On this Christmas morning, I want to remind you again that grace and peace are always for you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ, who is born for you. Amen.
For the past month or so, I’ve been asking my grandchildren, “What do you want for Christmas?” I can assure you, they are not shy about telling papa what they hope to receive Christmas Day. They keep me well informed. This begs the question, Did you receive what you wanted for Christmas?
Here is what I want you to know: God has given us exactly what we need in Jesus. God has given us exactly what we need in Jesus. A poem on a Christmas card said it this way:
“If our greatest need was for information, God would have sent an educator.
If our greatest need was for technology, God would have sent a scientist.
If our greatest need was for pleasure, God would have sent an entertainer.
If our greatest need was for money, God would have sent an economist.
But since our greatest need is forgiveness, God sent us a Savior.”
Dr. Carl Braataen, a teacher, theologian, and author, wrote this in his book, Stewards of the Mysteries: “Jesus gave us a new and paradoxical definition of God. A definition of the humility of God. Many people were offended. They wanted a God of glory – not entering the world at the bottom, not from a despised place like Nazareth in Galilee. He must come in from the top. He must be properly introduced by the right people with the appropriate protocol. Instead, the people got a man from Nazareth. He was only prepared to give them a message on the humility of God, of the identification of God, with the people and the things that don’t count very much in this world. He carried His message of God to the extreme, driving the humility of God all the way to the cross.” Perhaps people see in Jesus not what they want, but Jesus is exactly what we need!
First, Jesus is the light of new life. An artist whose specialty was as a sculptor, began work on a statue. Day after day he went into his art studio carving, chiseling. He poured himself into his creation, and slowly it took shape. Finally, he was finished. As he stepped back, he was very pleased with his creation. It was the best work of his life!
But a few weeks later, someone broke into his art studio and pushed over his creation. The statue smashed on the floor and broke apart. When the artist returned to his studio, he was heartbroken. He had no choice but to start over again.
As we read chapter 1 of John’s Gospel of the Word becoming flesh, the Word creating all things by the power of His Word, we are reminded of this image: God has created all things. But now that creation is broken, Jesus is the Word who comes to recreate all things and make them new.
Jesus is the light that shines in the darkness. John says the darkness cannot comprehend it. It cannot fully grasp it. It cannot understand. The darkness cannot swallow or overcome the light. Simply lighting a little candle in the dark room dispels the darkness.
The light shows us the truth of our hearts, but the light of Jesus also provides the way out of our darkness. You can turn on the lights in a warehouse and see rats scurry. Here is a moment where ignorance is not bliss. When Jesus shines the light into my human heart and shows me my flaws, my imperfections, my shadowy self, my sinfulness, it’s not good news and it’s not pretty. Ignorance is not bliss. My flaws are revealed to me by One who is willing to come into my darkness and clean it up. Jesus is the light shining into my heart. He illumines my house and makes me new.
Imagine that you and I were in an underground cave and suddenly our light went out. Instead of turning on our flashlight, we chose to stumble around in the dark. We fall and get hurt. We can’t find our way out of the darkness and are trapped. How much better to light one candle than curse the darkness.
Jesus is the light God shines into our darkness to invite us into His marvelous light and life.
Second, Jesus also calls to us this Christmas morning as the One with the authority for us to become children of God. Jesus is the One who grants us the privilege of becoming part of God’s family. He gives us His name. Romans 8:32 tells us, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – will he not also, with him, graciously give us all things?”
Max Lucado, in his book, In the Grip of Grace, writes, “Suppose a man comes upon a child beaten by thugs. He dashes into the mob, rescues the boy, and carries him to the hospital. The youngster is nursed to health. The man pays for the child’s treatment. He learns the child is an orphan, so he adopts him as his own and gives the boy his name.
“Then one night, months later, the father hears his son sobbing into his pillow. He goes into him and asks about the tears. ‘I’m worried, daddy. I’m worried about tomorrow. Where will I get food to eat? How am I going to buy clothes to stay warm, and how will I sleep?’
“The father is rightfully troubled. ‘Haven’t I shown you? Don’t you understand? I risked my life to save you. I gave my money to treat you. You bear my name. I’ve called you my son.’”
In the gift of Jesus, born for us, the One who made heaven and earth invites us to know that He has welcomed us into His family. We belong to Him. We can trust that we are loved by God, and Jesus is our brother. The glory of Christmas is “God is for us, so who could stand against us. He did not spare His own Son, but gave Him for us all, and He’ll freely with him give us all things” (Rom. 8:31-32).
