I love memories! I love collecting experiences like a stamp collector proudly fills sleeve after sleeve with his little inch-by-inch treasures. I can go through the hallways of my mind and see snapshots of the treasures God has allowed me to experience throughout my life. I can think of memories from the past year all the way back to when I was a little kid. Some of my fondest memories of my childhood were spending Christmas with my family. We would always spend Christmas morning at our house enjoying all of the toys that Santa had left while we were sleeping, but then we would load up the station wagon (did you ever have one of those?), and head to Wynnewood where we would spend the day with my grandparents. I don’t remember the gifts my grandparents gave me as much as I remember spending time with them.
I do remember some of the gifts Santa gave me and there are three that stick out in my mind more than any of the others. Are you ready? They were some great gifts! I remember getting an electric football set. I remember setting up all of the players on that metal playing field, tucking a felt football under my running back’s arm, and then I hit the power switch. The vibration caused by the little motor shook the field with such force that sometimes players would just fall over like an earthquake had hit Duncan. I played so much electric football that I wore that little motor out. I remember getting Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots one Christmas and spending hours trying to knock the block off of anyone who would play me. Last of all, I remember when I got older, Santa brought me my favorite gift of all time—Pong! It was a video game. Way better than an Xbox One or a PS4!! You would hook it up to the television, turned it on, and there were two white blocks with a center line drawn down the middle of the t.v. screen. Another little block of white would bounce back and forth from one side of the screen to the other and you would hear a “click” every time you knocked it back at your opponent. Man, did we have fun back in the day!!
Well, the passage of time has made every single one of my favorite gifts obsolete. Football games, boxing games, and every other sort of game have far surpassed the ancient versions I had 40 or 50 years ago. I’ve been thinking of that this past week and I’ve come to the conclusion that’s just the way it is with much of the stuff that we treasure at various times in our lives. It doesn’t really matter what “stuff” you are talking about, the new models just keep getting better and better. I remember when David Darnell got his first computer when I was working in Plano more than 30 years ago. David’s computer had a 40 megabyte hard drive! David said, “I will never be able to fill this thing up.” I remember my first transistor radio do you? What do you even compare that to today? Can you remember your old VHS player? Now movies stream right over our wifi connection. Don’t you long for our old VHS players? You know you do! I could go on and on couldn’t I. The newer versions just keep getting better and better. With all of that said there are some gifts that never grow old, as a matter of fact, they get better with age. James said,
16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:16-17 NIV)
“Every good and perfect gift is from above.” Oh if we could remember this profound statement each and every day when we crawl out of bed and begin our day then our days would be filled with wonder and awe my friends. The heaviness that so many experience would be lifted by the gracious gratitude that comes from understanding that everything in life is a gift from Almighty God. The emptiness that so many experience would be filled with a fullness beyond measure. The grumbling and griping that flows from our mouths would be transformed into words of gratitude to the Lord. Every good and perfect gift is from God and they don’t rust out, wear out, or become old and outdated. There are so many wonderful gifts that we could talk about tonight, but I just want to unwrap a few for us.
First of all, let’s talk about the love that God has showered upon us. Love is such an elusive thing isn’t it? When we talk about the love we give and receive we have to admit that our love is conditional. If you behave in a certain way then you will be loved by those around you, but pity the person who doesn’t act right. Right? Listen to a few verses about God’s love. Paul wrote, in Romans 8:38-39.
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39 NIV)
Paul wasn’t the only one who wrote about the wondrous love of God. John understood very well how God’s love is so very different than the love that we are accustomed to experiencing in this life. That is why he wrote,
10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:10 NIV)
You see, it wasn’t when we were at our best that God showed His love for us—it was when we were at our worst. Paul wrote,
8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 NIV)
I am convinced that when I first became a follower of Jesus I didn’t really understand God’s love. You couldn’t have convinced me back then, but after walking with God for going on 40 years I can make that statement. The longer you walk with God the more you treasure the unfathomable, incomprehensible love of God. It’s like being married. I loved Connie when we were first married. I was crazy about her in every sense of the word, but now that we’ve been married for almost 34 years our love is so different, so much deeper. We’ve been through it…together. Going through “it” has bonded my heart to hers in an indescribable way. The longer you walk with the Lord the more you will experience that bond that transcends words.
There is a second gift that has gotten sweeter with time and it is the forgiveness of God. Forgiveness is such a unique quality of God. I’m not talking about saying you forgive someone. I’m talking about forgiving and never holding it against them and never even bringing it up again. Listen to this.
