At Grace we did meet for worship last Lord’s Day though it also happened to be Christmas Day. After all, what better way to celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus than to gather with God’s people to worship and give thanks to God for the gift of his Son? And so we met as usual on Sunday morning for church.
My sermon was focused on what may be the most famous Bible verse of all, John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” The theme of the message was that Christ came into a perishing world to bring life.
When Adam and Eve sinned against God, they brought down upon themselves and the entire human race God’s threatened judgment against sin: death (Genesis 2:17). The death they died was spiritual death followed by physical death. How did they die spiritually? They no longer enjoyed communion with their Creator, the Lord God (Genesis 3:23, 24). Alienation from the God who made us to know, love, and worship him is truly to be dead.
Jesus came to make us alive again by dying for us, thus wiping away our sins and bringing us back into fellowship with God, which is eternal life (John 17:3). He was born to die, to die for sinners that we might live forever. Truly Christ and his salvation is God’s “inexpressible gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15)! Who can ever be disappointed on Christmas morning if he has received this greatest gift of all?
And Jesus is the gift of the Father’s love: “For God so loved the world…” Jesus did not die to change the heart of God towards us from indifference or hostility to love. Such an idea dishonors God, who is love (1 John 4:8). God already loved his own, even in our sin, and fulfilled the purposes of his love by giving up his Son to death to remove our sin.
So by his birth, but especially through his death and resurrection, Jesus has brought life into our perishing world. I suppose my whole sermon could be summarized by this one verse: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
I enjoy the coming of the New Year, maybe because by nature I am an optimist. I tend to envision only the blessings and good things that the New Year may bring. But I’m also a believer in providence and thus know that God often blesses us through challenges and difficulties. Even if my dreams for a great 2017 fail to come true, there’s no greater comfort than God’s promise that “for those who love God all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28). My prayer is this: in prosperity may I humbly give thanks to the God from whom comes “every good gift and every perfect gift” (James 1:17), and in adversity may I cheerfully submit to the wise and loving will of the Heavenly Father. It’s a new year but the same and unchangeable Christ who sits on the throne of heaven, ruling over time and creation for our salvation and his glory.
With that truth in mind, bring on the New Year!
Soli Deo Gloria!