A Gift Ready To Be Received

John 1:12-14

December 24, 2002 | Brian Bill

A little girl is sitting on her grandpa’s lap rattling off her long Christmas list.  The grandfather recognized that this was “a teachable moment,” and so he said, “Honey, it’s more blessed to give than it is to receive.”  To which the granddaughter replied, “I know that, Grandpa, but receiving is good enough for me.”

What are you hoping to receive this Christmas?  American Express did a survey recently and found that 31% of people said that receiving a “fruitcake” would be the worst gift of all.  In fact, more people indicated that given a choice between a fruitcake and receiving nothing at all, they would choose “nothing.”  The survey then went on to find out how people get rid of a gift that they don’t want.

  • 30% hide it in a closet
  • 21% return it
  • 19% give it to someone else

One of the best ways to get rid of a gift you don’t want is to have a white elephant exchange.  That’s what we did at our staff Christmas party. Gifts ranged from a broken toilet seat to casserole dishes that had never been used.  People were often speechless when they opened their gifts.  It was fun to be able to give away the junk that we had stored in our basement.  The only problem is that we went home with other people’s trash!

I’d like to suggest tonight that the all-time best gift that has ever been given is Jesus Christ.  And, once you open this gift, you will never want to return it, and you will never be the same!  The Apostle Paul, when gazing at the gift that was given to him, said in 2 Corinthians 9:15: “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” Paul, who was never at a loss for words as one of the best communicators of all time, when pondering the present he had received, could only say, “I can’t describe Him.  All I can do is fall on my knees and thank God for His inexpressible gift.”

Some of you have received this gift and like Paul, you can’t even put into words how much He means to you.  Some of you have come close to opening the gift of Christ.  Maybe you’ve accepted Him but have been trying to hide Him somewhere.

As we’ve learned the last two weeks, God came near in the person of His Son.  The baby in Mary’s womb is Immanuel, God incarnate, born to be with us.  He revealed His plan to Mary and she responded with, “May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38).   Joseph struggled to figure out his part in God’s drama, but eventually “…did what the Lord had commanded Him and took Mary home as his wife” (Matthew 1:24).  Christmas always comes with a choice.  Mary and Joseph chose to respond and receive the greatest gift of all time.  Will you do the same this Christmas?

Let’s go back right now and see how this gift of grace was both given and received as I read Luke 2:1-20 from the New Living Translation.

[Read Luke 2:1-20]

In commenting on the crux of Christmas, Max Lucado captures the indescribable incarnation in his book, God Came Near, when he wrote this: “That particular moment was like none other.  For through that segment of time a spectacular thing occurred.  God became a man.  While the creatures of earth walked unaware, divinity arrived.  Heaven opened herself up and placed her most precious one in a human womb.  The omnipotent, in one instant, made Himself breakable.  He, who had been a spirit, now was pierce able.  He who was larger than the universe became an embryo.  And He who sustains the world with a word, chose to be dependent upon the nourishment of a young girl.  God as a fetus.  Holiness sleeping in a womb.  The creator of life being created.  God was given eyebrows, elbows, two kidneys and a spleen.  He stretched against the walls and floated in the amniotic fluids of His mother.  God had come near.”  

The Greatest Presence of All

The greatest present is the presence of Christ

I hope many of you read the excellent article that Pastor Jeff wrote in last Saturday’s Daily Leader.  I really liked how he ended it when he referred to Jesus as the greatest “presence” of all.  That sums up what Immanuel really means.  The greatest present is the presence of Christ.  This involves three things.

1. The gift is Jesus Christ Himself. 

With all the other trappings of the season, we must never forget the Christ of Christmas.  While it’s become a cliché, Jesus is the reason for the season.

John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…”  

John 4:10: “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

Romans 5:15: “For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!”

2. This gift has great value. 

Alan Perkins puts it this way: “Although there is truly nothing more desirable than knowing Christ, many people just can’t see it.  Their eyes haven’t been opened.  They look into the manger, and they don’t see a king.  They don’t see the Savior of the World.  They don’t see “the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace…”  All they can see is an ordinary human being.  And so, they pass by the child in the manger and instead seek after the presents.  Which do you value more, the toys and trinkets of this life that will all eventually crumble into dust, or a relationship with Jesus Christ that will last forever?” 

For some reason, many people refuse to accept God’s gift.  We gain insight into this from Mary as she contemplated the baby swaddled in her arms.  She was so filled with thankfulness that she burst into a psalm of praise in Luke 1:46-48: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.” As she praised God, she also recognized that not everyone would be so thankful for the gift.  She opened her arms and her hands to accept what God wanted to give her.  Sadly, there are others, maybe even some of you here tonight, who have their hands closed, refusing to receive the gift with their name on it.

Dr. Bruce Emmert suggests three types of people who close themselves off from the Christ of Christmas:

  • The proud.  In verse 51, we read, “He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.”  Imagine if you will, the proud who have their arms folded across their chests, their hearts closed to anything that God wants to give them [Demonstrate].
  • The powerful.  There are others who consider themselves too self-sufficient to need a Savior.  In verse 52, Mary sang, “He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.” The powerful raise their hands in a fist of independence, refusing to surrender [Demonstrate].
  • The pacified.  This third group has a difficult time receiving the gift of God because they are too comfortable to need Him.  Mary’s song continues in verse 53: “He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.” If you’re full, food doesn’t look very good.  If you’re warm, you don’t need a coat.  If you feel like you have everything you need, then God’s love will mean very little.  If your hands are busy patting your tummy, then your hands can’t reach out and accept the bread of heaven [Demonstrate].

