I’m sure that if we’ve opened our presents already this morning, we’ll have opened some and been overjoyed, ‘This is just what I wanted!’ Other presents might have been a bit of a let down, ‘I’m not sure if I’ll even use this.’ We have some gifts we treasure, and some that get put away and forgotten about. At Christmas time, Christians remember and celebrate God’s greatest gift to us – his Son Jesus Christ.
Jesus isn’t a gift God intended to be put away and gather stoor. Rather, Jesus is the gift intended to be treasured and delighted in, welcomed and received gladly.
‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes would not perish but have eternal life.’ (John 3:16)
(a) For God so loved the world…
The source of God’s gift is God’s love for a lost humanity. What is the motivation for this love? God didn’t give his beloved Son out of a sense of duty.
God’s motivation in loving his people isn’t because they’re the obvious choice. In fact, motivation isn’t needed because he himself is love. When he sets his sights upon someone it is entirely because he is love because at the very core of who he is is love. He didn’t become more loving in order to love his people, he didn’t have to work really hard at it, it comes naturally to him. It comes naturally to God to love his people.
And what wonderful news that is for you and me. God doesn’t have to work up some emotional frenzy within himself to love us, he doesn’t have to try really hard to love us, he didn’t decide to love you one day as if there was a point where he didn’t love you. He doesn’t love you more when you obey him, he doesn’t love you less in your fight against sin, but he pours out that love freely, continuously, perfectly upon us.
God says through the prophet Jeremiah, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love.’ (Jeremiah 31:3) That is his love for his people, if you believe in Jesus and follow him that is his love towards you. That is the basis of his sending his only Son. That perfect love which is rich, is a forever kind of love that never began and will never end.
God so loved that world that… His love led him to action for us. His love isn’t theoretical or merely thought but action and it led to him giving his son.
The true meaning of Christmas is in these words. God gave his son. ‘He who did not spare his own son, but gave him up for us all.’ (Romans 8:32) God didn’t withhold his Son, but gave his Son. What love God has shown in giving his only Son. He didn’t give a special and holy human, he didn’t give an angel. He didn’t simply give a prophet or teacher, he didn’t simply give a king, or a lawmaker. No, God went to the extent of giving his Son.
As good a gift as anyone will have received this morning, it won’t be as good as God’s gift to us. Our gifts we receive might be time-limited such as food or a nice perfume but God’s gift in his Son Jesus is forever. Our gifts we receive might be something really practical and helpful, but God’s gift of his Son deals with our biggest need.
(b) Would not perish…
God’s giving of his son was for a reason. That we would not perish. The Bible teaches that humanity without God intervening, is on their way to an eternity in hell apart from him.
We do wrong towards each other, but ultimately that is symptomatic of being completely shut off towards God. The Bible uses really clear and dramatic language to explain this saying that we are ‘dead in our transgressions and sins.’
The Apostle Paul doesn’t mince his words in Ephesians 2, he puts it plainly; ‘You were dead in your transgressions and sins.’ Paul isn’t saying here, ‘You were just a little bit off’ or ‘You just needed a bit of a leg up.’ He is saying you are spiritually dead. If you’re going to have any chance of drawing near to God, it is God who is going to have to give spiritual life to you to raise you to spiritual life.
In the same way that a car is not powered in and of itself, it needs fuel in the tank if it’s going to come to life, so we need God’s Spirit to bring us to spiritual life. We are like a car without any fuel in the tank, powerless to go anywhere or do anything.
Jesus, similarly would say later on in John’s gospel, ‘Nobody can come to me unless the Father draws him.’ (John 6:44) The reality that the Bible presents us with is that the reason why life is so hard, why we get it wrong time and again, why others get it wrong towards us, is that we are dead in our transgressions and sins and we need God to put it right. And that is one reason God gave his Son, was that we would not perish. Jesus was not given as a cheeky bonus, but because we are, without Jesus, headed to an eternity apart from him.
Christians don’t just say that Jesus is the best gift at Christmas because it’s the ‘right’ thing to say or as a corny throwaway phrase, he really is. Without him we are headed to an eternity separated from God, perishing in our sin. At the coming of Jesus, God gave us the best gift. He dealt with our biggest problem.
