Sermon for Sunday, December 17, 2017
The Greatest Gift
Text: John 3:16; Luke 2
This holiday season we celebrated what is called Christmas. This is a time when many religious people focus on the birth of Christ.
We do not have a special Christmas observance at church because we have no record of a special day being set aside for the observance of the birth of Christ. So we observe the birth of Christ at all times. But Christmas represents a time of giving and receiving.
What is the best Christmas gift you have ever received? Some gifts have value, or some meet a special need. Others have a sentimental value. For example, one of my granddaughters left her hand prints on the glass door of my office. I considered it a gift from her and left it there for sometime.
So, the ideal gift involves would be a gift of great value, a gift that came from someone we care about, and a gift that met a real need. Of course, this describes the gift that God has given to us, which is Jesus Christ (John 3:16).
1) God’s gift was preceded by elaborate preparation.
 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law…
God spent thousands of years in preparing the world for just the right time for the gift of his son.
It was the right time culturally. Not since the tower of Babel had there been a common language over such a large part of the world.
It was the right time politically. The Roman peace existed all over the world.
It was the right time religiously. Much of the world was ready for the concept of one God, as well as the idea of a religion that was different in kind from the pagan religions of the day.
It was the right time prophetically. All of the prophecies about Jesus came together with the birth and life of Jesus. About 700 years before Jesus, Micah the prophet said this:
 But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.
Bethlehem was a small and insignificant town in world at that time, but God had predicted 700 years before that Messiah Jesus would be born in this place.
 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.
 And everyone went to their own town to register.
 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
The emperor of Rome had no idea that his decree would help bring about a fulfillment in one of the prophecies about Jesus.
Notice the wrapping in which this gift came. Look at verses 6 and 7:
 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,  and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
The same is true today, most people miss the purpose of the coming of Jesus. Jesus came and died so that you may have the salvation from your sins. Joseph was told by the angel,
 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.
Many people do not fully understand why Jesus came into the world. They do not feel the need for salvation.
 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
2) God’s great gift is of the greatest value.
1 Peter 3:
 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.
Note the substitutionary purpose of the cross, it says “the righteous for the unrighteous.”
How does God forgive sins? There must be someone to pay the penalty for sin. The perfect justice of God demands that sin must not be overlooked. God’s holiness also demands that something be done about sin.
The Hebrew writer quotes the law when he says, “…for our ‘God is a consuming fire’” (Hebrews 12:29; Deuteronomy 4:24, “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire”).
God is also love, so he must have a way that sin can be punished and his love can be expressed (John 3:16).
Think of a modern day judge who let’s the guilty go free. When a guilty person is acquitted, the judge is condemned. We also do this today when we try to include as saved those whom God has not included.
The prophecy of the cross: The cross was first seen through Abraham. There was a promised birth of a son. It was a miracle birth because Sarah was beyond the age of childbearing. Through this son all the nations of the earth will be blessed.
Then one day God asked Abraham was asked to sacrifice his one and only son. But Abraham’s faith was great, and Hebrews 11:19 says that Abraham believed that God could raise him from the dead if necessary. Isaac asks, “Where is the sacrifice?” Abraham answers one of the great statements of faith in the Bible, “God will provide the sacrifice.” God did provide a sacrifice, a ram caught in a thicket, which became a substitute for the life of Isaac.
3) God’s great gift is motivated by love.
God so loved the world that he might save you and me from our sins.
 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.
 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!
 For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!  Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
J B Myers