Summary: Christmas Eve sermon

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On the Tree, Not Under It

Well, tomorrow is Christmas Day. Many of you will arise early, either on your own or by your kids, to open presents placed under the tree. Now I’m sure that we all have received some gifts at Christmas that we could never use or maybe couldn’t figure what it was. Many of are tucked away in the attic or given to the SA or Goodwill.

In a survey of “worst” Christmas gifts, fruitcake was chosen most often (31%) as the worst. It even finished ahead of “no gift at all.”

Gift giving has become such a big deal to some people that they spend half of their summer vacation searching for Christmas presents. Some buy their gifts for next year at the “after Christmas” sales this year. Then they put them away and hope that they can remember where they stashed them when Christmas rolls around next year.

We’ve spent this Advent season thinking about the gifts God has given us in His Son, Jesus Christ. The first week we talked about the gift of hope – hope because, now God is with us constantly. The second week we talked about the gift of forgiveness, which brings peace between us and God and between us and others.

The 3rd week we talked about the gift of joy – of a delight in life that runs deeper than pain or pleasure. Then this past Sunday we talked about God’s gift of love. “For God so loved the world……”

Tonight we’re going to look at the best gift ever given, the one given by God that first Christmas. You might be thinking that this greatest gift is Jesus, and you would be partially right (that’s always a safe guess in church…). The greatest gift came not wrapped in pretty paper and bows, but wrapped in the form of a babe in a manger.

A preacher once illustrated God’s greatest gift. He stood in the pulpit one morning, held up a poinsettia plant and said: “Whoever wants this beautiful poinsettia may have it. All you have to do is take it.” The congregation just stared. He waited….and waited. Finally a mother timidly raised her hand and said, “I’ll take it.”

“Great!” said the preacher, “It’s yours.” She told her son, “Go get it for me.” He said, “No, whoever wants this gift must come and get it personally. You can’t send a substitute.” He waited again. Several people had commented on how beautiful the plant was. Now it was free for the taking. Someone said, “What’s the catch?”

He said, “No catch, it’s free.” No one moved. One asked, “Can I take after the service?” “No, you have to get it now.”

Finally, a woman strode to the altar and picked up the plant. When the service had ended and most of the people had gone home, the woman who claimed the poinsettia came to the platform stuffed a ten dollar bill into my hand saying, “This plant is too pretty to take for free.”

Now, what does this illustration tell us? It tells us that people have trouble believing anybody, least of all God, would give them something for nothing. They can’t believe God would give them the gift of His Son. Free for the taking!

Christ was born in a stable so we could have a mansion when we die. It’s free to us, but it has a cost. It cost Mary and Joseph the comforts of home during the exile in Egypt to protect Jesus. It cost mothers, in and around Bethlehem, the massacre of their babies by the cruel order of Herod. It cost the shepherds the complacency of their shepherd’s life, with the call to the manger and to tell the good news.

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