Summary: To offer the hope of Christ to people during the holidays.
Bishop Kenneth Shamblin told a story about a Christmas experience he had with his five year old son Ken Jr. More than anything else Junior wanted a red toy truck for Christmas. It seemed that is all he talked about. Whenever he saw a picture of it in the ads he pointed to it. Whenever they were at a toy store he mentioned it. He wrote to Santa asking for it. And he even made a special trip to the North Pole in the mall just to tell Santa in person. And he even prayed for it.
Christmas morning arrived and with eager anticipation he jumped out of bed and made his way into the room with the Christmas tree. Scanning all the presents he looked for something shiny and red when something caught his eye. His heart skipped a beat. There it was! His shiny red truck. It was the best Christmas ever. He played with it all morning long and into the afternoon. His mom and dad had scored big with the red toy truck.
That afternoon the bishop had settled in his recliner and was reading the newspaper and was about to doze off when he heard some sniffling on the other side of the paper. He lowered the paper and sure enough there was Junior standing in front of him holding his red truck in one hand and the wheels in the other.
Through the tears he said, “Daddy, my Christmas is broken already.” (Christmas Gifts that Don’t Break, James Moore, pg. 7, Abingdon Press, 2010)
This leads to the question, are there any Christmas gifts that are worth more than what you pay for, or that don’t break and that actually live up to their hype and warranty? The answer is yes. And on behalf of God, I will share one of those gifts with you each week during the Advent season.
The first of these gifts can be unwrapped by reading Matthew 1.18-23. “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.” (Matthew 1.18-23, NIV)
The first gift of Advent that I want to share with you is the gift of hope that is associated with the birth of Jesus the Messiah. The name Jesus means “The Lord Saves”. Through the birth of Jesus God offers the greatest gift with the greatest warranty and the greatest return policy the world has ever known – salvation.
The bible makes it clear that people without Jesus are living broken lives with dire consequences.
Explaining this to the Jewish Christians in Rome Paul wrote, “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.
This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory (praises) of God… (Romans 3.21-23, NIV)
In the book of Romans Paul is explaining the role of Christ in the salvation process. He begins by reminding Jew and everyone else known as Gentiles, that every one of them has missed the mark. They have sinned and fall short of earning enough credit to earn God’s praise for being righteous enough to atone for their own sins. It doesn’t matter whether one is Jewish or not. And unfortunately for everyone, Paul goes on to say “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6.23, NIV) That is that every person will get what they deserve or what they earn. And what one earns from sin is death or the opposite of eternal life. And that means do not pass go and collect $200.00. The bible says that sin deserves to be punished. (Explain this) There are consequences to sinful thoughts and behavior.