Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth! Amen.
In the name of Christ, the Lord, dear recipients of God’s grace;
Chanticleer and the Fox, is a story from Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. It’s a tale about a Rooster (Chanticleer) who struts about the barnyard and is duped by a fox into crowing. When he pride-fully demonstrates his beautiful crowing voice, the fox grabs him by the throat and runs off. With a little quick thinking Chanticleer appeals to the fox’s pride and escapes. This story about pride coming before the fall and how each of us is vulnerable to our own pride is a good story for the faithful who have parked their backsides in a pew for the third day in a row. Our pride may be getting the best of us this morning – look at us, strutting around like proud roosters, thinking God out to be pleased as punch with us! Let us not forget about the clever cunning of our enemy the devil, who prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Let us focus on the reason for the season – Christ, the Savior is born! Set aside your pride and consider the humble service our Savior has rendered to us. We find the joy of salvation, not in ourselves, but in Jesus. So under the Spirit’s guidance this morning we consider: God’s Christmas Gift to you!
God’s Christmas gift to you is the gift of redemption. That is what we call the work of Christ. It is Christ’s work of ransoming all people from the slavery of sin, death, and the devil by paying the price of his blood, suffering, and death. The source of our Christmas joy is truly all the work that Christ has done for us and for our salvation. We have the blessing of looking from the manger to the wilderness where Jesus stood up to the devil’s myriad of temptations and defeated him for us. We have the blessing of looking from the town of Bethlehem to the crest of the hill called “Golgotha” where Christ defeated the devil by dying in our place. Paul focuses our Christmas celebration on the work of the Christ who took on human flesh and came as our substitute. Paul reminds us that the work of our salvation is Christ’s work alone. In other words, he did it all. Salvation is his gift to give.
Paul writes, But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law … Jesus became human to serve as our substitute, to do for us what we could not do for ourselves – live a perfect life under the demands of God’s Law. Recall that the Law states, “Be holy … be perfect…” There is no wiggle room in the law – if a man keeps the whole law, yet stumbles at just one point, he is guilty of breaking all of it. We have no reason to be filled with pride in ourselves. When it comes to earning God’s favor there is only one true statement – we can’t do it, no matter how hard we might try. We stand guilty before God. We stand condemned. Eternal death is our lot, it’s what we have earned for ourselves. This is why we need God’s gift of redemption. Christ has earned God’s favor for us. In Christ, we stand before God declared not guilty. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus …” While we have earned eternal death, our gracious God gives us eternal life through Jesus. It is his Christmas gift to you!
God’s Christmas gift to us is also something that flows from redemption. Paul goes on to write, that we might receive the full rights as sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir. This is the gift of adoption. We have received the full rights of sons. We have been adopted to be God’s own sons, his own children, those who inherit the gift of eternal life from him. What a great gift of God’s grace that we who have only earned condemnation for ourselves should receive the status as God’s own children and heirs of eternal life! This underscores once again the grace of God. It shows clearly that salvation is all God’s doing, all God’s gift – not our earning or deciding. We receive the greatest Christmas gift as Christ came to save us from sin’s slavery. We are not slaves, forced to do what is pleasing to God. No our whole demeanor and outlook has changed from the sinful have to, to the grace of God encouraged – want-to! What a change God’s Christmas gift makes for us!
Think of it! You are an heir of eternal life! Yes, heaven is your home! Yes, Jesus has gone to prepare a place for you and he is coming back to get you so that you will be where he is! Yes, death is only a sleep from which you will awake to the glories of heaven! Not only did heaven open and the angels sing of Jesus’ birth to those shepherds out in the fields, heaven is opened to you and to me – because Jesus has earned it for us.
With each passing Christmas we have the opportunity and the gracious privilege to grow in our appreciation for God’s gift of his Son – the original Christmas gift. I don’t think I really began to appreciate Christmas gifts until I started shopping for them. There is a whole lot of thinking and contemplation that goes into getting a gift that is just right – just what a person wanted our needed. That’s not to mention the time and the expense. Now stop for a second and think about the thinking and contemplation, the time, and the expense that went into God’s Christmas gift to you! God had the perfect plan to deliver us from the devil. God had it timed out just perfectly – when the time was just right, at the perfect time – God had it all planned out, down to the smallest details. Think of the expense – God did not spare his own Son, but graciously gave him up for us! Your redemption and adoption cost God dearly, his one and only Son. Your redemption and adoption cost Jesus dearly – his holy, precious blood and his innocent suffering and death. This is how much your God loves you! Appreciate this great and gracious gift God has given you! You are his own dearly loved child who is an heir of eternal life and who has the privilege of prayer.
Dear friends, we have much to crow about. None of it is about us or about what we have done. We dare not call out in pride to call attention to ourselves. We rather clearly cry out the great things God has done for us! We praise him in song and prayer. We honor him in word and deed. We worship him with lives of willing service. We thank him as we proclaim his love for sinners with a clear voice. We are truly blessed to celebrate once again all that our gracious God has done for us and for our salvation. For a moment each day the whole year through, let us contemplate the great, eternal love our gracious God has for us. Let us respond to his love with a life of love and service to others! Thank you God for your Christmas gift – for Jesus! Amen.