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... Christ has brought to us the gift of Righteousness.
When you read the account of the birth of Christ in the Bethlehem manger what do you think the greatest gift was? I`m not talking about the wise men and their gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh, no, ask yourself what the gift of the baby in the manger was really all about? Is the greatest gift of this babe in a manger an awareness of Who God is… no. Is the greatest gift His willingness to one day become 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? These are indeed great gifts to us in the cradle of Christ but 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. Let’s look at what was actually recorded about that night. Turn with me to Luke 2:7-20 .
Fact #1 A baby was born to a young unmarried couple. His entry into the world was very plain, wrapped in swaddling cloths, laying in the damp darkness of a manger, a vulnerable infant. 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 “Anointed One, Messiah”
Lord - the Greek word ‘ Kurios’ meaning “Supreme in Authority”
The directive was to go to the outskirts of Bethlehem where there was small holding stable and in it they would find a new born infant.
Fact #4 The shepherds found the sign of the manger, a place that was likely known to them, but not like this. There they find Joseph startled by their presence. They see Mary laying in the straw beside a manger and then they saw the newborn who was the Deliverer, the Messiah, the Supreme Authority. The evident contrast was overwhelming, helplessness and great power right before them, they were compelled to believe, the miracle of the angels faded in comparison to this.
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 home, but what we do know is that they all wondered at what this gift was. Even Mary, filled with a greater 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 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 stand 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:
- We have a sin nature that is not only self focused it therefore is rebellious against God in it’s independent beliefs.
- The effect of this sin nature is that it condemns us before God. There is a sentence of death and eternal judgment on our heads because of sin.
- There is no way past unrighteousness, it can’t be masked with good behavior or 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.
- The only solution to unrighteousness is to transfer it to another who will pay the penalty it demands, death and judgment. But it doesn’t stop there. Righteousness in turn needs to be transferred to us.
- The transferring 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.
- It is the 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 greatest gift.
Let me suggest some implications that this righteousness has for us.
- It is how God now sees us irrespective of how we see ourselves.
- It is secured by God, He is the one who has imputed it to us.
- It becomes the basis of how God relates to us, your eternal judgment has already happened as far as God is concerned towards you.
- It is the first step in every persons life as they move towards eternity. All eternity shall be experienced in a 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 righteousness of God will change you , how you think, what your motivation is and what you do. That change is called sanctification, it is the evidence of His presence in you. It’s like fruit on a tree is the evidence of a healthy tree.
The misunderstood gift of Christmas is that the Christ child in the manger has brought to us something more than sacrifice, more forgiveness, or even grace.
The misunderstood gift of Christmas is that Christ has brought to us the gift of Righteousness. It is a gift that God has proclaimed to you, a gift of good news and great joy. This is the gift you are meant to receive by faith, open by belief and have by grace, today.