December 31, 2023
Did you get what you wanted for Christmas?
If your family is like most families in our country you traveled to be with family and eat a meal and at some point exchange gifts.
Some of you probably got a gift that you were genuinely excited about.
Others of you may have received a gift that you will re-gift next year, or it has found its way into a closet or shoved behind some other items in storage, or maybe worse, the trash.
So, as I was working on this sermon I started thinking…
What makes a Christmas gift a good gift?
So, I asked some different people and they said things like:
- A good gift shows that the giver knows you
- A good gift is something you wouldn’t have bought for yourself
- A good gift is something you would have bought for yourself
- A good gift is something you didn’t initially want to return
- A good gift is something from the heart
- A good gift is something someone spent time making (homemade gifts)
- A good gift is spending time with those you love
I heard that someone actually tried to calculate how much it would cost to give the gifts named in the classic Christmas song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”
The grand total came to about $15,000.
Some items were affordable, like a partridge in a pear tree for $34.99.
Six turtledoves will run you somewhere around $50.
Six geese-a-laying will cost around $150.
But the price takes off when you add 11 pipers piping that’s $1,000 right there.
Then there are the 12 drummers drumming.
With current union scale for musicians, they will run you another $1,000.
The price really soars when you get 10 lords-a-leaping.
We are talking $3,000 for them.
And 9 ladies dancing, that depends on which establishment you go to.
Granted, I don’t know where you would find them, but they are very expensive.
Still, the real message of Christmas is not the gifts that we give to each other.
Rather THE REAL MESSAGE OF CHRISTMAS IS THE REMINDER OF THE GIFT THAT GOD HAS GIVEN TO EACH OF US.
It is the only gift that truly keeps on giving.
It is the gift of Jesus, God’s One and Only Son.
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.
The first thing I want to point out is the word gave, circle that word or highlight it, do something so that you are drawn to it.
In this passage the word gave is the Greek root word δίδωμι (did-o-mi).
There are many different Greek words for the word gave or gift i.e. δῶρον, δωρέομαι, δώρημα, δωρεά
But this word δίδωμι is used of the supreme gifts of God.
In accordance with the significance and the realistic character of the thought of love in the NT, as a gift and not merely a disposition (Jm. 2:16; 1 Jn. 3:17), the word δίδωμι is used frequently.
Particular attention should be paid to its use in John’s Gospel.
Jesus is what He is by God’s gift.
For most people around the world, Christmas is known for giving and receiving gifts.
However, they often forget that it was because 2,000 years ago, we received a gift from God—the best, the greatest, and the most precious gift ever.
That is his only Son, Jesus Christ.
When we open gifts from friends and family, we often forget to open the greatest gift given to us.
I know that for some people, Christmas can be a lonely time because they miss the loved ones that they used to celebrate with.
However, as Mariah Carey said in an interview, what we really want for Christmas is not the physical gifts, not even the loved ones that have passed on, but the one that we truly long for.
Deep inside, we want a Savior to relieve our pain, confusion, depression, and suffering in this fallen world.
Having Him equals having everything.
Having Him in our hearts restores our joy again.
As we begin a new year, coming off the Christmas high, I want to encourage you to open this gift from God, Jesus Christ, His One and Only Son
Could you imagine if you bought your parents or children or best friend a gift for Christmas and they refused to open it?
How do you think you would feel about that?
A gift that is not unwrapped is a gift that is never used, or cherished, or treasured, or even acknowledged.
So, I want to encourage you, if you haven’t, open this gift from God, His One and Only Son, Jesus.
IN JESUS YOU WILL SEE:
GOD’S LOVE FOR THE WORLD
The first thing I want you to notice from John 3:16 is the scope of God’s love.
And you will see that the scope is very wide indeed.
John says: “God so loved the world.”
God doesn’t love just one set of people.
He does not love just one particular nation or race.
God is a big God, and he has a very big love indeed.
The scope of God’s love covers the entire world – every nation, tribe, language and people.
