In preparation for this year’s Christmas messages, I came across some very interesting trivia. For example, last year, American families spent an average of $740 on Christmas gifts. They will also spend about 18 billion dollars on alcohol during the Christmas season. Which by the way, accounts for about 40% of the annual sale of alcohol. 15 million pounds of fruit cakes are bought during Christmas, of which 6 pounds are actually eaten. And, 22 million ties are bought.
Now obviously Americans spend a lot of money trying to buy the appropriate gift. But sometimes the gifts don’t match our intentions. I heard about a husband who asked his wife what she wanted for Christmas. She said that all she wanted was something that would make her beautiful. So he gave her a bathroom scale and an exercise bike. Trust me, that was not the perfect gift.
Today we are going to look at the only perfect Christmas gift. That is what Paul is talking about in verse 4. Last week we looked at God’s timing in the sending of Jesus. This week we are going to focus on the gift itself.
Verse 4 has 3 phrases that help us to see why Jesus is God’s perfect gift to us. These 3 phrases deal with Jesus’ deity, his humanity, and his integrity. And as we look at these 3 aspects of Jesus, I want you to pay close attention. Because the majority of the people in your world are going to challenge your right to believe & proclaim that Jesus is the reason for the season. So to be able to remain steadfast in the face of hostility, you need to have a firm grasp on these 3 basic doctrines.
I want you to know that what you are going to learn this morning will work. Yesterday, as I was going over the sermon, 2 Jehovah Witnesses came to my office. When I found out who they were, I told them that they really didn’t want to talk to me because I was the pastor of this church. They insisted on talking with me anyway. And by the time I finished sharing with them some of the points of this message, not only were they speechless, they couldn’t get out of here fast enough. So pay close attention, take good notes, because what the Lord wants to teach us this morning will work!
So let’s first look at how Jesus’ deity was part of what made God’s gift so perfect. The phrase that talks about Jesus’ deity is in v. 4: „God sent his son”. It has been over 2,000 yrs. since God sent Jesus, and the number 1 question that people still have about Jesus is: Who is He? The answer that people come up with will determine their eternal destiny. John tells us that: „Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” (John 3:36)
Many people believe that Jesus never existed. Some believe that Jesus is just like Santa Claus, a fairy tale character that is good for the economy. What I find so ironic about this position is that even though they don’t believe in either Jesus or Santa, they sure promote the idea they exist. I doubt very seriously if the people who believe that Jesus never existed, never buy any Christmas gifts.
I challenge any of you not to celebrate Christmas this year for that reason. Then on Christmas morning, when your kids are crying because there are no gifts under the tree, tell them to knock it off because Jesus is just a fairy tale character that is good for the economy. If you will take me up on my challenge, I promise to give you one of the best funerals anybody has ever been to. Trust me, not only will you break your kids hearts, but they in return will break your legs, your face, and then they will kill you.
To come to the conclusion that Jesus is just a fairy tale character, one has to reject all the historical evidence that proves that a man named Jesus lived in Israel over 2,000 yrs. ago. This is what the Jewish historian Josephus had to say about Jesus: „Now there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and then thousand other wonderful things concerning him.”
To understand who Jesus is, we have to try to understand the doctrine of the Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity states that God is one, but he manifests himself in 3 persons of equal importance: Father, Son & Holy Spirit. There is no way for us to fully grasp this truth, but it is a truth that is taught all through the Bible.
One of the most clearest examples of this is in the phrase called the Shema. During the great feasts of Israel, the Jews would cry out: „Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!” (Deuteronomy 6:4) The Hebrew word for „one” that is used here means a unity of multiples. In reference to God, it means that there is a unity within the multiple parts that make up the Godhead.
