Luke, chapter 2, verses 6 and 7, and while they were there, that's at Bethlehem, the time came for her, Mary, to give birth.
And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn. Over the Christmas season at Calvary, we've been thinking of the theme at the manger, and we've thought of those who were at the manger, obviously Joseph and Mary and the shepherds. And most important of all, the central figure, not only of the manger but of all of human history and all of eternity is our Lord and Savior, the magnificent Christ. And with the coming of God's Son into the world, God's greatest gift is offered to each one of us.
At Christmas we reflect often about love, love within families, love of friends, love for those less fortunate than ourselves. Loving and being loved surely are one of the most wonderful experiences of life, to love someone and to receive love. Some people say they don't believe in love at first sight.
Personally, I do. It's when you've been living with someone for many years that love really becomes remarkable, isn't it? As we find that there are no perfect people in this world. But as we come to the manger this Christmas Eve, we reflect not just about human love, wonderful although that is and fulfilling it is to a certain extent, we think about the love of God. The Bible says that God so loved us. Think of that little word, so.
God so loved the world. Several years ago I was speaking at a conference in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and they say there's more PhDs per square mile there than anywhere else in the face of the world. And I was staying with a laser physicist. My physics is confined to high school, but I made the mistake of asking him, what is laser physics?
I don't think I'm a reasonably intelligent person. So I said to him, explain to me laser physics. And so he smiled and he began, and by the end of the first sentence I was completely lost. So I still don't know what laser physics is about. Isn't it wonderful that the message of Christmas, the message of the good news of the gospel is not as complicated as laser physics? This message of the good news, this message of Christmas is so simple that our children can understand it as we explain it to them.
I learned about it as a little boy. And yet this message of Christ's love for us is so powerful and is so profound that it transforms our lives. Not only does it transform our lives, it saves our soul. And as we come to the manger, as we've been invited to do so this Christmas Eve, I want us to think about God's love for us. John, the Apostle, who is the disciple whom Jesus loved and loved to write about love, says this in his first letter, chapter 4 verse 7. He says, in this the love of God was made manifest among us that God, listen to this, that God sent His only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. And then John says, beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
The love of God. The love of God is immeasurable. John says here in 1 John, as we just read, and as we have in the words of Jesus in John 3, 16, that God so loved us. It's not just that God loves, it is that God so loves us. But it's not just that God so loves us, John tells us in his epistles that God is love. That is, God's love is not incidental to Him. God's love is an essential attribute and revelation of who He is.
We can't think about God other than thinking this, that God is love. And here is the wonder of it, that this God who is love, loves you and me. That is wonderful, life-changing news. When people fall in love in a human relationship, it changes them. They get very excited. They tend to tell all of us about this person that they're falling in love with and it changes their life, doesn't it?
It changes their perspective. And it's a wonderful experience, surely one of the greatest human experiences of falling in love and loving someone and receiving that love back. But, great although human love is, this love is far, far deeper, far more wonderful, far more profound. How can we quantify the extent of God's love? The Apostle Paul talks of the length and breadth and height and depth of God's love. He piles superlative upon superlative at the end of Ephesians 3 as he tries to describe the extent of the love of God. It is immeasurable. It is infinite in its measurement. You can't measure God's love. It is eternal in its duration. It is unbreakable in its strength. So the Bible says God so loved the world.
Think of that. This love is universal. It's not confined to one particular race of people or category of people or a certain type of person. No, this love embraces the whole world. Wherever you're from, whatever your background, whatever the color of your skin, whatever your native tongue, this is true that God loves you.
That's amazing, isn't it? Most of us don't have too much difficulty thinking of God loving the little children, innocent little children, but as we get older and we make a mess of our lives, it becomes much more amazing, isn't it? Much more humbling to think that in spite of who we are and in spite of what we've done, God loves us.
That first Christmas, the angel announced to the shepherds that the good news was to all the people, not just the shepherds, not just to the Jews, not just to the Romans, but to all the people. And so Jesus says that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. Because love is immeasurable. But also, this love of God is causeless. God's love is uncaused. If you're listening carefully, as I read from John's epistle, it says it wasn't that we loved God first, no. It wasn't that you woke up one day and said, I'm going to start loving God.
