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The Greatest Gift of All [Christmas Eve]


December 24, 2022

"The Greatest Gift of All"


What is your favorite Christmas song? Now, before you answer, I will not accept secular songs. No "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire." No "Grandma got run over by a reindeer." And definitely no "Santa Baby." I know, I know there are some secular songs that aren't cheesy. But, obviously, tonight, I will only accept Christian songs.


What is your favorite Christmas song…?


One of my favorites is "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel." I love this song. It was written about one thousand years ago. Here's verse three:

O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer our spirits by thine advent here; and drive away the shades of night, and pierce the clouds and bring us light!

Rejoice! rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!


I love this song. "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," is deeply rooted in God's

Word.


We're going to focus on one word from the song. Emmanuel. If you're

taking notes, you might want to write down what it means:

God With Us

Let's say that together…God With Us.


So, what makes "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" so special?


First, a little Biblical direction. From Matthew 1:21-23:

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel" {which means, God with us}.


"God with us." So what does that mean? How is God with us? Why is God with us? How does that speak to our lives here in Michigan in the waning days of 2022?


To answer that let's look at another Christmas song.


Another favorite of mine is based on a poem written by a French wine merchant. Here is the best literal translation:


Midnight, Christians, is the solemn hour,

When God as man descended unto us

To erase the stain of original sin

And to end the wrath of His Father.

The entire world thrills with hope

On this night that gives it a Saviour.

People, kneel down, await your deliverance.

Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer,

Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer!

May the ardent light of our Faith

Guide us all to the cradle of the infant,

As in ancient times a brilliant star

Guided the Oriental kings there.

The King of Kings was born in a humble manger;

O mighty ones of today, proud of your greatness,

It is to your pride that God preaches.

Bow your heads before the Redeemer!

Bow your heads before the Redeemer!

The Redeemer has broken every bond:

The Earth is free, and Heaven is open.

He sees a brother where there was only a slave,

Love unites those that iron had chained.

Who will tell Him of our gratitude,

For all of us He is born, He suffers and dies.

People, stand up! Sing of your deliverance,

Christmas, Christmas, sing of the Redeemer,

Christmas, Christmas, sing of the Redeemer!


Do you know what song it is? Right…"O Holy Night." Some of my favorite Christmas songs are French in origin.


This is a beautiful song for a beautiful season sung by beautiful people. You are all beautiful people. Look around you. Really, look around at each other. Notice the people sitting around you. I don't mean look at the superficial stuff. I don't mean what's on the surface. Notice the people sitting around you. And as you do, say to the people around you, "You are beautiful." "You are beautiful."


Here's what it all means. You are beautiful because God chose to save you from before the foundation of the world. That's what the Bible says about devoted followers of Jesus Christ. God wrote our names down in the Lamb's Book of Life from before the foundation of the world. Make no mistake. God didn't send His Son to die for you because you are beautiful. You are beautiful because He sent His Son to die for you. As the song puts it:

Midnight, Christians, is the solemn hour,

When God as man descended unto us

To erase the stain of original sin

And to end the wrath of His Father.

Even better than the song, here's how Jesus put it:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

- John 3:16

Those are the words of Jesus. This is a beautiful night. We celebrate because in Christ, God has chosen to make us beautiful people. God has

chosen to love us, in spite of us. God has sent Jesus, His only Son, to die

for us. I think now is a good time to say "Amen."


I love how Charles Spurgeon captured the depth of it:

"Sovereign grace is dear to those who have groaned deeply because they see what grievous sinners they are."

We are made worthy because Jesus was born to die. Our beautiful Savior makes us his beautiful people. I hope that makes sense to you.


Here's the follow-up to John 3:16, which reinforces the "Amen" we just said:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

- John 3:17

Make no mistake. We have given God plenty of reasons to condemn us. We are a rebellious people. We turn from God. We turn from each other. We do the things we know we shouldn't do and we don't do the things we know we should do. We've all been there. Watch the news. Yikes. Go through your neighbor's trash. Not that I've ever done that, but oh, the things you'd find. And sin just isn't my neighbor's problems. It's mine, as well. I don't know about you, but sometimes I'm pretty condemnable.


I love how R.C. Sproul once put it:

THERE IS ONLY ONE THING THAT I CAN PLACE BEFORE GOD THAT IS, PROPERLY SPEAKING, MY OWN: MY SIN.


Bethlehem shows us the way out. Bethlehem is why we can confidently place our sin before God. Remember, Jesus was born to die. For us. God purposed to save us from eternal punishment for our sin through the death of Christ. And He fixed our salvation in place before we were even born. In other words, Bethlehem says we are loved, not condemned. Because Jesus was born to die for us, we are beautiful children of God. From Matthew's Gospel:

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother

Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was

found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord has spoken by the prophet - "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel {which means, God with us}".


Let's say that again…God with us. Not God-against-us or God-to-abandon-us, or God-to-forsake-us, but God with us. That is the Good News of Bethlehem.


Good News. Some of you are in a tough spot right now. You're facing a hardship and you need good news.


Some of you are facing an empty chair this year. Someone is not going to

be here for Christmas. It could be death, or divorce, or distance, and it just wrecks you. The good news of Christ comforts you.


Some of you are facing relationship tensions. You wish the holiday spirit would make them go away. The good news of Christ heals you.


Some of you might be thinking, I've done some pretty bad things in my life, I don't see how there could be any good news for me. These are exactly the moments when the Christmas story speaks encouragement into our lives. God is with you. If you believe that, you will never be the same.


Wherever you go from here; wherever your Christmas plans take you, I want you to go with the knowledge that no matter what you go through or experience in life, God will be with you. God is with you now. And because of Jesus Christ, you will be with God forever. That's the greatest gift of all.


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