Banter with students about their families’ Christmas traditions, fun things they do, what they eat, how they decorate the tree, etc.
I’ve noticed a common thread running through most of your comments about Christmas traditions: relationships and gifts. It’s interesting because these are ideas I’d like to share with you this afternoon-one particular relationship and one particular gift. How many of you like to receive and give gifts? I do! Let’s just take a minute to go over some of the ingredients of gift giving. First, there must be someone who does the giving. Second, there’s something to be given, And, third, there must be someone to accept or receive the gift. Now let’s look at the characteristics of each: The giver gives to express love or care. He usually gives with some sacrifice or cost to himself. Second, the gift is something given for a particular purpose, to fulfill a need.
The gift is free, unearned, undeserved, and unconditional. There are no strings attached-it’s just given. Third, the recipient must accept the gift, thus claiming it as his own possession. [Offer some small gifts to students, reiterating the idea that a gift must be accepted.] The particular gift that I’d like to talk about today has had your name on it for a long time-2000 years. It was given just for you, because you are greatly loved. That gift is Jesus Christ. He was sent to earth as a baby, grew to be a man and died on the cross because God loves you and me. But why did God send this special gift? What was the purpose of the gift?
In the beginning, God created man and woman to have an intimate, loving relationship with Him. He created man and woman in His own image and loved them. But as you know, Adam and Eve disobeyed the one rule that God set down-and as a result sin entered the world. Sin is anything that separates us from God. Because of their sin, Adam and Eve’s relationship with God was damaged and broken. But God never stopped loving them. From that time on, God has longed to restore that healthy, intimate, loving relationship with man-for us to be reconciled to Him. You and I are separated and prevented from having that relationship with God because of our sin. But again, God still loves you and me.
God had a plan to restore us back to relationship with Him. In the Bible we read, “For God so loved the world [you and me] that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” God gave us a gift, His only Son, Jesus Christ, because He loves you and me, and because He sees our greatest and deepest need: the need to have an intimate, loving relationship with Him, to be reconciled to Him. [pause]
Lets check what I’ve said about the giver and the gift with my earlier comments:
- First the giver, God, gave you and me a gift. It was given with the greatest amount of love and the greatest amount of sacrifice.
- Second, the gift, Jesus Christ, has a purpose. That is to restore our broken relationship with God and assure us of eternal life. He is free. He cannot be earned or deserved, no matter how many “good deeds” we may do. And He will never be withheld from us, no matter how much we may have sinned. He comes with no strings attached.
- Third, what about the recipient? That’s you! You can read the Christmas story, sing the carols, go to church, participate 100% in the religious celebration of Christmas, but the gift of Jesus Christ will only be yours when and if you accept Him, possess Him and claim Him as your own Savior. Then, and only then, will you have that personal relationship with God.
What I discovered is that Christianity is not a religion-what church you go to, what prayers you say or which holy days you celebrate-Christianity is a personal relationship between GOD-Jesus Christ-and you. This gift has been “under your tree” every day of your life, waiting to be opened and accepted. Jesus Christ will wait for you to accept Him. He says: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him and he with Me.” Jesus will never force Himself upon you. You exercise your free will in accepting Him or not.
Let me illustrate with this simple example. I brought a gift with me today. Here it is all wrapped up. It may look like one you have under your tree. I would like to give it to one of you. There are no strings attached. All I need is someone here who will accept it. Would anyone like it? [Someone accepts it.] The gift is now yours. But before it became yours, what did you have to do? [accept it] My illustration breaks down somewhat since I don’t have enough gifts for everyone. I only brought one. But this does illustrate what God has done. He has offered us a free gift. All we must do is accept it. I want to make something else very clear here. The Bible tells us that God will never force us to receive His gift. The decision is always ours. There is a verse that says, “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come in . . .”
Today Christ is in one of two places: He is either in your heart and life, because at some time in your life you received His gift of love and forgiveness; or He is at your heart’s door right now. If you’ve never accepted this gift or aren’t sure if you have, I am going to pray in a moment, and I’d like you to pray with me in your heart. “Jesus, I thank You that You are God’s gift to me. I want to open my heart and life to You and accept the gift of eternal life that You so freely give. Thank You so much for loving me. Amen.”