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Summary: To fully appreciate the birth of Christ we must face our sinful condition and God's grace

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THE BEST GIFT – From Captive to Christmas

Luke 2:10-14

INTRO

A. Alan Gross rescued last Wednesday after serving 5 years of a 15 year sentence in Cuba

1. Regardless of politics on Cuba, thrilled for Alan and family

2. First words to daughters in U.S. – “I’m free!”

3. Alan in time will settle back into his routine, but life will never be routine again …

4. Received the best gift ever – his freedom

B. Today we think of Christmas

1. Today we think of Christ

2. We celebrate his birth

3. But can’t fully appreciate Christmas unless we first come face to face with our captivity

C. The Best Gift – From Captive to Christmas … (text to follow)

I. OUR DESPERATE CONDITION

A. Rom. 3:23 – For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God

1. For all have sinned

a. That word “all” means “all” … everybody, total, no exceptions

2. And the verdict in our trial has come back – “GUILTY, YOUR HONOR!”

B. Rom. 6:23a - For the wages of sin is death

1. After the verdict comes the sentencing

2. “THE DEATH PENALTY, YOUR HONOR!” … one size fits all brand of punishment

C. “Tony, you really know how to spread holiday cheer” … “How about a BAH HUMBUG”

D. But do your best to imagine a death that brings an eternal separation from God

1. No basic needs met

2. No majestic mountain peaks, powerful ocean’s waves, gorgeous sunsets

3. No joy of a baby’s laugh, no warmth of a family’s love

4. No hope when life goes sour – we are in a permanent curdle

5. No song for our hearts

6. No praise on our tongues

G. Hard to grasp – we’re Americans … we pretty much have everything

1. People are suffering terrible things around the world, but not us

2. We can hardly imagine in this life what awaits the condemned in the next life

H. But let that sink in – WE’RE DOOMED!

II. (After OUR DESPERATE CONDITION) GOD’S GREAT COMPASSION

A. Rom. 6:23b - but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

B. Movie opening Christmas Day – “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand

1. Louie Zapperini … Juvenile delinquent, Olympic runner, WW II bombardier, record-breaking plane

crash survivor at sea, POW in Japan

2. Life for Louie and fellow prisoners, a living hell

3. Clung precariously to life and hope

4. First, stolen glances at newspapers and war’s progress

5. Second, high level American aircraft, flying overhead

6. Third, American bombing raids on Japan

7. Still hope was tempered by “Kill All” policy

8. Fourth, POW camp abandoned by Japanese guards

9. Fifth, air drops of food and supplies that were so great, had to signal to stop the drops

10. Eventually, full freedom and the trip back home

C. In our world, rumors begin to spread among the condemned

1. “There is a way out”

2. “They say help is on the way”

3. “And help is named Christ Jesus”

4. “They say the “kill all” policy will be overturned”


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