Jesus’ favorite titles for himself were the Son of God & the son of man. Just because Jesus liked to be called son, doesn’t make him inferior to God the Father. The reason he called himself son is because for 33 yrs. he took a submissive role, and followed the instructions of the Father part of the Godhead. The only reason Jesus did that was to provide salvation for mankind. So in answer to who Jesus is, the Bible makes it perfectly clear that Jesus is the second person of the Trinity who „became flesh, and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14)
Celebrities have to wear disguises in order for them to be able to go out in public and mingle with the ordinary people. That is exactly what God did. So when Paul tells us that God sent his son, it is his way of saying that God slipped into our world by putting on the disguise of an ordinary person. He came incognito as a little baby. But make no mistake about it, Jesus is God.
Look at the testimony from the writers of the Bible concerning who Jesus is: The prophet Isaiah predicted: „Unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Mighty God.” (Isaiah 9:6) An angel testified to some shepherds that first Christmas day: „That today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11) Jesus made this claim about himself: „If you have seen Me you have seen the Father.” (John 14:9) Jesus’ enemies wanted to kill him: „Because He said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.” (John 5:18) The apostle Paul, who had been one of the most devout Jews, said this about Jesus: „Christ, who is God, is to be forever praised!” (Romans 9:5)
But probably the most compelling evidence from the Bible concerning Jesus’ deity is when „Thomas said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!'” (John 20:28) We have to understand that when Thomas made that statement, he was worshiping Jesus as God. And for a Jew to worship anything other than God, as god, would be considered blasphemous. Thomas addresses Jesus by 2 titles that the Jews used exclusively for YHWY: Lord & God. Thus showing that Thomas believed in Jesus’ deity.
The other proof for Jesus’ deity is seen when Jesus said to Thomas: „Because you have seen Me, you have believed.” (John 20:29) No Jew would have received the worship that was reserved exclusively for God. And if Jesus hadn’t been God, he would have rebuked Thomas for regarding him as such.
We see this in several places in the New Testament. Peter refused to be worshiped by Cornelius. Paul and Barnabas refused to be worshiped by the people of Lystra. Even the angel in the book of Revelation wouldn’t let John worship him.
But when Thomas said to Jesus, „My Lord and my God,” these words did not elicit a syllable of reproof from Jesus. That is because Jesus knew he was God. I want to remind you again that it is important for you to hold fast to this truth. For we are living in a day where we are being pressured to be more accepting of all religions. In fact, you will be branded as intolerant, bigoted, and narrow-minded, if you don’t agree with the lie that says that all religions will lead people to heaven.
I remember going to a graduation where the person who gave the benediction started by praying to the Great Spirit above. I expected at any minute to hear tom-toms starting to beat, and the audience starting to do the Atlanta Braves tomahawk chop chant. Then he ended his prayer in the name of all that is good & pure.
I am sure he thought he had just offered a politically correct prayer that didn’t offended anyone. But I want you to know that he offended me by not starting his prayer to our Father who is heaven. I was also offended because he didn’t close the prayer in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he is the only one who is good & pure. And I promise you he offended at least one other person besides me. That kind of prayer will offend our Creator, who told us that we are to have no other gods before him. But in this day of tolerance, we are being told we have to blend all religions into one.
Jesus went to cross proclaiming that he was „The way, the truth, and the life; and that no one can come to the Father, but through Me.” (John 14:6) To prove that his claim was true God raised him from the dead 3 days later. Those who think that’s too exclusive will have to take it up with God when they stand in front of him as the Judge at the Great White Throne Judgment.
The second reason why Jesus is the perfect gift is because of Jesus’ humanity. Paul tells us in v. 4 that Jesus was „born of a woman.” Even though the Bible doesn’t give us much information about Jesus’ early life, it does tell us that he experienced the same trials & tribulations of life that we do. The writer of Hebrews puts it this way: „For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)
There is no human experience you go through that Jesus didn’t experience first hand. The Bible does tell us that Jesus got tired, he got hungry, he got thirsty, and he even had to escape the pressures of life every once and awhile.
It had to have hurt Jesus when the majority of the Jews rejected him. So he understands what’s is like when we are hurt by rejection. He knows what’s it’s like to be lonely. After all, his closest friends deserted him when he needed them the most. And he knows what’s it’s like to be so grief stricken that you’re moved to tears. So when you are sad, when your heart is heavy with grief, go to Jesus. Bare your soul to him. I promise you will find a sympathetic shoulder to cry on.
