Text: 1 John 5:11-13; Romans 6:22-23
Think about a gift. When we hear Christmas, we think about gifts. In the Philippines, when the month of September comes, we start singing Jose Mari Chan’s Christmas songs. Likewise, here in the US, we buy discounted items for gifts from Thanksgiving sales, Black Fridays, and Cyber Monday discounts. Well… who does not want gifts? I am not fond of receiving gifts. It makes me feel shy. Maybe it’s just my coping mechanism, or not used to receiving gifts when I was a child.
Most of us have godparents, ninong and ninang. I have too. But the problem is that 100% of them are pastors. So, do the math. I haven’t received any from them but prayers. And I am thankful for their prayers. That’s the greatest form of gift, I guess? So, I tend to go with my siblings every Christmas day because they have rich executive-level godparents.
Personal Story: I am easy to be pleased with. Just give me a coffee, and you’ll surely see me smile. However, there was this one memorable moment; it was when Ivy gifted me Honey Citron teas. I asked her why, then she said that she observed that every time we go out for a date, I order Citron teas. And I somehow have a unique smile every time I drink it. Of course, I was so kilig (butterflies in the stomach). Such a beautiful gift. I know you also have that kind of experience, like a gift of marriage, children, jobs, etc.
But in the Bible, the first “Exchanging of Gifts” happened. Throughout the Bible, there are stories that present exchanging gifts as a covenantal act. However, unlike us today, they did not feel bad about what they received since they could not out-give the Giver; until Christ happened.
Main Idea: Christ as the Greatest Gift of All (John 3:16)
Text: 1 John 5, 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.
Romans 6, 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Given – in the passages that we just explored, we saw that there is a Giver, and a gift has been given. The Giver is God, and the gift is eternal life in Christ Jesus. Have you ever received a gift that has another gift with it? Like, someone gave you a wallet, and inside the wallet, it has cash or a gift card. Wow, that’s certainly joyous. Likewise, the gift is Christ, and in Christ, there is another gift, the gift of eternal life. That, indeed, is a beautiful gift.
Received – If there’s a gift, then what do we do with it? Reject, ignore, or receive it? Of course, all we need is to receive it. In our passages, it has a conditional clause of “whoever has” or “who believes”-this is the same with John 3:16’s “whosoever believes.” Only those who have received the gift have the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus. What did it feel like when you first received your gift? You were happy? Excited?
Yes, we were excited about how we would use it, play it, or enjoy it. Then what happened after several years? We lost the excitement of enjoying the gift. It has become a decoration now. It is like that sometimes. We have gifts that have been received, opened, and (now) kept somewhere. Look at your basement, perhaps your storage? There are gifts in there that you never used anymore. (same with faith)
Valued – We have forgotten about it because we have forgotten its value. Gifts received—like the one we have received in Christ—are to be valued; it has an eternal value. How can you share if you have forgotten how to enjoy the gift? What we share is experience. Christian experience. Illustration: Mystery Box (Anime). Patrizia said, “Pastor, it is about the experience, not just the surprise inside. But the feeling and the process of being excited and surprised.” Here, I remember Leonard Sweet’s book about the Gospel according to Starbucks. Their coffee is mid—nothing special. What they sell is experience. Likewise, in our Christian faith. Our gift in Christ is having this relationship with him, an experiential gift.
Value this beautiful provision of Christ to us. The gift of salvation, the gift of eternal life. Find joy in it. Yet, those who do not value such a Christian experience also fail to share it with others. How can you share something that you do not have?
Shared – The most cheerful Christians are those who share the gift of Christ. The ones who do not are like going to Starbucks and ordering a decaf coffee. Funny because Greg Laurie says, “the problem today is that we have too many ‘decaf disciples,’ too many ‘uncarbonated Christians.’” “What’s the point? All the fun is gone! Why don’t you just hold an empty cup and pretend to drink?” These Christians are spiritual hoarders. “Sometimes, as Christians, we can be the same way—hoarding all that God has given to us and not sharing it with others. But you are Blessed to be a blessing.”
Let us not be like that. Do not be a decaf disciple nor a spiritual hoarder of God’s beautiful provision. This Christmas season, the best gift we can share is Jesus. By doing so, the church that had received the beautiful provision—who is Jesus—becomes the beautiful provision to the world.
The receiver of the gift (church) becomes beautiful because of the beautiful provision (Jesus). Dustin Benge says, “The church is beautiful because the lens through which Christ regards her is his cross—the focal point of blood, righteousness, forgiveness, union, justification, regeneration, and grace. His cross makes her beautiful.”
Prayer: ‘Lord, remove the excuse that binds my will from obedience to You. I am afraid, and I am nervous—what if they won’t listen? What if they mock me? What if they reject me? Give me all that I need to avoid the sin of not sharing the only thing that can save—Your gospel. In Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen.” – Greg Laurie
Ptr. John Paul Arceno
UCBC New Jersey
December 11, 2022