Whenever we think of Jesus, and gifts, and Christmas time, most of us probably think of the gifts that the Magi brought Jesus in Matthew 2: “gold, frankincense and myrrh.” In imitation of that, as many of you know, we are encouraging everyone to celebrate Jesus’ birthday by giving to HIM the biggest gifts we give anyone this Christmas time, through the Lottie Moon offering for our missionaries. And yet the truth is that the greatest gifts of Christmas are not those that are brought TO Jesus — by us or even by the Magi — but those that were brought BY Jesus!
This morning, we are finishing our study of “The Christ of Christmas.” We have seen in John 1 over the last couple of weeks that the Christ of Christmas is 100% God, and that without giving up His Deity, He became a 100% flesh and blood man, like us. Now this morning, scattered throughout verses 4-14, we see some of the gifts that Jesus brought to us when He came:
— Verse 4 says “in Him was LIFE, and the life was the LIGHT of men.”
— Verse 12 says “as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God” — so He gave us the gift of RELATIONSHIP in a Heavenly family.
— Then at the end of :14 it says that when He came, He was “full of grace and truth.”
So some of the gifts that Jesus brought us when He came are: life, light, grace, truth, and an eternal family relationship. I would submit to you that “light” and “truth” are basically two words for the same gift, so let’s look together at 4 gifts that Jesus came to bring us: LIFE, LIGHT/TRUTH, AN ETERNAL FAMILY and GRACE:
I. THE GIFT OF ETERNAL LIFE
:4 says, “In His was LIFE, and the LIFE was the light of men.”
The first gift that the Christ of Christmas gives is the gift of life. What does this mean, that Jesus brings the gift of “life”? Throughout the New Testament, when the Bible uses the word “life”, it is not just talking about physical life — although our physical life is a gift — it is referring to eternal life. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”
The “eternal life” that the Bible talks about in these verses is life forever in heaven with God. Jesus said to His followers in John 14:2 “In My Father’s house are many mansions, and I go to prepare a place for you. If I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” He is speaking of the gift of eternal life in heaven with God. That’s what God created us for: to live forever in His presence. But we rebelled against God and brought death into this world through our sin: the Bible says: “The wages of sin is death.” But that’s what Jesus came to “fix”: to bring us “the gift of God” which is “eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
What a gift, to KNOW that we have that eternal life in heaven with Him. And because of Jesus’ gift, you CAN KNOW it! I remember going door to door witnessing one time at my first church in Oklahoma City, and asking a man there if he knew for certain that he was going to heaven. I remember he said, “Well, I go to a certain (Lutheran) church, and I don’t believe that you can really KNOW that you are going to heaven.” A lot of people are just like that; they might HOPE they are going to heaven; they might THINK they are going to heaven. But God wants you to KNOW that you are going to heaven! The Bible says in I John 5:13, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may KNOW that you have eternal life.” God specifically says in this verse, I don’t want you to HOPE that you are going, I don’t want you to THINK that you are going, because of the gift of Jesus and what He has done for you, you can KNOW that you have eternal life.
Now let me ask you: Have you ever opened that gift from Jesus? Do you KNOW that you have eternal life? If you don’t, you can know it today. Jesus came to give you that gift this Christmas time, of knowing that you have eternal life!
II. THE GIFT OF LIGHT/TRUTH
:4 says, “In Him was life, and the life was the LIGHT of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”
:14 says that when Jesus came, He came “full of grace and TRUTH.”
One of the great gifts Jesus came to give His followers is “light” or “truth”: – knowledge, direction, instead of the darkness of ignorance and confusion. Most of our world today lies in spiritual darkness – they are controlled by ignorance, and lies, and falsehood.
We had a couple from our church in Louisiana who became “incarnational missionaries” (like we talked about last week) to South America through our Southern Baptist International Mission Board. One year when he came back he told us about a woman in a village there who had a certain personal problem, and the witch doctor in her village told her that he could “treat” her with his witchcraft for $200 American. Then after the “treatment” he told her that she would need another “treatment” for another $200. This superstitious kind of “darkness” is the kind of thing that Jesus came to dispel.