No, it wasn't that at all. It was that first God loved us. And God doesn't love us because we're good people. God doesn't love us because we've done wonderful things. No, His love is unconditional.
Furthermore, it is undeserved. There's nothing in us deserving of God's love. And because of that, we can contribute nothing towards our salvation. So the Apostle Paul, this man who was a very zealous Jew but was converted on the road to Damascus, he says this about the love of God, that God demonstrates His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Did you get that? That God's love is uncaused as He sees us as our Lord Jesus comes into this world, as God sends His Son into the world. It's a dark world. It's a world that is rebelling against God.
It's a God full of people like you and me who want to live our own lives, who don't like anyone telling us what to do. I'll live my own way. I'll walk my own path.
Don't tell me what to do. I'm sufficient. I can live any way I want and in spite of that, God sends His Son. The word for that is grace. Grace. We believe in God's grace. God's love is an outpouring of His grace. And grace by definition is undeserved, unmerited, undeserved. It's not that we deserve the love of God. That's why we marvel at this great truth of grace. The Bible says it is by grace that you're saved. God's love for us is totally uncaused by anything that we do. It is totally of His grace.
You know, that's good news. Because if God only loved those who were good people, who always did the right thing, would any of you qualify here? Any hands up? Any perfect people here?
I don't think so. All of us without exception have messed up to a greater or lesser extent. The Bible's word for that is sin. That Christ died for us.
He came to us while we were yet sinners. His love for us is uncaused. Tomorrow, I hope you receive a lot of gifts. You may receive a gift from someone that you've helped. Someone that you've been kind to this year and they want to show their love for you by giving you a gift. In a sense, you deserve the gift.
You've done something for it. That's not the gospel. The gospel is you don't deserve this gift. God is offering you the gift of salvation, a free gift, totally unmarried, totally uncaused. That's why we often say in amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved wonderful people who come to Calvary Church on Christmas Eve.
No. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved righteous like you and me. God so loved us in our selfishness, in our self-absorption, in our rebellion, in our sin. This love springs from the heart of God, a God who is love, a God of grace, and at this time of year, particularly, we celebrate that God loves comes to us and we are undeserving of it. It's immeasurable.
It's causeless. But it's demonstrated. God's love is shown, is demonstrated by giving His Son. It's very easy to say to someone, I love you. People say to us, oh, I love you. It's almost like at the end of a conversation, I love you. We say, oh, I love you. Often it's a cliché.
Often it's meaningless. Very easy to say to someone, I love you. No authentic love as well. No true love. Love from the heart is demonstrated. It's shown. You show your love to your friends. You show your love to your husband, to your wife, to your children, your grandchildren, colleagues at work. You demonstrate that.
How would you know if someone loves you unless they show it and it's shown particularly in action? Here is the proof. Here's the evidence that God loves us. It's not that He just opens heaven and shouts down to us. No, He comes to us. Look at the marvel of that, that the infinite God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, who speaks and is done, who commands and it stands fast, that this God, the eternal God, the God who made you, the God comes from heaven, from eternity, beyond time and space, coming into human history. So John says the Word becomes flesh. And notice how He comes, a baby, born in Bethlehem, born in a sable, laid in an animal's feeding trough. That's God demonstrating His love for you, His entry into human history, and for what purpose?
It is to die for the sins of the world. We sang, what child is this? Who is this one? Just a baby, just a sentimental story?
No. This is Jesus, His name Jesus, Yeshua, Savior. He will save His people from their sins. Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. The Father is giving His son. Love is demonstrated by giving, for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.
That's it. This is God's greatest gift to us. In love, He sends His Son, the magnificent Christ to be our Savior, and He comes to die for us. In the passage I read, John uses an unusual word, a theological word, the word propitiation. He says He sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. That is, Jesus comes as an atoning sacrifice. He's the Lamb of God who's going to die on the cross, who's going to bear the judgment we deserve. And so, it is true we see the love of God at the manger, but the greatest demonstration of the love of God is at the cross.
The innocent Christ, the perfect Christ, as He bears the sins of John Monroe and himself. This perfect Christ bearing my sin. That's love, isn't it? That's a demonstration of His love. And not only does He die for my sins, He's buried, and He demonstrates that He's God by rising from the dead.