This was clear even in the Old Testament.
In the Old Testament God chose the nation of Israel as his special people.
Does that mean God didn’t care about the rest of the world?
Far from it!
When God called Abraham and promised to build a great nation from him, God’s promise to Abraham included all the other nations.
God told Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
God’s purpose in calling the nation of Israel was to bless all the other nations through Israel.
This would take place through the coming of the Messiah or Christ.
We especially see this in the prophet Isaiah.
In the book of Isaiah Christ is portrayed as a servant who will accomplish God’s plan and bring salvation to the world.
In Isaiah 49:6 God says to the coming Messiah, “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
When we come to the last book in the Bible, the book of Revelation, we see God’s plan of salvation realized through Christ.
We read in Revelation 7:9-10, After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
It is important to stop and reflect on all this because we have the tendency, at least here in America, to view the gospel mainly through a personal lens.
Why should I become a Christian?
What will God do for me?
How will accepting Christ make my life better?
We sometimes even take this very verse, John 3:16, and we ask people to personalize it: “For God so loved (insert your name here), that he gave his one and only Son, that if ___________ believes in him, ______________ shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Now there is nothing wrong with that in and of itself.
We are all part of this world that God loves, and God loves each one of us personally and individually.
But we also need to realize that God’s plan is so much bigger than you or me.
It’s not about me.
It’s not about you.
God loves the whole world, and we need to get our eyes off of ourselves and reach out to those who have not yet heard of Christ and God’s love.
I think of Eric Liddell, the Scottish runner who won the gold medal in the 400-meter race at the 1924 Paris Olympics.
Some of you may be familiar with his story from the movie Chariots of Fire.
If you have never watched the movie, Chariot of Fire, I’d encourage you too.
What a lot of people don’t know is that Eric was born to missionary parents in China and returned to missionary work in China after the Olympics.
He had a promising athletic career ahead of him, especially after his Olympic win, but he left it all behind for the privilege of sharing God’s love with those in another part of the world.
How wide is God’s love?
“God so loved the world.”
John 3:16 teaches us the scope of God’s love.
God’s love extends to all people everywhere in the world.
IN JESUS YOU WILL SEE:
THE DEPTH OF GOD’S LOVE
There are echoes of Abraham and Isaac from the Old Testament here.
You may remember in the Old Testament that God gave Abraham and Sarah a son in their old age.
Sarah was barren, Abraham was old, and yet Isaac was born according to God’s promise.
But then some years later God tested Abraham.
He told him in Genesis 22:2, Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
And Abraham did it.
As much as he loved his son Isaac, he loved God more, and he showed the depth of his love by his willingness to sacrifice his only son.
Of course, God was only testing Abraham, and so he stopped him before he killed Isaac.
But the knife was already raised high, and Abraham was ready to go through with it.
Then we come to the New Testament, and we learn that God has a Son.
His name is Jesus.
John 3:16 says that he is God’s “one and only Son.”
The word translated “one and only” is the Greek word, μονογενής a word that means “single, unique, unparalleled, incomparable.”
Jesus is uniquely God’s Son in a way that no other person can ever be.
For example, when you put your faith in Christ, God adopts you into his family and you become a child of God.
But you will never be a child of God in the same way that Jesus is God’s Son.
We are adopted into God’s family.
The reason we will never be like Jesus is because Jesus is God.
Listen to John 1:1-2, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.
And so, Jesus has always been God’s Son.
He has always existed as God’s Son.
Jesus is part of who God is.
He shares God’s very essence.
He is God’s one and only Son.
He is God.
Now I can’t imagine sacrificing one of my own children for someone else.
And I suppose it might be even more difficult if I only had one child.
But God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son.
That is astonishing. It would be one thing if the world was worthy of such a sacrifice, but we are not.
We are all sinners who have rebelled against God and his ways.
And yet God still gave his Son for us.
He sent his Son into the world as a helpless little baby at Bethlehem, and he gave his Son as a sacrifice for sin on the cross at Calvary.
Paul summarizes this thought so well in Romans 5:8, But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
IN JESUS YOU WILL SEE:
SALVATION AS THE PURPOSE OF GOD’S LOVE
The reason God sent his Son is because we were lost.
We are all sinners.
We have all broken God’s law, and we are separated from God because of our sin.
God is a just judge who must punish sin.
The Bible tells us the punishment for sin is death – not just physical death, but spiritual death, eternal death.
That’s what that word “perish” means in John 3:16.
It means to die in your sins, eternally separated from God and his love.
God loves us, and he doesn’t want us to die in our sins.
And so, he sent his Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Isaiah 53:6, We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
How deep is God’s love for the world?
We had all sinned.
We had all gone our own way instead of God’s way.
We all deserved God’s righteous punishment for sin.
But God gave his only Son.
He took our sins and laid them upon Jesus who paid the penalty of our sin for us.
The purpose of God’s love is our salvation.
Notice what John 3:16 says about who receives this gift of eternal life.
Not everyone is saved, but only those who believe in Christ.
That word “believe” means to believe to the extent of complete trust and reliance.
It means believing that Jesus truly is God’s Son, that he died on the cross for your sins and trusting your life into his hands.
That’s why God sent his Son – that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
It doesn’t even mean that you believe Jesus existed and walked on this earth, it doesn’t mean that you know stuff about him…
It means that you trust him for your salvation.
Notice that word “whoever.”
It doesn’t matter who you are.
It doesn’t matter what you’ve done.
It doesn’t matter how badly you have sinned against God or against other people.
It doesn’t matter how old or how young you are.
If you will put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of your life, God will save you.
He will forgive your sins and give you the gift of eternal life.
It’s not something you earn or deserve.
You receive it as a free gift simply by believing in what Jesus has done for you.
“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.”
Let me wrap up our year this morning with three things for you to walk away with if you are a believer.
If you are not a believer, the application is obvious.
You need to trust Christ.
You need to put your faith in God’s Son who died for you.
That will mean turning away from the sin in your life and following God’s way instead.
It is the most important decision you will ever make.
And it is the best decision you will ever make.
God will enter your life, through His Holy Spirit and make you a new person.
He will forgive you for all your sins and wash you clean.
Best of all, you will have the assurance that when you die, you will go to be with God in heaven.
You will not perish but have eternal life.
So, that is the very clear application if you are not a believer this morning.
Put your trust in Jesus Christ.
But if you are a believer in Christ, how can you apply this verse?
Make Missions A Priority.
Support the effort to share the Gospel with those who have never heard about Jesus Christ.
We need to develop a heart for the world.
We need to ask God to give us his heart for the world.
Make no mistake about it.
God loves the whole world.
He did not send Jesus so that just a few people in a certain corner of the globe would be saved.
He sent Jesus because he loved the world.
The scope of God’s love covers the whole world, and so we must also love the whole world.
And that means supporting missions – with your finances, with your prayers and with your personal involvement as you have opportunity.
Here at MACC, we do so as a church by tithing our General Fund to Missions, we started out at a tithe, but we are adding to that by increasing the percentage we give.
As a church we can’t do it all, but as God brings opportunities into your life, you can give to those missions.
God so loved the world that he sent his Son.
There would be no salvation for anyone apart from Jesus.
God showed the depth of his love by sending his Son, and so we should lift up the name of Jesus every chance we get.
He is the Son of God.
He is the Savior.
He is the deepest expression of God’s love for us.
And so let us exalt Christ with our lips and with our lives.
Share The Gospel.
Our friends and neighbors are also lost without Jesus.
Without Christ in their lives, they will perish in their sins as surely as the tribal person on the other side of the globe who has never heard the gospel.
Your friends and neighbors are part of this world that God loves.
God gave the gift of his Son into the world for them, too.
We need to share the gospel with those around us.
And what is the gospel?
Remember, John 3:16 is the gospel in a nutshell: “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.”
You probably already have it memorized.