Immanuel-A Gift That Keeps On Giving!
Isaiah 714Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
A. 2000 years ago, God gave a gift that is still being offered today. It is Immanuel, which means God with us, or even God In Us! Just the presence of this awesome gift can change lives and impact events, whether we realize it or not!
1. Many of you may not know that I have been a law enforcement officer for over 22 years. I am also a law enforcement Chaplain. During my time in law enforcement, the Christmas season never ceases to amaze me! I have seen the hardest criminal hearts show pity on their victims, by such acts as leaving the wallet or purse behind, with identification and charge cards intact, rather than running off with the whole booty. I have seen the criminal get drunk on beer and spread his artificial cheer, rather than go out to perform his nightly ritual. I have also seen the toughest cop, pause and show sympathy to one who was victimized and robbed of their dignity. The words “Merry Christmas” almost seem to create their own reality.
2. Francis C. Farley, a news reporter once wrote: “Instead of being a time of unusual behavior, Christmas is perhaps the only time in the year when people can obey their natural impulses and express their true sentiments without feeling self conscious and, perhaps, foolish. Christmas in short, is about the only chance a man has to be himself.” While these words may sound good, I would argue that for those who have not experienced the touch of the Master, their temporary change in temperament is due to the outside presence of the Spirit of God, which is displayed by those who can truly say, “God calls me His own”!
B. What does it mean to be called a “child of God”?
1. Sadly, not all are called the children of God, but only those who are born of His Spirit! New life, which comes through Jesus Christ, is a gift to all men and women, but not all will accept this gift. There was a gift left under the tree for each and every one of us 2000 years ago, by the very same Immanuel, who’s birthday we are soon to celebrate. This gift was given freely to all, regardless of our relationship to the giver. There is one with your name on it, have you claimed it? Tonight, we will explore this Christmas gift, the giver, and finally the person God desires to receive the gift, you!
II. The Gift
A. What is that gift, you may be asking. Well scripture is clear I believe on the very nature of the gift.
1. 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.”
B. Can you get this gift of God through any other means. Is it something you can find, after a diligent search on your own?
1. Ephesians 2:8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God-- 9not by works, so that no one can boast.
2. It is something that God set up that can only be received as a gift, so that no one can brag or boast.
Not only does scripture remove our right to claim any part of earning the gift, but it also tells us
that it is the ultimate gift, that will always be in style and work as if brand new! Eternal life means forever!
3. That gift of course is the ability to believe in the One, God sent, Jesus Christ. Try as you will, you cannot will your self to believe in Jesus. Many have tried and many have failed. Why there was even a magician in Peter’s time who tried to buy the gift. This foreign thought so appalled Peter that he cursed the man’s money, because he thought he could buy the gift of faith. Perhaps it is this mentality that is preventing you from excepting God’s free gift of eternal life. Maybe you think you can work for your Christmas gift? Maybe you think you already have! Maybe you think its owed to you!
a. Illust: Well, I can think back to my own childhood, and perhaps you can recall this in yours, a time when I thought I deserved getting a certain gift for Christmas! What was it? It was a ten speed huffy bike. They were new then, and not many people had one. I was tired of my old stingray, with the butter-fly handle bars and the banana seat. In my mind, I not only deserve that 10 speed, I was owed it! Much to my disappointment and anger, it was not under the tree! I think that mentality carries through from childhood into our adult spiritual lives. If God has a heaven, then he has to be fair and give it to everyone. He can’t show favoritism! But God’s word answers this error in our thinking quite clearly: Who are you oh man, oh created being to talk back to the creator?!
C. Every thing has a price tag! What will the gift cost me?
1. Well just this: You see, God does want to give you that gift of belief we call faith, but you must ask him for it! Yes you must swallow your pride and humbly bow to Him, and ask him to give you you’re gift. Remember the father who humbly approached Jesus to ask him to save the life of his child. Jesus asked him, “Do you believe I can do this?” This was a very simple question, but at the same time, it was difficult to answer truthfully. Think about it for a moment. Our minds are so fickle; we believe something for a moment, when it is convenient, only to discard our belief later for something more advantageous to us. How did this father answer Jesus? He said, “I believe Lord, but help me with my unbelief.” In other words, he was saying right now I would believe you if it will help my child, but latter, my heart may grow cold with worry, pride, or the concerns for the moment, if it happens like that Lord, then please help me to believe even then. This is where the gift of faith comes in! Don’t worry, God is not asking you for anything else, he just wants you to offer Him your empty hand of faith!
D. What if I don’t want to accept that gift?
1. Well friend, scripture is clear about that as well. You see we are all sinners. Correct me if I am wrong, but there is no one here tonight who is perfect.
2. Romans 6:23 says: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” I am afraid that this gift is the only way that God has provide for you to not only live a good and abundant life, but to have an eternal life as well!
E. What if I accepted the gift before, but now I realize that I’ve lost it?
1. Well friend cheer up; you see God’s gift is always with you, in fact it is within you. It is a gift, which never fades or flees! It is eternal.