Do any of these categories describe you tonight?  You won’t accept God’s gift if your hands are folded across your chest in pride.  You can’t receive God’s mercy if your hands are clenched in power.  And you certainly won’t want God’s grace if your hands are rubbing your stomach.  

You can only receive a gift when your hands are open.  If you’re proud tonight, get rid of your pompousness.  If you think you’re powerful, it’s time to lose all pretenses.  If you’re pacified, maybe you need to lose some of your perks.

That leads to the third truth.  

  1. The greatest gift is Jesus. 
  2. This gift has great value.
  3. This gift must be received.  Friend, you can only receive God’s love when you reach out to Him with arms and hands open wide.  While this seems easy to understand, there are at least two ways some of us get sidetracked.  
  • We can’t earn this gift.  No matter how many times we may hear that the gift of salvation is free, some of us continue to try to perform or earn our way to heaven.  Remember, if you have to somehow earn something, it’s not a gift; it’s a wage.  The Bible says that the only thing we can earn as a result of our efforts is death.  Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death…”  I’m thankful that this verse doesn’t end there.  Our salary may be separation from God, “… but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Ephesians 2:8-9 is a wonderful passage that God can use to release us from the tyranny of trying to trot on the treadmill of good works: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.”
  • We can’t buy this gift.  Not only can we never earn God’s gift, we can’t buy it either.  Salvation is not for sale because the price has already been paid.  During the Spanish-American War, Clara Barton was overseeing the work of the Red Cross in Cuba.  One day Colonel Theodore Roosevelt came to her, wanting to buy food for his wounded soldiers.  But she refused to sell him any.  Roosevelt was perplexed and a bit angry.  His men needed the help and he was prepared to pay for it out of his own funds.  When he asked someone why he couldn’t buy what he needed, he was told, “Colonel, just ask for it!”  A smile broke over his face as he suddenly realized that the provisions were not for sale.  All he had to do was simply ask and they would be given freely to him.

Friend, have you ever received Jesus Christ?  He is all the provision you will ever need.  Jesus is offering Himself to you as a gift.  You’ve done nothing to deserve Him and you certainly could never afford Him.  He offers Himself to you because He loves you.  Christmas ultimately comes down to a choice.  Will you receive Him?  Will you accept what He did for you on the Cross, when He died in your place, paying the full penalty for your sins as He exchanged His life for yours?  Or, are you too prideful or too powerful, or too pacified?  

The gift of Christmas is free but it’s not cheap.  It cost God the death of his one-and-only Son.  Salvation is available to anyone and everyone who wants it.  John 1:12 sums up the ultimate Christmas choice: “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” 

to “receive” Christ means to welcome him as an honored guest and to have him make your heart his home

To “receive” means to welcome a visitor into your home.  It’s what happens when someone knocks at your door and you open the door and invite him or her to come in.  To “receive” Christ means to welcome him as an honored guest and to have him make your heart his home.  In a real sense, if you have never invited Jesus into your life, He is still on the outside.  Though Revelation 3:20 is written to believers who are out of fellowship with Christ, the image is helpful for anyone who has not yet opened the door of their life to Him: “ Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”

John 1:13 teaches us that salvation does not run automatically from one generation to another: “Children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”  You aren’t a Christian just because your parents are. And you won’t get brownie points with God just because you come from a good family and have a fine education.  You can’t save yourself by human effort so don’t bother trying.  The heart of the gospel is in the short phrase “born of God.”  Salvation is of the Lord and it’s a free gift.  

In John 1:14, we see that God’s final word was Jesus: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  

He spoke the Incarnation and then so was born the Son.
His final word was Jesus, He needed no other one.
Spoke flesh and blood so He could bleed and make a way Divine.
And so was born the baby who would die to make it mine. 

A Gift With Your Name On It

That person in the front row has a present for me.  It’s got my name on it.  It’s been wrapped for me.  What do I have to do to make it mine?   I have to take it.  I have to put my arms out and receive it.  And then I must open it.

  • If I have arms crossed on my chest in a posture of pride, I’ll never commit to Christ.  
  • If my fist is up in the air reflecting a powerful persona, I’ll snub the Savior.  
  • And, if I’m rubbing my gut, with all my needs pacified, I won’t even notice God’s gift. 

I can tell you this.  You will never truly enjoy Christmas, and experience all that life is intended to be, until you can look in the Father’s face and tell him that you have received his Christmas gift to you.  

There’s nothing I can do to earn this gift, and there’s nothing I can do to pay for it.  If you’re trying to earn it, you haven’t received it.  If you’re trying to buy it, you haven’t received it.  The only choice you have is to refuse it and lose it, or to choose it and find what you’ve been searching for.

If you’ve never received Christ, don’t leave the gift of God’s grace unopened.  And if you’re a believer, don’t relegate Him to the far recesses of your life like Christmas decorations to be pulled out only once a year.  

I’d like to close by giving you an invitation to a birthday party.

You are cordially invited to A BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION!

Guest of Honor: Jesus Christ

Date: Traditionally, December 25th, but He’s always around, so the date is flexible…

Time: Whenever you’re ready.

Place: In your heart…He’ll meet you there. (You’ll hear Him knock.)

Attire: Come as you are…

Tickets: Admission is free.  He’s already paid for everyone.  He says you wouldn’t be able to afford it anyway.  It cost Him everything He had.

Gift Suggestions: Your life.  

R.S.V.PIf you want what He has to offer, you must respond.  Do it soon…before it’s too late.  

We’d like to end our service tonight by singing the song, “Silent Night, Holy Night.”  As we sing together, I encourage you to receive what Jesus has for you by putting your full faith and total trust in Him.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?