Whilst we have trashed God’s law, disobeyed him, treated him with contempt, Jesus on the other hand came to earth to do his Father’s will. He obeyed God’s law fully, he honoured God with his whole life. Because he has obeyed God’s law perfectly, he has a righteousness we do not have, a goodness we don’t possess. He rescues us from perishing by giving us his righteousness with which to stand before God.
His obedience went all the way to the cross where he paid the punishment for our sins, enduring God’s wrath that we were due. Paul writes elsewhere in Galatians chapter 3: ‘Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. For it is written, ‘cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.’
Again, Paul in 2 Corinthians 5 writes; ‘God made Jesus who knew no sin to become sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God.’
Friends we have the greatest gift in Jesus who paid for our sins on the cross, who lived a perfect life that we might have his righteousness and escape condemnation.
(c) but have eternal life…
The Apostle Paul, again, in Romans 6:23 says, ‘The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ God gave his son, not simply so that we can be raised to a neutral status of neither death nor life and then we get ourselves into life. Rather, God gave his only Son so we wouldn’t perish, but also that we’d have eternal life.
That is his gift to us. A wage is something you earn and going off our previous, all we have earned is an eternity away from God. God’s gift however, not something we’ve earned, something he gives is eternal life in Jesus Christ.
Later on in Ephesians 2, after Paul has said we are dead in transgressions and sins, that the lights are on but nobody’s home, he says two very important words ‘but God…’ And that is the hinge on which salvation swings. As I said, we are like a car without fuel in. The car doesn’t top itself up with fuel, unless someone or something outside of itself puts the fuel in, the car will remain lifeless, so it is with us. Unless God intervenes, we will remain dead in sin which is why ‘but God’ is so important, why it is essential.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us made us alive with Christ. He gave us spiritual life in Christ waking us up to our need for him and giving us an inclination to follow him. This is what makes God the greatest giver and Jesus the greatest gift this Christmas time. God did what we could never do ourselves. He gave us spiritual life, he turned the lights on, he helped us see, he helped us to know him and treasure him.
The reality of this eternal life is not just taking care of right now but is taking care of our future. In the same way that without him we are headed to an eternity of lostness and perishing, so also with him we are headed to an eternity of life with God in endless joy and gladness. A place where there will be no weeping, mourning or tears. A place where suffering will be no more. A place where sin will be no more.
We don’t leave behind an eternity of perishing and walk into an eternity of everlasting life with God just by the merits of God sending Jesus. We don’t walk into it by accident. It requires that we believe in the one that God sent.
You might be the most religious person going. Attending church every week, helping out on various church rotas, doing charity work, being a pillar of the community but that’s not what God is interested in. What God is interested in is how we respond to Jesus.’ We are to believe in Jesus alone for our salvation. And the key word is ‘believe.’ We see it once in verse 16 and three times in verse 18.
Our belief in him is to consist in this: We are to put our full reliance upon Jesus and what he has done for us in his life, death, and resurrection for our salvation. That what he has done is sufficient to make us right with God.
So the question is, what will you do with Jesus this Christmas? How will you respond to him? God’s greatest gift? Without him we are all headed to a lost eternity, but with him, we are headed to eternal life with him. So what will you do with Jesus this Christmas? Will you believe in the One whom God has sent? Will you trust in God’s gift for us?
Don’t let Jesus be like a stocking filler this Christmas. A gift that you don’t really want, that isn’t really useful to you, that therefore goes neglected. Let Jesus be a treasured and prized gift. Jesus is the greatest gift for us because he was sent by God to do for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves. To save us from an eternity apart from God and to bring us into an eternity with him. So believe in Him. Let Him be your most treasured gift this Christmas. Let your hearts brim with thankfulness today and for the coming year for what he has done for you.
Do you believe in Jesus, God’s great gift, this Christmas? Is he your most treasured one? Is your heart full of thankfulness towards him? Let it not be the case this Christmas and this coming year that you are taken with the latest fad, that you’re captivated by lesser glories. Let Christ be number one this Christmas and this coming year.