That's unique in the history of the world. No one else has come from heaven to earth, lived a perfect life, died, and then in His own power rose from the dead so that the Lord Jesus Christ is alive. And this is why He and He alone can offer us eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. I need that everlasting life. This is God's way of salvation, His only way. No church, no sacrament, no religious background.
Nothing that I can do can save myself. No, it's all of God's grace. It's a gift which He now offers to me in Jesus Christ through the person and work of Christ.
Have you received the gift? Are you saved? You say, oh, I don't know if I like that word.
Well, it's a biblical word. We come to the end of the year, we look back over the year and the reality is some of our friends, some of our relatives are no longer with us during 2022. Some of our friends, some of our members here at Calvary, some of the people we know throughout the world have gone into eternity. Life is fragile. Life is brief.
It comes through people of all ages. And so, here's my question. When you come and you stand before God, yes, you will stand before God. One day, I'm going to stand before God who is my Creator. I'm going to stand before God.
On what basis do you expect God to allow you to enter heaven? You say, well, I'm here on a Christmas Eve service called night. I could have stayed at home and watched the Panthers or gone to the game.
Here I am. That must count for something. I'm a pretty nice guy, really. That's what you think. You think your goodness, you think what you do can get you into heaven.
Your performance? Absolutely not. The only basis of salvation is by grace and grace alone. Paul says that by grace are you saved, and that not of yourself. No, it's a gift of God, not a result of works, not based on what you do so that there's no boasting. No one's boasting in heaven.
No. Our only hope for eternal life is found in our Savior Jesus Christ who came to seek and to save the lost. I ask you this Christmas Eve, will you come with me to the manger and see Jesus, the Son of God, the magnificent Christ, the one born to die.
Will you come to the cross? There is salvation. There is forgiveness of sins. Think of that, that all of your sins can totally be forgiven, wiped out, totally gone, and that you receive not that you deserve this, but through Jesus Christ, you receive everlasting life, eternal life. It's a gift that's offered to you. You say that sounds too simple, John. That's the gospel. It is simple, but profound.
Think of the cost. Very costly, but offered to you freely. The wages of sin is dead, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
He comes and He opens His hands and says, come to me, and I'll give you rest. I'll forgive your sins. I'll give you eternal life. Will you come?
No, you have nothing to offer. You come with your open hand. You come with empty hands.
All that you bring are your sins. Christ comes, and through the power of the resurrection and based on His atoning sacrifice on the cross, He and He alone is able to save you and to cleanse you and give you eternal life, and I'm asking you if you've never done that today, yes right now, to receive this Savior. Queen Elizabeth II, as you know, died this year, and a few years ago she says this, as I embark on my 91st year, I invite you to join me in reflecting in the words of a poem quoted by my father, King George VI, in his Christmas Day broadcast in 1939, the year that this country, the United Kingdom, went to war for the second time in a quarter of a century. Here's the poem. I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year, give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown. And he replied, go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.
That's it, isn't it? We're going into a new year. Some of you are very nervous about it, perhaps because of your employment, perhaps because of your marriage, perhaps because of your health, and you're very, very nervous. You wonder about it. Put your hand into the hand of Christ. He's offering you salvation.
Think of the wonder. This is the promise of Christmas that the Savior comes to us. He holds out His hand, and I come with my sin, and I say, yes, Lord, forgive me. I believe that you're the Son of God, risen from the dead, and I receive you as my Savior, and He takes my hand. And the wonder is that He'll never ever let me go for all of my life, whether it's an hour or several years, I don't know. But He is with me.
You say, what about death? He never asked me to go where He's never gone, and so I go with Him from life into death and into eternal life. We bow as I pray together. For some of you, you need a prayer of recommitment. Your trust is in Christ, but you've strayed a while.
Others are very fearful. Will you pray that your trust in Christ will be increased as you think for your future? Some of you are not yet saved.
You've never received Christ. Will you pray this prayer with me if it reflects your heart? Lord Jesus, this Christmas Eve, I thank you for your love for me. I confess my sins.
I've often messed up my life. Thank you for coming to this earth and loving me and dying on the cross for my sins. I believe that on the third day, you rose from the dead as the Son of God, and I now trust you as my Savior. Forgive me of all of my sins. Come into my life. Take my hand. Grant me eternal life and help me to live for you. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-04 15:52:30 / 2023-01-04 16:00:30 / 8