Dave Johnson Sermon: “The Greatest Gift” (John 1:1 Dave Johnson Sermon: “The Greatest Gift” (John 1:1-14) Christmas Day, 2010 A couple years ago as my family was opening presents

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    Dave Johnson Sermon: The Greatest Gift (John 1:1-14) Christmas Day, 2010

    A couple years ago as my family was opening presents on Christmas morning my daughter, Becky took one of her presents and read aloud the label, To Becky From Becky. The rest of us looked at one another with puzzled faces. Hmm she continued as she opened it, I wonder what it is. When she unwrapped it and discovered that it was beautiful handbag she exclaimed, Alrightjust what I wanted! . She had bought, wrapped, and given herself a handbag as a Christmas present to herself. It was hysterical and our whole family cracked up .

    On Christmas we tend to receive the best presents from people who know us the best and love us the mostperhaps a spouse or parent or child, or maybe if its been a particularly bad year, yourself . One Christmas when I was in high school I received a lint brush for Christmasnot just any lint brush, but a lint brush in the shape of a carthe perfect gift for a teenage guy, right? After all the number one thing on the mind of teenage guys is not sports or cars or girls, its the lint on their clothes . That was definitely one of the strangest gifts I ever received, and Im sure if I asked each of you to share some strange gift stories youd all be able to do so. On the other hand, one of the best presents I ever received was an iPod, which my wife and kids pitched in and bought for me a couple years ago. I love music and I use it all the time and when I do Im reminded of how well my family knows me and how much they love me.

    On Christmas we join millions and millions of people around the world who celebrate the Greatest Gift of all from the Greatest Giver of all as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of Godas we prayed in the collect for today: Almighty God, you have given your only-begotten Son... God knows us the best and loves us the most, and so it makes sense that God has given us the greatest gift of all in Jesus Christ.

    And yet as we see in todays lesson from the Gospel According to John, Jesus, the Greatest Gift from the Greatest Giver, was rejected. John tells us that Jesus came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. Its as if the world put the present back under the tree, or wrote return to sender on the Christmas card envelope and put it back in the mailbox.

    Jesus life was marked by rejection. He was rejected by the inn keeper before he was born, and so he was born in a barn. He was rejected as illegitimate growing in up in Nazareth, addressed as Son of Mary by his neighbors instead of the traditional Son of Joseph. He was rejected by the Jewish religious leaders for teaching grace over law. He was betrayed by Judas and rejected by the other disciples who all ran away in his darkest hour. He felt rejected by God himself as he cried from the cross, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

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    For many people Christmastime can be painful because of strained relationships in their lives, and more often than not, a sense of rejection is a part of that. The good news is that God understands that, and that God cares.

    And God knew his Gift would be rejected, for in being rejected Jesus fulfilled the prophecy the Holy Spirit spoke through the prophet Isaiah over seven centuries earlier: He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces, he was despised, and we held him of no account (Isaiah 53:3).

    God knew his greatest gift would be rejected, but he gave the gift anyway.

    And that is the good news of the gospelthat although the world rejected the Jesus, Jesus did not reject us. In fact, Jesus accepted people, people who were often rejected by others. Jesus accepted the lepers who lived on the outskirts of town because they had been rejected by societyhe even touched them and healed them. Jesus accepted the Samaritan woman at the well who had a reputation of being that kind of womanhe even spoke with her and listened to her. Jesus accepted sinners and tax collectors who had been rejected by the religious leaders as being unfit to be aroundhe even ate with them and laughed with them. Jesus accepted little children who were often treated as chattel or a nuisancehe even welcomed them and held them in his arms.

    And yet Jesus, the Gift who was rejected, did much more than accept us as we are, he died on the cross to forgive our sins and give us the hope of eternal life. Jesus came not only to accept us, but to save us. John Mason Neale reflected this in the last verse of todays closing hymn:

    Good Christian friends, rejoice with heart and soul and voice. Now ye need not fear the grave: Jesus Christ was born to save! Calls you one and calls you all to gain his everlasting hall. Christ was born to save! Christ was born to save!

    And although most people rejected Jesus, John tells us some did not, that some people actually accepted Jesus and received him, as John writes in todays passage: But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.

    The verb for receive here also means to accept, to take home. In other words, believing the gospel means we accept Jesus and welcome him into our home, into our hearts. This is the best way respond to the Greatest Gift, to accept Jesus and welcome him into our hearts. That is how we receive the salvation of God, as we sang a few minutes ago: the King of Kings salvation brings; let loving hearts enthrone him.

    When we believe the gospel and receive Jesus Christ into our lives not only do we receive forgiveness of our sins and the hope of eternal life, we also receive adoption as Gods children

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    through the Holy Spirit. This is at the heart of Christmas, as Paul wrote in his Letter to the Galatians:

    But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba! Father! (Galatians 4:4-6).

    When we believe the gospel and receive Jesus Christ, God adopts us his children because he wants to and because he loves us, as John wrote in his first letter: See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are (I John 3:1).

    Ultimately, this gift of adoption is rooted in the grace of Godagain this goes back to the collect for today that reminds us that we have been made Gods children by adoption and grace.

    Grace means God loves us all the time, that God is on our side, that even though we rejected him he accepted us, that before we loved him he loved us, that while we were still sinners he died for us. God is a gracious God, and He loves us because he loves us. He gave us the Greatest Gift because he wanted to. And he not only welcomes us to himself, he adopts us as his children.

    All this is found in the baby born on Christmas Day, God incarnate man divine, Jesus Christ, who came to save us: Christ was born to save!

    So this Christmas, regardless of whether youre given great gifts or strange gifts, regardless of whether you feel accepted or rejected by people in your life, the good news is that the birth of Jesus Christ shows us once and for all that God has accepted us, that he loves us all the time and for all time.

    God gives us something that no one else can give us, something we cannot even give ourselves, salvation in Jesus Christ. The label on this present reads To Us From God. God knows us the best and loves us the mostand on Christmas Day God gave us Jesus, the Greatest Gift of all.

    Amen.

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