Summary: Christmas Eve reflection on the gift of Jesus
So, it’s that time again. Each Christmas, we face the same endless round of activity - shopping, presents, cards, last minute shopping, last minute presents, last minute cards. There hardly appears to be enough time to think about material concerns let alone spiritual ones. Yet, is there really anything behind it all ? Is there a purpose to Christmas, or is it merely an excuse to have a few parties and be good to the children ? I believe that there is a purpose to Christmas and I thank my brothers and sisters for inviting me here today to share that.
Socially, we are in one of the most violent periods of our history. Domestically, family life is in crisis as over one third of all marriages in the West end in divorce and each year in the UK, over a hundred children die at the hands of their parents. Individually, many people have a growing sense of insignificance. Mother Theresa has said that "the greatest disease today is not starvation, but loneliness" . For many old people in our community, Christmas is far from a time of rejoicing, but hods deep fears for the future and painful memories of Christmas past. The simple sad fact is that for many families this Christmas, the strains of living together will become all that bit too much.
Yet, as we exchange our gifts or sing our Christmas carols, there is something which I believe we all need to hear once again. The old old story of Jesus and His love.
The heart of the human problem is the human heart itself. An ancient Jewish writer understood this when he wrote:
"Who can understand the human heart ? There is nothing else so deceitful. "
We were created in God’s likeness to live in the world and enjoy an intimate relationship with our Creator. But right from the start and down the pages of human history, we have shut God out of our lives with tragic results. War, strife and pollution - a whole panoply of problems which beset our world. We have put men on the moon, but cannot even conquer the selfish desires of our own hearts. Between God and man, we have put up a barrier, opened up a divide, which no man can cross. Because of this breakdown in communication, something or someone was needed to heal this divide. To fulfill that role, God Himself became man in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. As God looked upon the world he had created, what compassion there was. What love in all it’s purity. Despite the depths to which it had sunk, it was and is still God’s world.
At Christmas time we give gifts, because we love each other. God’s gift to the world was His Son. Why ? Because His love for us is so great that He cannot bear to see the way in which we have fallen. Through the gift of His Son, a free and willing gift, we have an opportunity to receive an even greater gift than anything that money can buy. The gift of eternal life. The Bible puts it like this:
"God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life."
We live proverbial three score years and ten. Doctors through the most wonderful modern technology can extend that for a few years, but in the end, we are born, live in haste and pass into eternity. To die is a fate, which awaits us all, even that Babe born in the manger, but to live for eternity with the God who made us is good news. The true meaning of Christmas is that the same Jesus Christ, who we see as a cute little baby in a sanitised stable, was the same Jesus Christ of the Easter Story. The same babe in the wooden manger is the same man nailed to a cross to die for us. The same babe, humble, meek and mild, is the same man, who was raised from the dead and who will return as King. As that carol puts it:
"Not in that poor lowly stable, with the oxen standing by. We shall see Him, but in heaven, set at God’s right hand on high."
The gifts that we exchange at this time of year are as nothing compared with the total self-giving love that God gives us every moment of our lives, if we follow Him. In the midst of trouble, His gift is peace. In the midst of sorrow, His gift is joy. In the midst of guilt, His gift is forgiveness. In the midst of sickness, His gift is health. In the midst of death, His gift is life. Yet, like any human gift, the love of God needs to be received. Imagine the reaction of our loved ones if they had spent all that they had on the most perfect gift that money could buy.....and we turned it down. God gives us not only His Son, but the free choice as to whether or not we choose to accept Him or not. The gift is there for us - it is up to us to decide whether we wish to receive it. We can enter into the most wonderful gift of all this Christmas, a real and personal relationship with God. I have known Jesus for seventeen years now and would not give my faith in Him up for anything. The gift I have found is ready - are you ready to receive it ?