"The Gift that Keeps on Giving"
Intro: Favorite Christmas memories (Christmas Breakfast, Family dinner, presents, the Christmas songs at church, The staying up for Santa, the wonder of what was to come…)
Over the past couple of decades, I have taken more and more notice that the season of Christmas has lost some of its wonder.
Not the wonder of the gifts perse, or families gathering, but the actual Christmas story itself.
It feels like all too often we get into the routine of the story that we almost try to rush it along so we can get to the “good stuff”.
In my opinion, taking the Christmas season in stride would be a tragic step. Its spirit and that alluring sense of supernatural goodness, are not just for children, but even for the grownups.
Especially for the grownups. It would be terribly sad to me that we ever get just plain used to Christmas.
Read Passage: Luke 2:1-20
1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 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. 8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Have you ever really evaluated the whole story? There is something so remarkable in that story that pagan astrologers took off on a long, arduous journey westward.
The intensity of a wicked king that commands the slaughter of innocents.
Something so unusual that blue-collar workers, who thought they’d seen it all, are filled with great fear, then leave their flocks in haste to find this newborn — and then can’t keep quiet.
“18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” (Luke 2:18).
This morning I won’t waste your time with some sort of whimsical thoughts about what Christmas should look like.
I believe that the Christmas story in and of itself takes care of all that we should need to know to make this day, that we will celebrate this month, worthy of such awe.
When we really peel back the layers of the story, we find more than just a baby lying in a manger.
We find that the Christ Jesus has come and indeed has come to take a hold of what His Father in Heaven bestowed upon him.
This morning we will identify four features that Christ took a hold of as He came into this world.
The first feature that we see claimed is ...
1. Jesus is Lord
This great first-century wonder, worth announcing with angelic host, and telling everyone who will listen, finds its heart in this:
“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11).
Not only is this the advent of the long-awaited Christ, the Messiah, the specially Anointed One of whom God’s people have ached and prophets declared, but this is “the Lord.” God himself.
Here, finally, after centuries of waiting, is the true Immanuel. Here is “God with us”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” —which means, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:22-23).
Its news was too spectacular to say all at once. It poured out through prophet after prophet and now day after day will pour forth from the life of this child.
Act after act will reveal piece by piece that this human somehow shares the divine identity of Yahweh, “the Lord” of Israel and the nations.
Page after page in the Gospels, story after story, will show us progressively more, that this one who is so manifestly man is also truly God.
This Word who “became flesh” (John 1:14) is one and the same Word who was in the beginning with God, and was God, and all things were made through him.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:1–3).
This is the great spectacle for those shepherds and magi, and it is the wonder we ourselves, who have lived our blessed lives knowing this truth, should aspire to taste again each Christmas.
But he is not just God with us; it gets better. He has come to rescue us. The second feature that we see claimed is ...
2. He is Savior
God is with us in this Christ, and it is no circus stunt for mere entertainment. This is no raw demonstration that the creator can be a human if he wants.
Rather, this marvel is for us, for our rescue from sin and all its pervasive effects, entanglements, and ruin.
“11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord,” heralds the angel (Luke 2:11). “You shall call his name Jesus,”the messenger says to Joseph, “for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
Jesus, Hebrew Yeshua, means “Yahweh saves.” This same God sent Moses as his instrument to save his people from Egypt.
He sent Joshua, and the judges, and the kings as his instruments of rescue at points in the past. And now he himself comes, and he comes to save.
But there is more yet to be said. It gets even better. The third feature that we see claimed is ...
3. This is Treasure
God himself arrives not only to save us from sin and death, but to rescue us to himself. Christ comes, and will pay the ultimate price in suffering and death,
For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit (1 Peter 3:18)
And then the psalmist wrote before his birth he would be our joy and delight (Psalm 43:4) at the bottom of this good news of great joy (Luke 2:10).
Thomas Goodwin wrote, all the benefits achieved by his life and death are all far inferior to the gift of his person, to us.
His person, His coming from Heaven for us is of infinite more worth than all else.
In other words, Jesus himself is the Great Joy that makes all the joys of our salvation so great. The risen Christ is the treasure hidden in the field.
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” (Matthew 13:44).
He is the pearl of great price.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:45–46).
Jesus is not just God with us, here to save us, but he himself is our greatest joy, the main Treasure, who will satisfy our human souls forever like only the Christ can.
This leads us to the fourth and final feature that we see claimed and that is that ...
4. Christ is the Glory
One of the things that does bother me about this season is that it seems to end so abruptly. But Christmas season’s end doesn’t terminate on our enjoyments.
The bearer is joined by the heavenly host: 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14).
Call it Christmas indulgence, if you will, it is the gift that keeps on giving.
The Joy he came to bring in his own person as the God-man is the joy that aligns with, and fulfills, the great purpose of all creation.
Christmas brings the electricity of joy that runs along the grid of all reality.
Thomas Goodwin went on to say: God’s “chief end was not to bring Christ into the world for us, but us for Christ. What it means is that Jesus is not just Lord and Savior, but also the Treasure.
This child of Christmas is more than Lord. He is even more than Savior.
He is our great Treasure, and in “our eternal enjoyment of him” is his glory and the end for which God created the world.
Christmas is not finally about his birth for our salvation, but our existence for his glory.
You were made for the Great Joy of Christmas.
And if you sit here today without the assurance of what it means to be a child of His grace then the greatest gift that you could ever receive sits before you this day.
It is the gift of salvation and it is yours for that taking.
From his birth in Bethlehem to his death on a cross, this Joy was great enough to be born in obscurity, be laid in a manger, and have no place to lay his head.
He would be rejected by his own people, delivered over by their authorities, and betrayed by his own friend.
But this Great Joy could not be extinguished. It cannot. It is too high, too long, too deep — even for death itself.
And our Great Joy is now with us to the end of the age, strengthening us in every fear, cheering us in every grief, holding us in all our suffering.
Until the day he unseats every sorrow, he promises, “No one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22).