Summary: A proclamation of God's incredible gift of love and the invitation to unwrap it.

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[Title Slide] One of the greatest stories I have ever come across is the story of the father and son Dick and Rick Hoyt. Rick, was born in 1962 with severe cerebral palsy and would be unable to walk or care for himself. It was a trying time for the family. At the age of 15 he communicated to his dad that he wanted to race in a five mile benefit for a Lacrosse player who had been paralyzed in an accident. So his dad created a special wheel chair that would allow him push Ricky throughout the race. Later that night after the race he told his father, “Dad, when I’m running it feels like I’m not handicapped.” Thirty years later the father and son are still racing together as Team Hoyt.

I remember the first time I heard their story. They were in the Ironman Triathlon that takes place in Hawaii. It is one of the world’s most demanding endurance races. It begins with a 2.4 mile swim in the ocean, followed by cycling 112 topping it al off with a 26.2 mile run. The scene was an aerial view from a helicopter over the water where hundreds of athletes were swimming. The camera shot changes to someone in a boat among the swimmers following a swimmer for a few yards and then panning back to catch the next one. Eventually the camera locks in on a slow swimmer with others passing him by. You could tell he was laboring as if pulling a heavy weight. As he swam by the camera a rope appeared off of his back as if he was pulling something. And then the front of an inflatable life raft creeps into view and there lying in the back is his son Rick with his head cropped up on the back edge. His father pulled him 2.4 miles in the water, picked him up at the beach and carried him to a waiting bike where he placed him in a special seat on the front and road 112 miles. Hours later and exhausted, Dick lifts his son out of the bike seat and places him in a specially designed wheel chair and sets off for their 26.2 miles across the finish line.

The love this father demonstrates for his child reminds me of the love of Another that is even more inspiring, redeeming and transforming.

[S] John 3.16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

[S] “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” - Romans 8.31-39 [S]

The Word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God.

Today, we have just unwrapped the second unbreakable gift of Christmas, the gift of God’s love.

Have you ever wondered if God really loves you? Have you ever thought that God has turned his back on you for good? Have you ever speculated that God couldn’t or wouldn’t love you because of something you said or did or didn’t do? Have you ever doubted God’s love for you because you’ve let God and others down too many times or because you’re going through a tough time?

Well, you’re not alone. So did some of the Christ followers in Rome who were facing a difficult time. Life wasn’t as smooth sailing as they thought it would be as a faithful Christian. They assumed that if they were faithful to Jesus then life would be characterized by the absence of conflict, tension or difficult times. And it was anything but. And so some of them began to question whether or not they had fallen out of God’s favor. After all, if God loved them he wouldn’t let them experience persecution like this would he?

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