The Gift of Christmas
THE GIFT OF CHRISTMAS - INCARNATION
Christmas Eve Service of Readings and Carols
Peter Foxwell. The Cornerstone Church. December 24, 2017.
INTRODUCTION: THE INCARNATION
I already know what my big Christmas gift is this year. I know because I bought it. It's an Instant Pot: a pressure cooker, slow cooker, and rice cooker all in one machine. It's a high-tech, programmable, gadget that is going to make some great food.
The New York Times says that the Instant Pot has spawned a religion. There are 850,000 fanatical members of its Facebook Group. What a great gift - food and religion!
The Instant Pot is a good gift - very useful - but we're here celebrating today because THE greatest gift of all time is Jesus.
Christmas is all about the "incarnation" of Jesus; that is, the process by which God and man combine all in one person, Jesus of Nazareth. That's THE gift of Christmas and that's what I want us to focus on this morning.
I'm going to take a few minutes to explain what the incarnation means and then what the incarnation means for us.
You can follow along using the outline in the bulletin.
A. WHAT DOES THE INCARNATION MEAN?
The word incarnation is from a Latin word - "carnis" - that means "body, flesh" Jesus is the incarnation of God - literally, God in a body. That means:
Jesus is God with us. Remember our reading in Matthew 1? "they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.'" But how is Jesus God with us?
Jesus is God in human flesh. God the creator became God the creature. The angel told Mary:
Matthew 1:20-21 "Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus."
Author, Frederick Buechner wants us to be scandalized by this idea: "The incarnation is a kind of vast joke whereby the Creator of the ends of the earth comes among us in diapers… Until we too have taken the idea of the God-man seriously enough to be scandalized by it, we have not taken it as seriously as it demands to be taken." (In Faces of Jesus)
Jesus is the God-man. God and humanity joined in one person.
John 1:14. "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us."
Jesus himself affirmed this. He said, John 14:9 "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father." We could not find our way to God, so God found his way to us by becoming one of us.
Charles Wesley's hymn, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, puts the incarnation poetically. Maybe you've sung it a million times without realizing the deep truth you were singing: "Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail the incarnate Deity. Pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus our Immanuel."
This is all very interesting in a technical, theological, way. It might even inspire a Christmas carol or two. But what does it have to do with us?
B. WHAT DOES THE INCARNATION MEAN TO US?
The incarnation is all about:
God's gift of revelation. God became one of us so we would know that God is real. Jesus (in his life and teachings) is the best picture of God you'll ever see:
Hebrews 1:2-3 "In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being."
Want to know God is real? Read the Gospel of John. Read a chapter every day and ask, "What is Jesus revealing to me about God? How should I respond?"
The incarnation is also about God's gift of representation. God became one of us to be the way back to God.
Hebrews 2:17 "He had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God."
A priest is a representative - the one for the many. He's like an ambassador or a bridge-builder. We don't build the bridge. Jesus already built it for us. If you really want to know God and experience the life he offers you, then start with Jesus. Ask him to re-connect you to God.
The incarnation is about God's gift of redemption. God became one of us to remove whatever keeps us from God.
Hebrews 9:12-14 "He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption ... 14 The blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, will cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!"
Jesus died on the cross to be a sacrifice of atonement; his death (blood) removes our sin and guilt and makes us acceptable to God.
If you're ready to be free, DO NOT try to free yourself. Don't attempt to make atonement for yourself - it won't work. Simply by faith ask Jesus to remove your sin and guilt and restore you to God so you can serve him.
THE greatest gift of Christmas is the incarnation. It's a gift because we cannot earn or deserve. It is gift from the loving heart of God himself.
The incarnation is a gift to be received. It's a mistake to reject or ignore Jesus. His incarnation is the most significant event in history. But more than that, God became flesh for you. He left heaven for you. He suffered for you. He died for you.
C. S. Lewis, the English scholar, reflecting on the gift of the incarnation wrote, "The Son of God became man to enable men (and women) to become the sons of God." — Mere Christianity
Christmas is a great time to take a closer look at Jesus. And to decide that he has shown you that God is real. Believe that Jesus is the way back to God for you. Turn to Jesus for cleansing from sin and guilt.
Christmas is the time to come home God.