Summary: This sermon is the second part of our "The Giving of Christmas" series, It looks at forgiveness any why it is important to extend it to others if we want to receive God's forgiveness.
The Giving of Christmas
“Christmas is For-Giving”
Last week we looked at the first giving of Christmas, which was “Thanks-Giving,” and that’s because Thanksgiving is always before Christmas. Today I’d like to look with you at the second giving that is associated with Christmas is that Christmas is “For-Giving.”
Forgiveness is something that touches every aspect of our lives. One of the Scriptures often quoted during Christmas bears this out when the angel of the Lord told Joseph what to name the child.
“And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21 NKJV)
Jesus came because all of us need to be delivered from the devastating effects of sin.
Have you ever given a gift to someone knowing that it was really going to benefit you more than them; kind of like when husbands give their wives a vacuum cleaner, a tool chest, or a riding lawnmower for Christmas. (And guys, let me just say, don’t do it)
Forgiveness, however, is just like that when we extend it to others, because it benefits us far more than those we extend forgiveness too. Forgiveness, like thanksgiving, is one of the healthiest things we can do.
But to be able to give forgiveness where it is able to do the most good, we first have to be recipients of God’s forgiveness. Now God’s forgiveness isn’t something we deserve. This is seen in Jesus’s own words on the cross.
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34 NKJV)
Jesus forgave us even though we don’t deserve it. In fact, He forgave us even though it was our sins that put Him on the cross in the first place.
The Apostle Paul said, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 NKJV)
Through His death on the cross, Jesus canceled out the guilty verdict against us, which is what makes this gift of forgiveness so huge. This is what you might call the big gift under the tree.
Further, God doesn’t give us this forgiveness to expend it solely upon ourselves. Rather, the Lord wants us to take this gift of forgiveness in order to grow us into the image of Jesus, who forgave all of us. What does this mean? It means that forgiveness must be received and then expended.
It’s kind of like the story of an old miner back in the 1800’s. There was a gold stike, but it took several hot and tortuous weeks through the desert to reach it, and many died of thirst just trying.
On this treacherous journey, this miner saw something in the terrain. He started to dig and found water. To retrieve the water for himself and other travelers, he installed a handpump, and beside the pump he put a flask filled with water along with a note.
“By the time you get to this here watering hole you will be awfully thirsty. This flask is filled with water. You can do one of two things and your life will depend on the choice you make. First, you can take this water, drink it, and then water your mule. If you drink it that is all you will get. Or, secondly, you can trust the pump and pour this water to prime the pump. If you are willing to give this away instead of drinking it, you will be able to get all the water you will need for yourself, your canteen, and your mules. Make the right choice because your future depends on it.”
That is what forgiveness is like. God gives us the gift of forgiveness, but it is not simply for us to consume. Forgiveness is something God gives as a gift to arrest the infection of sin. It’s the only antidote for this terrible disease. And Paul makes it clear that the result of sin is death, but God’s gift is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).
Our sins are forgiven because Jesus died upon the cross so that whosoever believes in Him and what He did upon the cross, taking our place and dying the death we all deserve, will have eternal life (John 3:16).
Jesus paid for our forgiveness with His life, and He offers the gift of forgiveness freely to all who come to the cross and believe.
But the Lord doesn’t want us to take this free gift of forgiveness and use it upon ourselves exclusively. Instead, He wants us to take this gift and give it away. This is exactly what Jesus taught in what is commonly known as the “Lord’s Prayer.”
“And forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us … If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:12, 14-15 NLT)