Summary: The birth of Jesus Christ represents a gift of great value, but one which must be opened and received.
Christmas is a time of giving. And that means Christmas is a time of shopping. Ever since the wise men from the east showed up at the stable carrying gold, frankincense, and myrrh, people have been exchanging gifts at Christmas. Of course, it’s much more complicated today than it was for the wise men. For one thing, they didn’t have to contend with shopping malls, all packed full of parents going from store to store to store, desperately searching for a Nintendo Playstation 2. The magi didn’t have to worry about sizes, or colors, or return policies. There were no razor scooters in those days, no life-size Barbies, and definitely no robot dogs. Just plain old gold, frankincense and myrrh. [Insert personal illustrations of Christmas gifts gone bad]
Well, this year, just like every year, millions of people, both children and adults, will open millions of gifts. Some won’t fit. Some will be the wrong color. Many will be returned or exchanged. But there’s one gift that meets everyone’s need, one gift that will never wear out, never break or need repairing. A gift that is appropriate for a small child, or a teenager, or an adult, or a senior adult. Boy or girl, man or woman, it makes no difference. The gift we all need, the most valuable gift of all, is that baby in the manger. The one that this whole season is about. On Christmas, we celebrate the fact that God gave us the gift of His own Son, Jesus Christ, so that through faith in Him we could be forgiven of our sins and have eternal life.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16 (NIV)
This morning, I’d like to make three points about this gift, this incredible, priceless gift.
1. The gift is Jesus Christ himself
First, the gift is Jesus Christ himself. The gift God offers us is to know Christ. To know Him as a friend, to have fellowship with Him, to have a relationship with Him. The gift God offers us is to be known and loved by Christ.
[Jesus: ] “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” – John 15:15 (NIV)
“Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” – John 17:3 (NIV)
Let me ask you a question: Have you received this gift? Do you have this kind of relationship with Jesus Christ? Do you know Him as a friend? Is He someone you can talk with, confide in, seek counsel from? Do you feel at ease in His presence, like you would with a close friend, or do you feel like you have to rush around cleaning up your spiritual “house” before you can welcome him in? If the answer is “no,” if you don’t have this kind of relationship with Christ, the good news is that you can. All you have to do is ask. Come to him in prayer; confess your sins, ask His forgiveness, ask Him into your heart. That’s all you have to do.
Maybe you’ve never heard the Christian life described in this way before. Perhaps it sounds a little strange to talk about spending time with Jesus Christ, as if He were a flesh and blood person, someone you could see and hear and touch. Well, no it isn’t like that. We don’t claim to see visions or hear voices. But that doesn’t make our fellowship with him any less real. Christ is present with us. His Spirit lives in us. He speaks to us through the Bible. And we speak with him through prayer.
“We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” – 1 John 1:3 (NIV)
People sometimes think of Christianity as nothing but a set of burdensome responsibilities. Doing things you’d rather not do. Like going to church, when you’d rather be home reading the Sunday paper. Some people see the Christian life as a lot of rules, a lot of “do’s” and “don’ts” (mainly “don’ts”). Or if they view Christianity more positively, they might see it primarily in terms of the benefits it can bring – improved relationships; stronger marriages; guidance in raising children; emotional strength to deal with difficult circumstances. And that’s true, but even this misses the mark. The essence of Christianity isn’t rules, or “do’s and don’t’s”, or even blessings. The essence of Christianity is a relationship with Jesus Christ. Yes, the Christian life brings many benefits – joy, peace, hope. But they all come through Christ, they all flow from our relationship with Him.