As a man Jesus experienced all that life can throw at us, just so we can take our every problem to him knowing that he will willingly listen to us. And as God, he is able to rescue us from all the problems of life. But what a price he had to pay in order to do that. Think of it: Jesus who created the millions of stars, moons, and planets, and who upholds the very universe by the power of his word, left his throne of glory to become a man, subject to human limitations, in order to save us from our sins.
I love to hear stories from missionaries about living in places that have no MacDonald’s, no TV, and even no golf courses. It stirs my heart to hear them talk about having to live in huts made out of dried cow manure, with no bathrooms/electricity. It is exciting to hear them talk about having to sleep with their socks on the outside of their pants to keep the bugs from crawling up their pant’s legs while they sleep. But do you know what blesses me the most? That is the fact that God has never called me to go and experience any of these things first hand.
I praise God that he is not like me. He didn’t just look down on earth to observe what was going on from the safe arena of heaven. God experienced our life first hand by coming to our world as one of us. Paul tells us that the way God came to the world was that he was born of a woman.
And not a woman of nobility. His parents were plain, simply folks who struggled to make ends meet. And because of that the King of kings wasn’t born in a fancy palace. His crib didn’t have plush sheets in it. His birth place was a place used exclusively for animals. His crib was used to feed cattle & sheep. The first smells Jesus enjoyed were urine & manure. Not the smells of cakes & pies being baked. The kind of smells you expect if to smell in honor of a king’s birth.
Why is it so important that Jesus came to this earth through the vehicle of a woman’s womb? As I stated last week, in the Old Testament, there are some definite prophecies concerning the ancestry of the Messiah that must be fulfilled in order for that person to be the Messiah. Two of those prophecies are that He must be of the house of David (2 Samuel 7:13), and He must have legal right to the throne of David (Isaiah 9:7).
But this poises a problem. Because in order for Jesus to be sinless, a requirement for going to the cross, he couldn’t have an earthly father. Because it is through the fathers that sin is passed on to the children.
But in order for Jesus to be the Messiah, he had to be able to claim that he was of the house of David. Which would give him the legal right to David’s throne. The only way God could resolve this dilemma was through the virgin birth.
And we see this in the 2 genealogical records given in Matthew & Luke’s gospels. To summarize the 2 genealogies, we see that since Jesus is the actual son of Mary, who was a direct descendant of David, through David’s son Nathan. Thus he could fulfill God’s promise that there would always be a son of David sitting upon the throne.
And because Jesus, through adoption, became the legal son of Joseph, he could legally inherit the right to sit on the throne of David. And since Jesus was not the real son of Joseph, not only did he not inherit Joseph’s sin nature, he also escaped the curse that was put on one of Joseph’s ancestors, Jeconiah (Matthew 1:11): „None of his descendants will sit on the throne of David.” (Jeremiah 22:30)
Paul also tells us in v. 4 that Jesus was „born under the law.” That speaks of the integrity of Jesus. God gave a bunch of laws in the Old Testament. But first he gave us a Reader Digest version of them in the 10 Commandments. And if anyone could keep all 10 of them, they can be saved. But the problem is that nobody has ever been able to do that.
If I asked you how many of the 10 Commandments you have not broken, you might be able to say 1 or 2 of them. But all of us have broken at least 1 of them. And because of that, none of us can ever save ourselves from the impending penalty for sin. This means we have to find someone, who doesn’t have any sin in their life, who can cleanse us from our sins.
And that presents another problem. For the Bible tells us that „all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) That is until Jesus came. Jesus was different. He kept everyone of God’s laws, and not just the 10 Commandments.
In fact, Jesus is the only person who ever successfully overcame Satan’s 3 main areas of temptation. Though temptations come in many different forms, they all stem from „the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” (1 John 2:16) Eve wasn’t able to overcome these 3 areas.
