The Misunderstood Gift

Text: Luke 2: 7-20

Proposition: The misunderstood gift of Christmas is that Christ has brought to us something more than sacrifice, something more than forgiveness, something more than grace, something more than even an awareness of God’s love for us. The misunderstood gift of Christmas is that Christ has brought to us the gift of Righteousness.

Introduction:  Have you ever received a Christmas gift and you weren’t quite sure what it was? Awhile back we were at a Christmas party, one of those gift exchanges where you don’t know who is going to get the gift that you brought. One of the people there opened a small box and inside was a box of Metric and Standard Allan wrenches. Allan wrenches look like much, an ‘L’ shaped piece of steel of various thickness, they are shaped so as to fit in the heads of certain types of screws.  Likely you’re just as puzzled about what these things are, just as most people in the room that night were. It was to them a strange gift, one with questionable usefulness and certainly not something that possessed any beautiful appearance. What do Allen wrenches have to do with the Christmas story?  The birth of Christ was a gift that was ‘unwrapped’ and wondered at by all those who were present. It was a gift that seemed obscure, a gift uniquely shaped to be a key unlike any other. Turn with me to Luke2:6-20 .When you read this account ask yourself what the gift of the baby in the manger was really all about? Is the greatest gift an awareness of God… no. Is the greatest gift a willingness to be our sacrifice? No. Is the gift of forgiveness of sins the greatest gift? No. Is it the grace of God that is the greatest gift, is it the love of God that’s the greatest gift?  Again no, for although these are indeed gifts to us in the cradle of Christ, they are only parts of the most misunderstood gift of Christmas. I don’t think the shepherds understood it, I don’t think Joseph understood it, I don’t think that even Mary understood what the great gift was. I would suspect that there was only one group that really knew or understood what the greatest gift was, but were getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s look at what was actually recorded about that night.

Fact #1 A baby was born to a young unmarried couple. Though his entry into the world was very plain, He was still a vulnerable infant that needed warmth and food and rest. A human baby was born that night.

Fact #2 A group of  men called shepherds were watching over a flock of sheep. By profession they were loners, socially speaking they were low in status. It was at night when they experienced what people are still singing carols about today, they saw and heard an angel of the Lord.

Fact #3 The angel spoke to them both an announcement and a directive. The announcement was that he was bringing them good news and a great joy for all the people. Specifically this great joy was the birth announcement of a person who had three titles: He is Savior; He is Christ; He is Lord. Savior – the greek word ‘Sotare’ meaning “Deliverer”.Christ -  the greek word ‘ Khristos’ meaning “Annointed One, Messiah”Lord -    the greek word ‘ Kurios’ meaning “Supreme in Authority” 

Fact #4 The shepherds went and found the manger, something they were very familiar with. In the manger they found the young couple and this precious infant who was the Deliverer, the Annointed One, Messiah, the Supreme Authority. The evident contrast was overwhelming, yet they were compelled to believe it, something miraculous was happening here.

Fact #5 The shepherds went out from there telling others what they had seen, perhaps Mary and Joseph had many other visitors that night. Perhaps they were quickly moved into an inn or someone’s house, but what we do know is that they all wondered at what this gift was. Even Mary, filled with a fuller understanding of what was happening, even she didn’t understand what this gift was as she pondered these things in her heart.My point is simply this, the persons directly involved in the birth event of Jesus didn’t understand what God’s greatest gift to them was going to be. Good news, yes, a great joy for all the peoples, yes, but it was still obscure to them. So enough suspense, what is the greatest gift that the cradle of Christ’s birth was bringing?

I was visiting a person a short while ago who resolutely believed that there are many paths to God. At the same time they deeply believed that they were a Christian themselves, yet allowed that a Muslim or Mormon or Hindu or Buddhist viewpoint was equally valid as a truth about who God is and how we are to approach Him. In every other religion except Christianity our conduct and attitude are the means to a right relationship with God. The Christian viewpoint alone states that righteousness comes from outside of us.  It comes as a gift to us, not only are we incapable of generating it, it is essential for being right with God. When a person makes the statement that there are many paths to God, they are missing the essential need of man for righteousness which he needs to possess in order to arrive and remain before God.

   

The most misunderstood gift of Christmas is the gift of Righteousness that we received through the person of Jesus Christ. I believe that the only group that really understood that truth were the angels. In fact they allude to it as they spontaneously declare, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased”. Why is God pleased, or satisfied, as one translation would put it? The answer lies in the fact that God has supplied a way for the unrighteousness of man to be redirected to another.

The way it works is like this:

1.     We have a sin nature that is not only self focused it therefore is rebellious against God in it’s independent beliefs.

2.     The effect of this sin nature is that it condemns us before God. There is a sentence of death on our heads because of sin.

3.     There is no way past unrighteousness, it can’t be masked with good behavior of generous acts. It would be like putting a tuxedo on a pig and expecting it to appreciate opera now that it’s wearing a tuxedo.

4.     The only solution to unrighteousness is to transfer it to another who will pay the penalty it demands, death.  But it doesn’t stop there. Righteousness in turn needs to be transferred to us.

5.     The transferal of righteousness to us is a positional action much like the way a person would experience adoption or citizenship. Who you are as a person remains much as you experienced it yesterday, but who you are in terms of how others of great authority relate to you has been radically changed. The transferring or imputing of righteousness to us radically changes the way God relates to us.

6.     It is forgiveness of sin that removes or cleanses us from all unrighteousness, it is grace that motivates this and it is love that  accomplishes it, but righteousness is the net gain.

Let me suggest some implications that this righteousness has for us.

a)     It is how God now sees us irrespective of how we see ourselves.

b)    It is secured by God, He is the one who has imputed it to us.

c)     It becomes the basis of how God relates us, judgement has happened already as far as God is concerned towards us.

d)    It is the first step in every persons life as they move towards eternity. All eternity shall be experienced in righteous attitude and action with God. If there is no righteousness, there is no being with God through eternity (sin and holiness cannot co-exist). Our positional righteousness in Christ is the first step of eternity. It will call us to now live accordingly.

The misunderstood gift of Christmas is that the Christ child in the manger has brought to us something more than sacrifice, or forgiveness, or even grace.The misunderstood gift of Christmas is that Christ has brought to us the gift of Righteousness.

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