But it’s not only people in 3rd world countries who are in the darkness. Isaiah 59:10 says: “We grope along the wall like blind men, we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at mid-day as in the twilight.” That verse just describes how SO many people today live — even in our so-called “modern society” – just stumbling along like blind men; groping along, with no direction, and no truth to guide them other than their own nebulous “feelings” and what seems right to them at the time. Some of you here might say, that describes ME: I’m lost; I need light; I need truth.
But the Bible says that’s what Jesus came to bring: light, truth, to guide you in the right path in life. He said in John 8:31-32, “if you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” He said, My light will set you free from lies and darkness and will guide you in the truth.
This is a great gift! Jesus came to give you light and truth. One of the names Isaiah gave for Him was “Wonderful Counselor”, and that is what He will be for you, if you will give your life to Him, and walk with Him every day in His word. He won’t leave you “in the dark”! He will give you the gift of light!
III. THE GIFT OF ETERNAL FAMILY
1:12 “as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God.”
This speaks of the relationship with God that Jesus brought to us. We talked about last week how God exists as a Triune God. There is ONE God, who exists eternally in THREE persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. (We saw that this was vital for our salvation: it was not God the Father who left heaven, but God the Son!) We saw evidence of the Trinity in John 1:1, where it says “the Word was WITH God.” That word “with” means “face to face”, in relationship with God. The Bible says in the very beginning, God the Father and God the Son were in relationship with each other, having fellowship with each other. God is a God of relationships. He, even in Himself, is a God who is in relationship with the three Persons of His Trinity.
So, contrary to the errant speculation of those who say that God created us to have someone to love, God already had perfect love in heaven as the Triune God: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, sharing perfect love in heaven. But God created us to join in the love fellowship with them. We, of course, separated ourselves from that relationship with God by our sin. But as one of His “Christmas gifts” to us, Jesus brings us back into the eternal relationship that God wanted us to have with Him, as part of His eternal family. Verse 12 says, “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become the children of God.”
— Romans 8:15-17 says: “For you have not received as spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ …”.
— I John 3:1 “See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are.”
Jesus has brought us this incredible gift of a relationship with God, as His children!
I remember several years ago, when we were living in Tulsa, there was a little boy in our daughter Libby’s Sunday School class who said that he wanted to go and talk to the pastor, but he was afraid to go and talk to me. Libby took him by the hand and said, “I’ll take you to him; he’s just my dad.” And she brought him by the hand to me where I sat up on the front row of the church. That’s a good picture for the way a lot of people are with God – they fear Him; they are afraid of Him. But because of what Jesus has done, God is our Father. We should always respect Him, and worship Him, and serve Him in awe. But we don’t serve Him with the craven fear that many of the heathen have for their gods. God is our FATHER because of what Jesus has done. We are His children, and can serve Him in a love relationship, not with craven fear.
And because we are children of God, we also get the gift of relationships with each other as the family of God as well. Some years ago, I came home from the office to get something, and my son Michael asked me: “Dad, why do some people call you ‘Bro. Shawn’?” I told Him that they call me that because I am a pastor, but that a lot of people in churches call each other “brother”, because God is our Father, and that makes all of us in the church brothers and sisters.
That is a neat part of the gift of relationship that Jesus has given us. Not only do we have God as our Father, we have many brothers & sisters in Christ as well. We are a family in relationship with each other through Jesus Christ.
This week, several of our men went to Rick Rice’s house and build a ramp, so he could get into his house when he got home from his foot surgery. Why did they do that? Because we are a FAMILY in Jesus Christ. We are not just a church “organization”; we are a church FAMILY!
