The Risks in Giving
Every year we faced the problem – what do I get people for Christmas? You’d think it would be easy – all you have to do is get the right presents for the right people – every year. That’s the rub of course – regardless of what you spend – getting the right thing for the right person – that’s the difficult part. When my son was little it was easy – there are all sorts of really cool toys for boys – all sorts of things that I can happily play with on Christmas D… sorry… I mean that he can play with of course! Girls on the other hand – well you can only have so many Barbie’s and dolls houses. These days the presents are smaller and more expensive.
And then there’s the family – the brother’s in law – what can you buy under $15 that will not simply go in the bin. So you pore over the junk mail and catalogues in the letterbox. You watch the ads on TV trying to find the perfect gift for those hard-to-buy-for family members. It’s not easy – and it’s risky. Cause if you make a mistake…!
We all know the feeling of opening the present at the Christmas family lunch… the paper’s off, the gift’s in full view and you’re thinking “what is this?” But it’s not what you say. “Oh! This is wonderful – I’ve always wanted one of these – I have the perfect spot for it” or “wow! What an unusual gift.”
Which is not what you want to hear them say about the gift you’ve just given! Or worse maybe – you don’t want to offend people by the gift you give – if you give your wife a cookbook will she think you’re trying to say something about her cooking. Will your husband be offended by the jumbo sized antiperspirant novelty gift pack with pillow protectors? What are you trying to say about his personal hygiene? If you buy clothing that’s too big are you trying to say they look big… or too small that they need to lose some weight!
Christmas is a time for peace, love, friendship, giving… and total abject paranoia. Present buying is rife with potential for disaster.
Today in most homes we will be focussed on gifts – and if you have enough people around then paper and mess – and maybe it will be fun. But in the midst of all that how do we focus also on that very first Christmas – when God gave us a gift.
When God chose this gift for us there was no question about him making a mistake. He knew exactly what we needed.
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Interesting gift – a son! God’s son! At first it should strike us as odd – why give us a person – why not faith or salvation or riches and glory? Wouldn’t it have been easier just to make all people believers and get rid of sin, give everyone faith and then not have Jesus die?
God knew that Jesus was exactly what each of us needed. The perfect gift.
God knew we had a problem – he knew what we lacked and what we had too much of. We were in trouble – in serious trouble. God knew that sending his son Jesus would be the only thing to get us out of that trouble.
That’s what the angel announces to Joseph. Mary’s going to have a baby – nothing like surprising the husband to be…
Matthew 1:21 “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.”
Our problem was and is sin – not just moral failure, but we ignore God and we shut God out – sin is not simply doing bad things – it’s us telling the God who created us and who keeps us alive, telling him to buzz off – telling him that we don’t need him or want him around and really we’d be much happier sorting out our own life. Imagine your children telling you that? Imagine something you’ve created – a car you’ve rebuilt, a picture you’ve painted, a house you’ve built, the cows you care for and milk, the dog or cat you care for, the things you create and look after – imagine them telling you to go away. It makes it easier to understand that our most pressing need is to be forgiven by God.
Maybe we’re not convinced that’s the gift we need. People often find it hard to see themselves as sinful. And out there in the big wide world most people think the opposite is true – if there is anything wrong with this world it’s other people – not me. In fact these days lots of the world believes that the real problem with the world is the religious people!!!! In any case the problem is other people – and “I don’t need forgiveness – sure – I could improve in a few areas but the whole forgiveness deal – that’s unnecessary!”
God says we need forgiveness not simply to deal with sin or to make us better people, but we need forgiveness if we want to be friends with him. Not just mates on speaking terms at the pub – “how ya going God, yeh not bad mate – what about those Dragons/Wallabies/Blues – I think it’s your shout God…!” Not mates, not buddies, not work pals. God offers us friendship. Even though we tell God to get lost he still wants us to be his friends.
And he openly offers us the forgiveness we need to become his friends–that’s why He sent his Son into the world. That’s what Christmas is about – God‘s gift of his Son. Jesus came into the world to live among us and to die on the cross so that we could be forgiven and become God’s friends.
Accepting the gift
Some people on Christmas morning have two questions as they open their presents… like a rating system.
1. How expensive is it?
2. How much do I need it/want it?
It’s an interesting response to a gift … what happens if you apply those questions to the gift God has given us in Jesus? Based on that rating system – on need and expense, Jesus is the best gift you’ll ever receive.
You want expensive…? God gave us his one and only Son. You can’t get a more expensive gift than that. He sacrificed his son so that we might live. Imagine the cost of giving up a child to save other people – and maybe then we can get an inkling of the enormous cost that God was prepared to bear so that we humans might be safe…
And the second question – how much do I need it? This is THE gift you need more than you can imagine.
If you want to know God as his friend…
If you want to be forgiven by God…
If you want to share eternity with God in heaven…
…then this is a gift you need.
Do you know the biggest danger churches face? Never asking the right questions. I have friends who go to a church and the minister preaches a great sermon with great application and then proceeds to let everyone off the hook. He never asks the right question! So this Christmas – you’re ready for the presents, and the food, and maybe the heat, and you’re ready for the family – but are you ready for God? Are you ready to face God and for him to ask why he should let you into heaven?
Have you accepted the gift for yourself? Our tree has been up for a month, the house is clean, the food and drinks are ready – the presents have all been wrapped and are sitting under the tree – there are name tags on all the presents showing who they’re for. In our family presents happen after church. Right now those presents don’t belong to whoever’s name is on them. They are sitting under the tree – the gifts are ready to be given – but one thing remains. The giving and the receiving!
God has given the gift of Jesus – but for it to mean anything we have to accept the gift for ourselves.
The right question to ask at Christmas is… have you accepted the gift God offers of forgiveness? Have you prepared for meeting God by entrusting your life into Jesus hands? If you haven’t – then can I say this is the Christmas to do so. This is the time – the perfect time to celebrate Christmas by trusting in the one born this day to save the world.
This Christmas can you honestly say thankyou to God for the gift he has given us.