further investigation.
As he often does, though, Jesus responds by answering a question that hasn’t really been asked yet – “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
Now we don’t have time to unpack this all now but it’s in the context of this conversation with Nicodemus about how to enter the kingdom of God that Jesus utters the famous words in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son….”
God loved the world! The whole world! People from everywhere – every nation, every language, every social class, every age group.
Even more than that he didn’t just love the world, he SO loved the world. John 3:16 paints a picture of a love that is extreme and that shows itself in extreme action.