What a blessing that is – especially to so many people who either do not have brothers or sisters, or who don’t have them close, or who don’t have the relationship with them they might hope for. You CAN have sweet brothers & sisters – because of the gift of eternal family that Christ gave us. I have 2 of my 3 sisters here with me this morning, but I never had a brother growing up. But in Christ, I have all kinds of men who are brothers to me: and you can have the same thing too: spiritual brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and grandparents — both in our church, and in churches all over the world! Thank God for the gift Jesus gave us, of an eternal family: with God as our Father, and brothers and sisters in His church.
IV. THE GIFT OF GRACE
These gifts we have looked at this morning, that Jesus came to bring us, are incomparable. And they are invaluable. There is literally no way that we could put a price tag on them.
I read in the paper several years ago that they did a survey of some very rich people, and they asked each of them how much they would pay for a reservation heaven and eternal life. The average response (and this was a number of years ago) was $640,000. Folks that is cheap! You can’t buy what Jesus has to give you for $640,000 — or any amount of money.
But the good news is, we don’t have to earn what Jesus came to give us. He came to give it as a GIFT. John says here that Jesus came, “full of grace”. Grace is a Bible word that means to treat someone better than they deserve. It means that out of the love and benevolence of the giver, without any merit in the receiver of the gift, they are good to them, and treat them better than they deserve. That is exactly how God treats us. He does not treat us the way we deserve to be treated because of our actions. He is GRACIOUS to us, and gives us what we do not deserve.
This is just what so many people do not “get” about Christianity. It is all about GRACE. Real Christianity is not based on what we can “earn” or “deserve” from God; it is based on God’s undeserved goodness to us in Jesus Christ.
All the religions of the world are based on MERIT: what you can “earn” from God by your good works:
— Islam teaches that if you will pray 5 times a day, and give alms to the poor, travel on a pilgrimage to Mecca, and do all the stipulated works, that maybe you can earn a place in Paradise — but it is all based on works.
— Buddhism teaches that if you will detach yourself from the things of this world, and treat others rightly, that you can gradually earn yourself a better reincarnation, and hopefully earn nirvana some day.
— Even many so-called “religious Americans” believe that if you keep the 10 Commandments and your good deeds outweigh your bad, that you can earn a place in heaven.
The problem with all those ideas is that we CAN’T! We can’t be good enough; we have all broken the 10 Commandments, in thought, word and deed. The Bible clearly states it: “By the works of the Law, NO flesh will be justified in His sight.” We can’t earn a place in heaven. If God gave us what we deserved, NONE of us would make it to heaven. NONE of us would get His gifts. NONE of us would have light; NONE of us would have a forever family; NONE of us would have eternal life.
But thank God, He doesn’t give us what we deserve. Thank God that John 1 says that Jesus did NOT come “full of Law” we had to keep to get into heaven — but it says He came “full of GRACE”! He didn’t come to give us what we DESERVE; He came to give us what we did NOT deserve!
You know, during Christmas, a lot of people bring their kids to Santa Claus, and climb up on his lap, and they have in mind a present they want — but what does Santa ask them? “Have you been a good boy this year?” “Have you been a good girl this year?” — in other words, do you DESERVE the gift I am going to bring you?
Folks, it should be a chilling thought for any of us to stand before God Almighty, hoping to have the gift of heaven, and eternal life, and for Him to ask: “Have you been good?” — when He knows every deed we’ve ever done, every word we’ve ever spoken, and every thought we’ve ever harbored. But thank God that Jesus did NOT come full of “Law”, asking if we’ve been good. In fact, He KNOWS we haven’t! Instead, He came “full of GRACE” — ready to give us what we did NOT deserve, if we would receive it as a gift from Him.
Last week, one of our church members came into my office, and they handed me a gift they had wrapped for me for Christmas. The instant they did that, I had a choice: I could say, “Thank you” — and take it; or I could have said, “No, thank you”, and pushed it away.
You have that same choice with the gifts that Jesus came to bring you at Christmas. He left heaven, and came to earth to bring you light, and life, and relationship, and grace — but you have a choice: either to say “Thank you” and to receive them — or to push them away. If you never have done it, won’t you decide today to receive the gifts that Jesus came to bring you this Christmas season?