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Summary: Christmas really isn’t a "biblical holiday" but why pass up the chance to tell our friends and relatives about the ultimate gift/sacrifice God has wrapped for us?

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II. The first thing we need to realize is that people have trouble understanding what God has given them.

REREAD John 3:3-12

You can almost sense Jesus’ frustration with Nicodemus: “you’re a teacher and you can’t understand this?” Nicodemus was one of the most educated men in his society and yet he had trouble understanding what Jesus was trying to teach him.

But it’s hard to blame him… even Christians have trouble understanding all this

ILLUS: A preacher had once to illustrate the free nature of God’s gift of salvation. They stood in the pulpit one morning held up a poinsettia plant and said: “Whoever wants this beautiful Christmas poinsettia may have it. All you have to do is take it.”

They stared at me. I waited. And waited.

Finally a mother timidly raised her hand and said, “I’ll take it.”

“Great!” said the preacher, “It’s yours.”

But to my astonishment, she nudged her son, “Go get it for me.”

“No,” I said. “Whoever wants this gift must come and get it personally. You can’t send a substitute.”

She shook her head, not willing to risk embarrassment. I waited again. It was a gorgeous flower, unusually large, wrapped in red cellophane with a gold satin ribbon. It was set in front of the pulpit to brighten our small sanctuary during the holiday season. Several people had commented on how beautiful the plant was. Now it was free for the taking.

Someone snickered, “What’s the catch?”

“No catch,” I replied. “It’s free.” No one moved.

A college student asked, “Is it glued to the altar?” Everyone laughed.

“It is not glued to the altar. Nor are there any strings attached. It’s yours for the taking.”

“Well,” asked a pretty teenager, “can I take after the service?”

I shook my head. “You must come and get it now.”

(I was beginning to wish I’d never started the whole thing, when a woman I’d never seen before stood up in the back.) Quickly, as if she were afraid she’d change her mind, she strode to the altar and picked up the plant. “I’ll take it,” she said.

As she returned to her seat carrying the free gift, I launched with enthusiasm into my text, Romans 6:23. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” “The gift of God is eternal life! It’s free”.

When the service had ended and most of the people had gone home, the woman who claimed the poinsettia came to the platform, where I was picking up my Bible to leave.

“Here!” she held out her hand. “This flower is too pretty to just take home for free. I couldn’t do that with a clear conscience.”

I looked down at the crumpled paper she stuffed into my hand. It was a ten dollar bill.

Now, what does that illustration tell us? It tells us that people have trouble believing anybody, least of all God, would give them something for nothing. It’s a Gift. It’s free! And they have trouble understanding heavenly things, because they have trouble grasping earthly things (like poinsettias)

III. People around us have trouble understanding that salvation is a free gift

They want to “earn” their salvation. They want to clean themselves up before they come to God. OR they believe they don’t have to come to God on His terms, because they have already done enough to make themselves feel comfortable that “yes they will make it into heaven.”

Talk about it...

John Thomas

commented on Dec 10, 2006

Excellent sermon. Good choice of topic in this "shopaholic" world we live in.

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