2. Romans 11:29 should rest your mind, listen what it says: “for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable.” You see, that means even you cant mess it up!
F. What if I’m not happy with my gift? You know, I look over at Brother So and So and Sister What’s Her Name, and they seem to be having a better time with their gift than I am! Can I get a better version?
1. Now I know these excuses by heart. Why? Because I have worn them out my self. But lets listen
to how God answers these questions.
2. Romans 12:6We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let
him use it in proportion to his faith. 7If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8if it is
encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is
leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
3. 1 Corinthians 12: 4There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.
III. The Nature Of The Giver
A. Tonight, during the time of the Advent season, we celebrate in anticipation, the anniversary of our Lord’s coming to deliver our gift personally. We place our hope in the ability of the giver, God Almighty, to accomplish the purpose of the gift. We believe that God can do this! To have this belief, is to have hope in someone who is faithful and trustworthy. That someone can only be God in human flesh, Jesus Christ, who does not change, but is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. That is what is in your Christmas package from God this year. It is a gift that keeps on giving, because it is tied into God’s unchangeable desire to have an eternal relationship with you!
B. Now some of you may be listening and nodding very politely, but inside you are thinking, “Come on, that is pretty far fetched. I mean God coming to the earth in a body! Why would he do that?”
C. AT CHRISTMAS GOD EMPTIED HIMSELF. That is a truth fundamental to everything
Christians believe. God emptied Himself. Theologians call this the kenotic theory of the Incarnation. The Greek verb kenoun means to empty; the noun kenosis means an emptying. God emptied Himself and took up residence in the manger of Bethlehem. But Why?
1. Frog stories as incarnation
It is said that Henry David Thoreau once spent a whole day in Walden Pond up to his neck in the water. His idea was to see and experience the world as a frog sees it! But Thoreau did not become a frog!
"Sesame Street" is closer to the Christmas story. They had a skit one time of the old fairy tale where the beautiful princess kisses an ugly frog and the frog becomes a handsome prince. In the Sesame Street telling, however, the princess kissed the frog, whereupon she turned into a frog herself. That is closer to what we celebrate at Christmas. God did not swoop down and survey the human situation from a safe distance. God emptied Himself. He laid aside His celestial robes to put on the simple body of a man. Divinity clothed itself with dust.
It is an incredible idea.
2. But why did he do this? Well let me tell you another quick story about Jerome, a Roman Catholic scholar, translated the Bible from Greek to Latin. Near the end of his life, Jerome was living near Bethlehem translating some of the Bible when he had a dream. In the dream, the Christ child appeared to him. He was so overwhelmed by the appearance of the Christ child that he felt he had to give Him something. So he got some money and offered it, saying, "Here! This is yours."
The Christ child said, "I don't want it." Jerome brought some more possessions. The Christ child said, "I don't want them either." Jerome said, "If there is anything in the world that I can give you, tell me what it is. Tell me! What do you want? What do you want me to give you?"
He said he dreamed that the Christ child looked at him and said this: "Give me your sin! That's what I came for." That is what Christ came for--to take away our sin. God emptied Himself for you!
D. You see God came to this earth so that he could personally deliver a gift that was purchased and wrapped just for you! Jesus was on this earth! Although He was born of a virgin, the fact is he was born just like you! He lived a life very similar to ours. He knew of happiness, disappointment, love and pain. He suffered and was killed. But you see, He chose to do these things. He didn’t have to! His life was his to lay down, as a payment for your sins, but he took it up again to eternal life. And now he is offering you that same gift!
A. Sadly, some have given great thought on whether to accept the package, and not wanting to be beholding to the giver, they have left the package under the tree of life, and refused to open it.
Then there are those who have defiantly left the package completely abandoned, refusing to even acknowledge its existence.
Some have gladly accepted the package, and even torn small openings in it, trying to get a glimpse of the object inside, but felt unworthy to open it further, so they simply carry it around, still wrapped, and hiding the gift within. Every Christmas, they will proudly show it to the curious, as proof that the giver remembered them that first Christmas morning.
But, for those who have opened their package, its hidden splendor has transformed them forever! You see each package contains a scroll, and on it is the life giving words of the giver: “All that the Father has given me, I have given to you. Receive it and live. I can freely give this to you, because the Father and I are one, and I am now in you! IMMANUEL”
Friends, let me close with this challenge: Take the Spirit of Christ with you to your home this evening. Let His Spirit live and reign in your heart. Take him with you to work or school and let Him lead you and guide you, so that you may receive that peace which surpasses all understanding. Let the Spirit of Christmas live and reign in you always, and make every day Christmas! Never again are we to look at the stars, as we did when we were children, and wonder how far it is to God. A being outside our world would be a spectator, looking on but taking no part in this life. A God who created, and withdrew, could be mighty, but he could not be love. Who could love a God remote, when suffering is our lot? Our God is closer than our problems, for they are out there, to be faced; He is here, beside us, Emmanuel. GOD WITH US!