Third, the Christmas message tells us we receive grace upon grace. It washes over us like the waves of an ocean.
Psychologists tell us people bear two prominent emotional scars in life: the wound of abandonment and the wound of violated trust. Again in Romans Paul writes, “Can anything separate us from the love Christ has for us?” (8:35) This is where doubt creeps in. We want to know how long God will love us. Will He really love us forever, not just on those Sundays when I dress up and go to church with my shoes shined and my hair washed? How does God feel about me when I’ve been a jerk, not just when I am lively and positive and ready to tackle world hunger? Not then. I know how God feels about me then. Even I like myself then. I want to know how God feels about me when I snap at anything that moves, when my thoughts descend to gutter level, when my tongue is sharp enough to slice a rock. How does God feel about me then? That is my concern!
Did I cross the line I can’t come back from last Tuesday when I drank vodka till I couldn’t walk? Last Thursday, when my business took me where I had no business being. Last summer when I cursed God as I stood near the grave of the child He gave me. Did I drift too far? Have I waited too long? Have I fallen too much? Can anything separate us from the love of Christ?
The answer is emphatically nothing! Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ. As the angels proclaimed to the shepherds, “For to you is born a Savior, Christ the Lord.” Or as John writes, “Of his fullness, we have all received grace upon grace.”
Fourth, as we consider Jesus was born for us, we realize that this grace is not just some philosophy or some schmoozy concept. It is the Word became flesh. God who is everywhere present, who sometimes is mysteriously invisible and silent, who feels to us unattainable, unreachable, inaccessible, now has chosen to avail Himself to us in His Son, the baby Jesus. In a tangible way, this baby is God’s expression of love to us. He is the Word become flesh.
And the mission of the baby, God’s Son, took Him all the way to the cross. Never does God say, Well, I’ll forgive you this time but you better not do it again or else. Instead, in the name of Jesus, it says we have received from Him grace upon grace, and every time I fail, Jesus my Savior reminds me that is why He went to the cross.
If I were in a car dealership and I told the salespeople I wanted a free car, they would laugh me out of the show room. However, if I have an authorized letter from the owner of the dealership promising me a free car, I’d drive away with a new vehicle! Why? Because in faith, I would be claiming the authority and the power of the owner. I would be claiming the owner’s promise.
Johnny was a boy who couldn’t hit the side of a barn with his slingshot if he was inside it. One day, as he was shooting rocks out in the farmyard, he aimed at his grandma’s duck. Low and behold, he hit it and killed it dead.
In a panic, he looked every direction, then hid the dead duck in the woodpile. The only problem was his sister, Sally, was watching, and she used the secret of the pet duck to manipulate and control Johnny. She had him do all her chores, and she picked on him mercilessly. If Johnny got mad, she would just say, “Remember the duck.”
Finally, Johnny realized that facing his punishment was better than a lifetime of enslavement to his sister and the fear of discovery. So Johnny confessed his misdeed to his grandma. “I know,” she said as she hugged him. “I was at the window when you shot my duck. I saw you, and I forgave you immediately. I wondered how long you were going to let Sally make a slave of you.”
For to you is born this day a Savior, Christ the Lord. How long would you stay in the dark? How long would you live in your guilt? How long would you allow the fear of the discovery of all you’ve done prevent you from rejoicing in being a part of the family of God?
Jesus is born for you. I encourage you in faith to pick up the Baby and receive Jesus into your arms. Invite Him into your heart and life with a simple prayer: Dear Jesus, I invite you to come into my life.
Second. Receive Him for the position He holds. He is Lord of the cosmos; He is Lord of time and eternity. Invite Him to be Lord of your life.
Third. Believe in the truth of who He is: the Son of God and our Savior.
Fourth. Receive Jesus by thanking God for what He has done for us by going to the cross, taking our sins upon Himself, and being raised from the dead to forgive us and give us eternal life.
Fifth. Welcome Jesus’ presence, and surrender to His Spirit within.
Sixth. Offer yourself each day in His service.
Seventh. Worship Jesus with great joy.
This Christmas, I want you to realize, no matter what you wanted for Christmas, God has already given you exactly what you need in the Baby who was born for you. Amen.
Pastor Lee Laaveg