Summary: By God’s grace Christmas came to set you free from sin. Christmas came to set you free from the penalty of sin, from the power of sin, and from the presence of sin.
We should have a pretty good idea of what happened on that first Christmas morning. We know that Mary conceived of the Holy Spirit. We know that Jesus was born of a virgin, in a stable in Bethlehem. We’ve heard and read Matthew 1 and Luke 2 enough to know what happened that night. We know what happened, but do we know why it happened? It happened because God is a God of grace. That’s what verse 11 says, doesn’t it? So what exactly is grace? If you’ve been in church for a while, you can give the typical Sunday School answer. You can say that grace is “unmerited favor.” You can even say that grace is not getting what you deserve and getting what you don’t deserve. Those are great definitions, but do they mean anything to you? If that’s what grace is, then how does it play out in your life? All too often, we think of grace like the man who went to Vegas for the weekend. He got there on a Friday afternoon and was flying back out on Sunday afternoon. Well, after he got checked into his hotel, he picked up the phonebook and found a listing for a local church. He picked up the phone and called the number. When the pastor answered the phone, he told him that he was in town for the weekend and wanted to know what time the service started on Sunday morning. The preacher was stunned. He said, “I’m impressed—most people don’t come to Vegas to go to church.” The man said, “Preacher, I didn’t come to town for the church. I came for the gambling and parties and wild women. And I figure that if my weekend is half of what I’m hoping for, I’m going to need a church on Sunday.” Is that what grace is? I think Paul answered that question pretty well in Romans 6:1-2. He wrote, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid!” Compromising tonight with the intention of confessing tomorrow isn’t grace—it’s presumption. It’s abuse. It’s blasphemy. No, that’s not what grace is. Grace is what happened on that first Christmas night. Grace came upon Mary as the power of the Most High overshadowed her and she conceived as a virgin. Grace came upon Joseph as he took Mary as his wife and kept her as a virgin until Jesus was born. Grace came upon the shepherds in the field as they received the birth announcement directly from heaven. Grace came upon the magi as they saw the Baby with His mother and fell down and worshipped Him. You see, grace isn’t a feeling. Grace isn’t an emotion. Grace isn’t a mood. Grace isn’t even an act. Grace is a Person. And on that first Christmas night, that Person appeared. He appeared as a tender plant. He appeared as a root out of dry ground. He appeared without any extraordinary physical distinctions that would make Him appear to be exceptional. The grace of God appeared as a baby on that first Christmas night. Why is the birth of Jesus grace? Because Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost. Jesus came to redeem His people. Jesus came to set the captives free. By the grace of God, He sent His Son. Grace became personified in the flesh of Jesus. And by that grace, through the person and work of Jesus, God has given us freedom from sin. Think of it this way, by God’s grace Christmas came to set you free from sin. Christmas came to set you free from the penalty of sin, from the power of sin, and from the presence of sin. First, Christmas came to set you free from the penalty of sin. Look back to verse 11
Christmas came to set you free from the penalty of sin. The grace of God has appeared to bring the opportunity of salvation for all. First off, who is all? I had a professor one time who made a big deal about saying that “all means all, all the time—and that’s all all means.” Well, that’s not always the case. The Christmas story in Luke 2 that CJ read this morning says that, “there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that ALL the world should be taxed.” I doubt very much that Han Dynasty Chinese people or the ancient Mayans of Central America much cared about Caesar Augustus’ tax. “All” in that case simply means “everybody that it applied to.” Which was everybody who was part of the huge Roman Empire. It seemed to be universal, but it wasn’t. But that is the exception that proves the rule. All of Caesar’s world was to be taxed. Just like the grace of God has brought the offer of salvation to all of His people. Some people try to twist that statement to make it say that God only brought salvation to certain people and didn’t make it available to others. That’s not what the Bible says. The Bible says in Romans 3:22-23, “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto ALL and upon ALL them that believe: for there is no difference: For ALL have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Here’s the bottom line. Jesus was born apart from sin. He lived free from sin. That qualified Him as a perfect atoning sacrifice. The fact that He is eternal God in the flesh makes His atoning sacrifice sufficient for all sin everywhere at all times. From the first sin of Adam and Eve in the garden, to the final millennial rebellion… Jesus’ eternally worthy blood is sufficient to cover them all. “Jesus keep me near the cross… there a precious fountain… free to ALL a healing stream… flows from Calvary’s mountain.” Salvation has appeared to ALL men. “Jesus paid it all… all to Him I owe… sin had left a crimson stain… He washed it white as snow.” Sin is a universal problem. When Satan pridefully boasted that he would be like the Most High God, he stained creation. When Adam and Eve ate the fruit in order to be like God, they brought Satan’s sin into the world. And when they did, everything became tainted and marred with that sin. By sin, God’s creation was turned in opposition to Him. But creation’s opposition to God didn’t turn off His love for what He’d created. God cannot tolerate sin and rebellion. Once those things have marred creation, they are only worthy of His vengeance and wrath and eternal destruction. But His love chose to take the penalty upon Himself. So He did. He sent His Son as a perfect, sinless baby. He watched Him obediently grow as the only One who ever fully and completely pleased God with His perfect obedience. And then He placed the full weight of all the sin of the world on His shoulders… and He crushed Him. He poured out the full wrath of God on Him. All the punishment for each and every sin ever committed or ever will be committed was poured out on Him. The price was paid. The price was sufficient for all. And it is efficient for all who will accept it. No works. No labor. No pride. “Not the labor of my hands… Can fulfill Thy law’s demands… Could my zeal no respite know… Could my tears forever flow… all for sin could not atone… Thou must save and Thou alone.” Christmas came to free you from the penalty of sin. Christmas also came to free you from the power of sin. Look at verse 12: