God's Greatest Gift Is Jesus!
When John the Baptizer was born, his father, Zacharias, was able to speak again. He broke out into a hymn of praise to God announcing the fact that the Savior would soon be born, but then in faith addressed his son and described the blessed work of preparation he would be privileged to perform!
Text: Isaiah 9:6
For 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 Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace!”
In Christ Jesus, Mary’s “Child”…God’s “Son”…our “Prince of Peace,” dear fellow redeemed:
We are now but six days away from Christmas. Next Tuesday we will celebrate that which is now considered a national holiday…but why? We have many symbols associated with Christmas in order to remind us of the reasons why we celebrate, but so often symbols can lose their significance. Many people put up a Christmas tree, but no longer remember its meaning. Its shape points our eyes to heaven. Its color reminds us of the gift of everlasting life we receive through faith in Jesus. Its lights remind us that Jesus is the Light of the world (cf. Jn. 8:12). The star, which so often adorns its top, reminds us of the star which led the Wise Men to Jesus (cf. Mt. 2:1-12). Its decorations remind of the wise men’s gifts. And the gifts under the tree, which excite our little ones and offer us a chance to reveal our love for one another—why those gifts are intended to remind us of the greatest Christmas gift. For you see, the reason we celebrate Christmas is to remind ourselves that GOD’S GREATEST GIFT IS JESUS! As we consider the words of the prophet Isaiah found in our text, we note this evening that this gift from God is personal! It is also approachable! And, finally, it is also powerful!
We would have little reason to celebrate Christmas, if that greatest gift of Jesus were notpersonal! If Jesus came just for one nation, rather than all; for one portion of the population, rather than all; for one age group, rather than for all. But from the beginning God made it clear that His Christmas gift was intended for all, and therefore for each of us personally! God gave His promise to all of mankind in the Garden of Eden after the fall into sin and to Noah and all of his descendants after the Flood. Later when God chose Abraham to safeguard that promise, He affirmed its universal nature by saying to Abraham: “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3b)—not just one family, or some families, but God would send His Savior for all of the families of the earth! Yes, Jesus is a personal gift from God to you and to me! That is why Isaiah was led by the Spirit of God to prophesy: “For unto us a Child is born!”
God wants you and me to personalize His gift within our hearts each and every day! He wants each of us individually to confess: I am a sinner. I personally deserve God’s eternal judgment, but He has chosen to rescue me from my sin and deliver me from its consequence—death. Because of God’s gift of Jesus, I am now an adopted child of God with a secure future awaiting me in heaven. Jesus’ promises are made to me—He will be with me always (cf. Mt. 28:20); He holds me in His hand (cf. Jn. 10:28); He will hear and answer my prayers (Mt. 7:7); He is preparing a place for me (cf. Jn. 14:2); when my life here on this earth is complete, He will come for me to take me home to heaven (cf. John 14:3). My dear friends, each of us can say this personally, for GOD’S GREATEST GIFT IS JESUS, and that gift is personal!
Satan does not want us to remember this. He does not want us to believe it. Consequently, he will try to hide this truth from our eyes and keep it from our minds and hearts. He will use the glitter and glamour of the world to distract us. He will use the supposed wisdom of the world to confuse us. He will use our own sinful flesh to mislead us, with the hope that he can lead us so far away from God that we will lose hope of ever finding our way back. He will promise us great freedom, only to lead us into slavery. He will promise tremendous thrills, only and ultimately to immerse us in sorrows. Dear friends, if you have lost your way—if the bright star of Bethlehem holds but a faint and fading glimmer…return with all wise men and seek God’s gift—the Lord Jesus! He was and remains God’s personal gift to you!
And my dear friends, when we return, we will find that God’s greatest gift is so veryapproachable! Isaiah states, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given!” When I began dating my wife some thirty-five years ago, I was introduced to the card game “Sheep’s Head” by my in-laws. As I was learning the game, my future father-in-law, who did not approve of table-talk in general, was fond of reminding me at certain points in the game: “You don’t send out a boy to do a man’s job!” His point was that if you were going to trump a trick, you used a high trump, not a low one. Why did God on that first Christmas send His Son in the form of a helpless new-born Child, rather than as a conquering hero? After all, when Jesus returns at the end of time, He will come as a conquering hero. The Revelation depicts Jesus as coming down from heaven riding on a powerful white stallion with a “sharp sword” coming out of His mouth with which He will “strike the nations” and judging all of mankind and, indeed, all of creation. Why then did God send Jesus in such seeming weakness?
My dear friends, God knows our frail nature. He knows that should Jesus have come in all His power and glory initially, before sin’s destruction, His visible presence would have struck terror in the hearts of all. God’s desire is not to initiate a reign of terror within our hearts, leading us to serve and obey Him out of unreasoning fear. No, “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son…” (Jn. 3:16). He gave His only-begotten Son, in such a way that lowly shepherds might approach Him and adore Him as He lay in a manger. He sent His Son as a Child, so that He might become one of us, to live with us, in order that He might understand our condition and be in a position to respond to our every need. Yes, He is approachable!
Oh, yes, once again Satan will attempt to hide this fact from our eyes and our hearts. He will attempt to make us believe that Jesus does not love us, but that rather He merely wants to control us—to deprive us of our independence and our personal right to choose. He will attempt to make us believe that Jesus is a tyrant, whose presence we must fear and whose will for us we ought to resent. But, my dear friends, God gave His greatest gift to you and to me in the form of a Child, so that we might approach Him as easily, as freely, as joyously as we do our own infants and the infants of others! Yes, GOD’S GREATEST GIFT IS JESUS! That gift ispersonal, and it is approachable!
Finally, we see that it is also powerful! Isaiah states, “The government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace!” The phrase “the government will be upon His shoulder” suggests that Jesus possesses all authority and power in heaven and on earth, and that He will and does rule over all of creation! Those truths are amply addressed throughout the Scriptures, and while the world does not acknowledge the rule of Jesus, on the Last Day it certainly will, for at that time the Scriptures tell us, “Every knee shall bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:10-11)
The powerful nature, however, of God’s Christmas gift is also seen in the names bestowed upon Him—“Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.” Jesus is God’s “Wonderful Counselor” for the counsel He provides us through His Word is the truth of God which brings life to our souls! Jesus’ words are not always easy to understand and accept, for our fallen human natures rebel against God’s truths. In our pride, we do not want to accept the fact that we are completely dependent upon God for our salvation; and in our pride there are times when we want to go our own way and do our own things—even when our ways and things are ultimately harmful to us. Yet, by God’s grace we have been led in faith to recognize that Jesus’ counsel is truth, and consequently we can say with His disciples of old when asked by Jesus whether or not they wanted to depart from Him as so many already had—“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” (Jn. 6:68b-69)
Yes, Jesus is the “Son of the living God”—He is the “Mighty God” come in the flesh. Consequently, we can turn to Him and depend upon Him for help in all of our needs. Oh, at times it may seem that Jesus is unable to help, but that is only how it seems—it is not the actual case. Think of the Christmas story of the Wise Men and how Joseph and Mary had to flee Bethlehem to escape the murderous intentions of King Herod. Jesus seemed so helpless, yet within that Baby lay all the fullness of the Godhead bodily—a power that not even Herod and his soldiers could have resisted.
Jesus is the “Everlasting Father,” or as it is more easily understood—the Father or Originator of everlasting life! Jesus once said, “Because I live, you will live also” (Jn. 14:19). Jesus came into this world as God’s greatest Christmas gift in order to conquer sin and its consequence: death. He came in order to give us everlasting life. Consequently, the Bible speaks of Jesus’ resurrection as being a “first-fruits” of the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20), in other words, that Jesus was the first to arise, but that His resurrection would lead to our own! So just as surely as the tomb was empty on Easter, so our own tombs one day will be empty, because Jesus will raise us up to everlasting life!
Finally, Jesus is our “Prince of Peace.” We live in a world that knows little peace, and the peace it knows seldom lasts. But Jesus came to reestablish peace between God and man, and He has succeeded. Through His work of redemption our sins have been paid for and we have been reconciled to God. The apostle Paul writes, “God was in Christ reconciling the world, not imputing their trespasses to them” (2 Cor. 5:19). We, therefore, can relax and rejoice in a relationship Jesus has won for us—a relationship that leads to God’s protection and blessing here in this life, and God’s presence and glory in the next!
My dear friends—next Tuesday is Christmas! Let us not forget why we celebrate this national holiday. Let us remember that GOD’S GREATEST GIFT IS JESUS! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting