Summary: S many people will return the gifts they get for Christmas, don;t be one that returns the greatest gift of ALL, Jesus.
DON’T GET CAUGHT IN THE RETURN LINE
(All my sermons use illustrations found at www.sermoncentral.com and all scripture is NIV unless otherwise noted)
Wow, it is Christmas time already! I know that I have waited until now to preach about Christmas, but this year I will only be doing 2 Christmas sermons, today and next week, the day after Christmas. As I thought about my sermon schedule, I probably should have preached this sermon next week, because it is really about the day after Christmas. In years gone by, the day after Christmas was very busy at the stores because people would rush to return the gifts they had received for Christmas. Now many stores had made it nearly impossible to return gifts without the receipt and jumping through hoops, BUT, I have always been amused and puzzled at how people would return gifts that they received because of the love of a friend or relative.
Christmas is a time when we celebrate the greatest gift ever given to mankind, Jesus, the Son of God. He was given to us as payment for our sins BUT many who receive Jesus, look for ways to return Him. Some will never accept this great gift, it seems to easy to them. Some will accept the gift but never use it, and others will accept the gift and look for a way to return it.
There is a great article that illustrates the concept of grace written by Charles Stanley. “One of my more memorable seminary professors had a practical way of illustrating to his students the concept of grace. At the end of his evangelism course he would distribute the exam with the caution to read it all the way through before beginning to answer it. This caution was written on the exam as well. As we read the test, it became unquestionably clear to each of us that we had not studied nearly enough. The further we read, the worse it became. About halfway through, audible groans could be heard through out the lecture hall. On the last page, however, was a note that read, "You have a choice. You can either complete the exam as given or sign your name at the bottom and in so doing receive an A for this assignment."
Wow? We sat there stunned. "Was he serious? Just sign it and get an A?" Slowly, the point dawned on us, and one by one we turned in our tests and silently filed out of the room.
When I talked with the professor about it afterward, he shared some of the reactions he had received through the years. Some students began to take the exam without reading it all the way through, and they would sweat it out for the entire two hours of class time before reaching the last page.
Others read the first two pages, became angry, turned the test in blank, and stormed out of the room without signing it. They never realized what was available, and as a result, they lost out totally.
One fellow, however, read the entire test, including the note at the end, but decided to take the exam anyway. He did not want any gifts; he wanted to earn his grade. And he did. He made a C+, but he could easily have had an A.
This story illustrates many people’s reaction to God’s solution to sin. Some people look at God’s standard--moral and ethical perfection--and throw their hands up in surrender. Why even try? they tell themselves. I could never live up to all that stuff
Others are like the student who read the test through and was aware of the professor’s offer but took the test anyway. Unwilling to simply receive God’s gift of forgiveness, they set about to rack up enough points with God to earn it.
But God’s grace truly is like the professor’s offer. It may seem unbelievable, but if we accept it, then, like the stunned students who accepted the professor’s offer, we, too, will discover that, Yes, God’s grace truly is free. All we have to do is accept it.
This morning, if you have your Bible turn with me to Luke 2:8-14
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."