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Unexpected Gift December 24, 2015

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
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John 1:1

Christmas Eve

December 24th, 2015

 

Focus:  God gave us the gift we needed most.

Function:  That the hearers humbly rejoice in the gift they so desperately needed.

Structure:  Sermon outline by Phill Tague as part of his Socks and Underwear Advent series.

 

Unexpected Gift

 

We’ve finally made it.  Christmas is finally here.  The excitement, the buildup, the anticipation that’s been going on since stores put out Christmas decorations in July.  It’s finally here.  Let the traditions begin.  Let the wonderful aroma of home-cooked family meals fill your homes.  Let the traveling, the celebrating, the gatherings commence.

Of course, if we polled the kids here tonight, asking them what they anticipate the most about Christmas, we know what the answer would be.  We know.  Gifts!  Presents, those shiny, glittery packages under the tree.  Thinking about what you want the most and trying to figure out if it fits the box shapes that you see.  Could my PS4 fit in that box there?  Maybe they hid a fashion playset in that round box over there.  Maybe he hid that necklace that I really wanted in that bag by the fireplace.  If we’re honest, it’s not just our kids that anticipate gifts at Christmas.

For me growing up, it was probably the Nintendo Gamecube.  I still have great memories of that machine, of the time I spent building up friendships by laughing and playing games.  What about you?  What’s the gift you remember wanting the most growing up?  Take a moment, turn to the person next to you and share that gift.

Pause

Now a few of you might have just told your neighbor what you want this year.  Still dropping hints here even at the last second.  And we do that throughout the year.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a new…  Wouldn’t the house look so much nicer if we just added…

But I would guess there’s no one here tonight that hasn’t been let down.  There’s no one here tonight who hasn’t opened up a present hoping for what they really wanted, and then when you’ve ripped off the paper and you pop open the box, short pause it’s socks and underwear.  It’s something you needed, but not really something you wanted.

I still remember when that happened to my dad.  It was a party, his family and his friends were there.  Coworkers, too.  We were celebrating, and it came time for gifts.  And my dad grabbed one from his sister.  He opened up it up, and to his surprise, it really was socks and underwear.  I still remember how embarrassed he was to have opened that gift in front of his coworkers.  He found it awkward.

I want to share with you a verse you know, John 3:16:  “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, so that, whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” Sometimes it’s the unexpected gift that matters most.  But other times, it’s the needed gift that we overlook.

God sent His Son Jesus Christ into this world, God gave the gift that mankind needed desperately more than anything else in the world.  And most people didn’t even notice.  This is one of the most crucial moments in all of history, in eternity, and billions of people could care less.

You know the Christmas account, we just read it from Luke 2.  But starting today, and going for the next few weeks, we want to give you a different perspective.  We want to look at what John had to say.

John begins his gospel by writing:  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  Now when the John says the Word, he means Jesus, he means Christ, he means the Son of God.  In the beginning, way back before the world was even created by God’s hands, Jesus was.  He was there.  This Christmas thing we celebrate tonight didn’t just happen two thousand years ago, God had already started this thing in motion.  Jesus was there.  He, alongside the Father and the Spirit, He created the world.

This is huge!  This Christmas we look at is huge!  Jesus, the Son of the living God, just became a human being, just took on flesh and chose to dwell among us.  As His creation, how could we not notice?!  How could we miss it?!  And yet, nearly everyone did.

Doesn’t it seem like it could have been planned better?  Like God could have announced it louder or something?  God’s been working on this for four thousand years.  Prophecy after prophecy, promises of a Savior who would come for us.  The people were waiting, had been waiting for generations for their Messiah.  But by the time He finally came, no one noticed.  They’d stopped waiting.

Just look at the details.  Mary and Joseph, really?  They’re just a poor couple.  In fact, they were so poor, they couldn’t even afford the sacrifice that the Old Testament required at the time of the birth of your firstborn son.  They couldn’t afford a lamb for the Lamb of God.

And there’s the journey.  A nine month pregnant woman riding across the desert on a donkey’s back, if they even had a donkey.  Some 70 or 80 miles they traveled to reach Bethlehem, perhaps by foot.  It didn’t look like the Hallmark card, that much is for certain.

And then there’s so many people in Bethlehem for this census, there’s no room for them, anywhere.  Couldn’t God have made a reservation?  And why was He born during the reign of an evil king?  King Herod was so corrupt he was even willing to kill his own family to keep his throne.  Add to that that these Magi thought it was smart to go to this wicked king and announce they’re looking for the new king of the Jews.

So then we get Luke 2:7: “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”  How do we reconcile that?  How to we fit the very Word of God, the Son of God who created this world, how do we fit Him into a feeding trough?  Into a manger?

For this to be more than just another holiday, another day off work, something we celebrate with family and friends, for this to be more, we have to recognize that God did all of this for a purpose.  And that purpose wasn’t comfort, so we could have nice things and a nice life.  That purpose was connection, a relationship.

See, we’d expect a king to be born into ideal circumstances.  We’d expect Him to be born to a wealthy family, living in a wonderful home, surrounded by loved ones.  We’d expect the leaders to be faithful to the Son of God, to come and kneel before this baby, recognizing Him as their Lord.

But instead, John tells us, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  Jesus takes on flesh.  The Son of God becomes one of us.  He comes down into this broken world not on a chariot of fire, but as an infant, a lowly child.  He comes down to us to have a relationship with us.  To connect with us.  To save us.

He comes down to live among us so that He can truly say to us, “I know what it’s like.  I know what you’re going through.  I’ve been there.  And I’ll be there for you.”  You think you’re poor?  You think you have family issues?  Jesus’ family thought He had gone insane and tried to stop His ministry.  Have your friends, the people you count on, failed you?  He was betrayed by a kiss.  Have your closest friends abandoned you in the worst possible moment?  Have you been taken advantage of?

Have you been accused of crimes you didn’t commit, tried and found guilty when you were innocent?  Christ has been there.  And He did it all the way to the cross, so that He could look down and say, “I’ve been there.  I’ve felt that.  And I’m with you.”

The author of Hebrews tells us, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

Christmas isn’t about comfort, it’s about connection.  It’s not about royalty, but humility.  The surprise isn’t that it was announced by angels, He’s the Son of God.  The surprise is who they announced it to.  The surprise isn’t really a virgin birth, He’s God.  It’s that it was a poor, uneducated, teenage girl in a small town.  That He was born in the shadow of Herod’s extravagant palace, within just three miles of royalty, He was born in a cave, in a manger.

We read from Paul in Philippians 2:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

 

For Christ, this is a thing of humility.  And in the midst of a time filled with wishlists and gift-giving, you and I need to see this.  To see God show us what humility is, as we learn from Matthew 20 that “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”  Christmas is about humility.

And Christmas was not about leading us, but about loving us.  He could have come however He wanted, with whatever theatrics of heaven He could think up.  But He came humbly in the way He chose so that we would know how far He was willing to go for us, so that we would know just how much He loves us.

As you finish preparing for your Christmas celebrations and gatherings, and even as you begin putting it all away, take the time to pause.  To truly see the nativity, to think of the unexpected gift.  See the stable, see and smell the animals.  See the Word of God, the Son of God take on flesh, wrapped in rags, lying in a feeding trough.  And as you think of that, know that He did it for all mankind.  Know that He came so He could look you in the eyes and say: “I know where you’re coming from.  I’ve been there.  And I still love you, and I will always love you.  I have come to offer you grace.  I have come to pay the price for you.  Your sins are forgiven.  You are loved and you are Mine.”  Merry Christmas!

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