When Eve saw that the „Tree was good for food (Lust of the Flesh), and pleasant to the eyes (Lust of the Eye), and desirable to make one wise (Pride of Life) that she took of its fruit and ate.” (Genesis 3:6)
Satan tried to tempt Jesus with these 3 same areas. The Bible tells us that after Jesus was baptized, he went into the wilderness for 40 days, during which he didn’t eat anything. And at the end of the 40 days, Satan came and tempted him.
First, Satan tried to get Jesus to turn some stones into bread. In other words, Satan was tempting Jesus, through the lust of the flesh, to use his powers to satisfy his physical needs. But Jesus replied to Satan: „It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.'” (Luke 4:4)
Next Satan took Jesus to a high hill. And he showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world. Satan told Jesus that if he would bow down and worship him, just for a second, not for a lifetime, that he would give him all those kingdoms. Satan was trying to tempt Jesus, through the lust of the eyes, hoping to prevent Jesus from going to the cross. Satan knew that if Jesus were to go to the cross then one day all those kingdoms would be Jesus’. But Jesus said to Satan, „It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.'” (Luke 4:8) But Satan didn’t give up.
Satan then took Jesus to the top of the temple and tried to get him to jump off so the angels would catch him. If you think about it, that would make quite an impression on the people. Sure Jesus would get a handful of followers by talking about love and serving your fellow man. But if Jesus really wanted to get a large group of people following him, then he needed to do something spectacular. Satan was tempting Jesus, through the pride of life, to put on a good sideshow. But Jesus once again successfully overcame Satan’s temptation by saying to him, „It is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'” (Luke 4:12) Jesus had to resist everyone of Satan’s temptations, just so he could go to the cross.
Now suppose you went out and paid cash for a brand new car. And when you went to drive it home, you noticed that someone had rear-ended the car while you were paying for it. And the trunk looked like an accordion. Even if they fixed the car, it would never be just like it was when it was first made. It would always be a damaged car.
When God made man, he was perfect. But then Satan came along and he rear-ended us. And ever since the Fall of man, we have been marred with sin. And no matter what we try to do to make ourselves look perfect, we are damaged goods. The only way we can be recreated is through a perfect man shedding his blood to satisfy God’s justice for sin.
That’s why in the Old Testament, God required that the animals that were to be used as sacrifices had to be without any kind of defect. They couldn’t even have a scratch on their body. He did this so we would recognize when Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God, who came to take away our sins, came to our world. Jesus was God’s perfect gift because he lived a life without flaw.
It’s funny how we respond to different Christmas gifts. A child can give a grandparent a handmade card created with crayons and construction paper. And that simple gift can move a person to tears because of the spirit in which it’s given. That’s because a gift is valuable, not in terms of how much it cost, but in the spirit in which it was given. Gifts given out of a sense of love and gratitude are usually received with joy. But gifts given out of obligation or given thoughtlessly are received with indifference, no matter how valuable they are in terms of monetary value. In fact, Carol & I still have every Christmas gift made by our grandchildren.
When God gave us Jesus Christ, he had only one motive: love. And one thought: giving a gift that would last for eternity. Jesus told us about both of these aspects of our heavenly Father when he said: „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.” (John 3:16)
In conclusion, I want to remind you that in a few months from now most of the gifts you buy this Christmas will be forgotten. The thrill of the newness of them will be lost. And probably some of them will be thrown away because they got broke.
So rather than focusing on the gifts, let me encourage you to celebrate the perfect gift of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ really is the only perfect gift because once you meet him, you will never forget him. And you will never lose the thrill of knowing him. But greatest of all, Jesus will last forever.
So each time you pay for a gift this Christmas, think about the price God paid in order that he could give you the gift of salvation. As you wrap those gifts, think about God’s gift of Jesus, the incarnate God, coming to this earth wrapped in flesh. And as you receive your Christmas gifts, be reminded that all you have to do to be saved is to receive the greatest gift of all, God’s son, the Lord Jesus Christ.