8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. 9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; 10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:8-12 NIV)
I love the prophet Micah. He’s called a “minor” prophet, but there is nothing minor about Micah’s message. In Micah 7:18-20 we read about the God who will cast our sins into the depths of the ocean. Listen to this.
Where is the god who can compare with you—wiping the slate clean of guilt. Turning a blind eye, a deaf ear, to the past sins of your purged and precious people? You don’t nurse your anger and don’t stay angry long, for mercy is your specialty. That’s what you love most. And compassion is on its way to us. You’ll stamp out our wrongdoing. You’ll sink our sins to the bottom of the ocean. (Micah 7:18-20 The Message)
Someone here tonight has been wrapped up in guilt for far too long. Tonight you need to know that you can unwrap God’s glorious gift of forgiveness and know that you are forgiven because of the gift of God’s Son, Jesus, our Savior.
The third gift that has grown sweeter over time for me is the gift of hope. I have to tell you that tonight this gift is especially sweet to me because of there are some people that I use to spend Christmas with who are no longer with us. Christmas was the day of all days for my mom. My mom knew how to celebrate Christmas like nobody I’ve ever known. When my mother went home to be with the Lord three years ago I was so sad for me, but I was so excited for her. The cause of my excitement is the hope I have that this life is not all there is. Paul said,
19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. 20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:19-20 NIV)
God has given us His Son to bring us salvation. The pivotal moment of my life was the day I surrendered to Jesus as Master of my life. Many of the decisions I have made since that day—the woman I married, the way Connie and I have chosen to raise our kids, what I would do for the rest of my life, the way I view people, the way I’ve tried to be a friend—all of those have been influenced by that one decision. I can’t adequately explain Jesus’ influence on my life to you, but I will tell you this—as much as He has influenced and shaped my life—He has made an even greater mark on my view of the end of life. I love my mother. I would have loved to have spent another 50 years with her, but I can’t even imagine the joy she is experiencing at this moment. The thought of one day seeing my Savior face-to-face and spending eternity in His presence excites me and gives me great hope.
The older I get, the closer I draw to the end of my own life, the sweeter my hope becomes. He is my hope. This life is filled with sorrow and heartache. We suffer not just from our own heartache and sorrow, but we suffer alongside of those we love in their heartache as well. We have to remind ourselves of our glorious hope. The Psalmist wrote to himself.
10 My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?” 11 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. (Psalm 42:10-11 NIV)
Last of all, God’s greatest gift is the One who has demonstrated God’s love, forgiveness, and hope to us—Jesus. Even the mention of His name should cause us to well up with gratitude. With each passing day, God’s gift of His son grows sweeter and sweeter. How can I describe Him for you? How do you even begin to describe the Indescribable?
Oh, Jesus, You are…
The Babe of Bethlehem’s manger,
The Christ on Calvary’s hill,
The Author and Finisher of my Faith,
The Alpha and Omega,
The Bread of life,
The Bright and Morning Star,
The Creator of the Heavens and the Earth,
And the Comforter of my soul.
The Deliverer from Evil,
And the Defender of my soul.
The Exceeding Great Reward for believers,
And the Everlasting Father,
The Friend that sticks closer than a brother,
And the Fortress of my soul.
The Good Shepherd that gives His life for His sheep,
And the Great High Priest,
The Helper of the widow and the fatherless,
And the Healer of my soul.
The Image of the Invisible God,
And the One Isaiah called, “Immanuel.”
The Justifier of all those who trust in You,
And the Judge of all the nations.
The King of Kings and Lord of lords,
And The King of Glory,
The Lamb of God,
The Lion of the tribe of Judah,
And the Light of the world.
The Messiah, the Man of Sorrows,
And You are the Merciful Savior.
The Name above every name,
And the Never failing Lover of those who trust in You.
The Only begotten of the Father,
The Only mediator between God and man,
The Prince of Peace,
The Pearl of Great Price,
And my Portion forever.
The Quiet Place to those who seek Your face,
And the Quencher of all of those who thirst.
The Resurrection and the life,
And the Rock of my salvation.
The Stone that the builders rejected,
The Shield of our Salvation,
And the Strength of my soul.
The our Strong Tower,
And the Teacher of all that is true.
The Unblemished Lamb of God,
And the Unchangeable friend.
And our Very help in our time of need.
The Way, the Wisdom of God, the Word of God,
The Wonderful Counselor,
And the Lamb who is Worthy of our praise. (adapted from danryker.com)
He is the indescribable gift of God given to people just like you and me. He didn’t come for those who have it all together; He came for those of us who are a mess. He didn’t come for the spotless saint, He came for the broken sinner. He is God’s gift. Won’t you receive God’s Christmas gift to you this Christmas Eve?
Britton Christian Church