Download the Worship Folder & Announcements for Dec. 25
Fill out a card to record your family’s online worship attendance
For supporting the ministry of the Gospel at Salem
Message: The Greatest Gift
Pastor Jake Schram
Abraham and his son Isaac were hiking up the mountain in the region of Moriah. Dust and dirt swirled around them as they pushed themselves step-by-step up the mountain. Beads of sweat dripped from their faces and their hearts were pounding from the exertion. Abraham was sweating for another reason. His heart felt as if it would beat right out of his chest because God asked something of him. God asked something of Abraham that would take all of his strength and will to complete. Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son Isaac. And now Abraham forced himself to put one foot in front of the other, as his son looked on, wondering why his dad had become so very quiet and sad. Unknowingly, Isaac carried the lumber and the knife that were to end his life. As they reached the top, Abraham wondered how he was supposed to do something like this. Wasn’t it evil? Wasn’t it wrong? But he knew God wouldn’t let it end this way. He thought maybe God would bring Isaac back to life or something like that (Hebrews 11:17-19). After all, God could do things like that. The LORD had promised that Isaac would be the father of many nations and that one day the Savior was going to be born from Isaac’s line. Surely, God had a plan to make this all work out. The account in Genesis 22 shows us Abraham as he was about to kill his son, just as God had commanded him. But God intervened. As Abraham drew back his hand to slay his own son, an angel of the LORD cried out “Abraham, Abraham, Do not lay a hand on the boy!” Abraham slumped back. “Oh Thank God I didn’t have to go through with that. Who could possibly give up their only son, whom they love with all their heart?”
Now maybe, you’ve noticed that Romans 8:32 is our message focus for today. And maybe you are wondering why I’m up here recounting Genesis chapter 22. Genesis 22 shows us what could have happened, what should have happened because of our sins. What an awful Christmas present we would all deserve to open and experience. We could sacrifice as many of us as existed and it still wouldn’t pay for our sins. It would never be enough. As a certainty we would all go to hell. And yet that wasn’t God’s plan. God never intended for Abraham to kill Isaac. He put a stop to it. He was never going to let it happen. It was a price too great to pay. Sin had its consequences and it demanded a payment, but it wasn’t going to be paid by Abraham, Isaac, or any one of us. In the Genesis account, immediately after all that took place, Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horn. The ram was then sacrificed as a burnt offering in place of his son Isaac. This was to show us someone was one day going to have to die in our place for our sins. “So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide.” In our own lives, a payment for sins is necessary, but we aren’t the ones to pay it. As we’ll see, Christmas is a time when the LORD provided a payment in our place through Jesus. A baby is born who saves us from sin and hell and brings us safely to heaven. This is the greatest gift.
Have you ever gotten a gift you were disappointed in? A lot of us have been there. We know what it’s like to not get the gift we wanted or expected. Maybe some of you experienced it last night as you opened gifts. Some of you will probably experience it even today, in the midst of other wonderful, exciting gifts. If you’ve ever felt that way, you might understand how many Old Testament believers felt about Jesus as a Savior.
God’s people were pumped to receive the gift of the Messiah, but when it was opened to them, it wasn’t what they expected. So many were ready for the Head Crusher promised in Genesis 3, the restorer promised in Isaiah 11, and the Ends of the Earth Greatness promised in Micah 5. They expected a powerhouse of a man with muscles rippling out of his shirt and a smile that made the ladies swoon. If anyone peaked in the lowly stable of the unassuming town of Bethlehem, they would have seen the Messiah as a helpless baby. Even his parents were poor! Someone might have easily thought, “That’s it? Really God? That’s the greatest gift?” They might have been a tad disappointed.
Sadly, we too sometimes find ourselves disappointed in God’s great Christmas gift. He doesn’t do what we want or give us what we think we deserve. “If God really loved me, I wouldn’t have all these troubles in my life!” “If God loved me, he would have given me a spouse that looks like he belongs in a movie.” “If God loved me, he’d see my good deeds and gift me riches to make my life soft and cushy.” This year has been especially disappointing, right? It’s been filled with riots and Covid-19 and so much sad news that has been pushed down your throat, you are probably tired of talking about it. Maybe your expectations of life haven’t been met this year. As you look around at the world, maybe you wonder, “That’s it? God, can’t you do anything more about this?”
The Christians in Rome were wondering that same thought. They had experienced persecution and were disappointed, confused, and hurting. Was this the best God’s gifts had to offer? The Apostle Paul sent a letter to them, saying, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things?” How were they to address the disappointments and unmet expectations? Then Paul answers his own question with half a dozen more questions, all with answers that are perfectly obvious. Today, we are going to just look at one question, the question found in Romans 8:32. “Indeed, he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also graciously give us all things along with him?” In this one verse, God answers so many of our questions about this world. I want to get one thing out of the way first. How can you answer a question with another question? This verse doesn’t translate the best from Greek to English. In Greek, this question is constructed in a way that signals the answer. It shows there is nothing iffy about it and a loud and clear answer is obvious and expected. The question is asked if God will graciously give us all things along with Jesus. It’s as if a resounding “YES” or “DUH” then answers the question. You see that brought across in the English translation in your service folder. It says, “how will he not also graciously give us all things along with him?” The idea being of course we receive all things with Jesus. The translators are showing you this isn’t so much of a question as a fact.
Paul is showing us how to dispel our disappointment by increasing our understanding. This is not just any baby in a manger. This is the greatest gift ever! This is God’s own Son. And God handed him over to be punished for you. Earlier we talked about how Abraham was about to sacrifice his son and how very hard that would have been. Can you imagine the emotional train wreck that would be? If you can even relate to that in any way, you know how impossibly hard and painful an action like that is. The more you love your children the harder it would be. It must have been incredibly hard for the Father because God is love (1 John 4:8). The Bible tells us The Father loved Jesus and with him he was well pleased (Matthew 3:17). And yet, the Father handed him over so we could be saved. Jesus had to be the payment. God didn’t want you being that payment. We couldn’t be the payment even if we tried. We’re sinful and it’s ironic that the only person who didn’t deserve punishment because he was sinless, was the only one who could take the punishment of those who were sinful. So God sent his son, Jesus to be payment for the world.
Now, I want to explain something before we go any further so you don’t get the impression that God is hiding behind this baby. He’s not just shoving his child forward and saying, “Not my problem. Here kill this baby.” Jesus once said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). Their wills are the same and they are both part of the Trinity. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God. So God isn’t just handing over his son. In a way, he’s handing over himself. He’s taking full responsibility for something that isn’t his fault. And giving himself up for us all.
Over the years, I’ve realized certain things go into making a great gift. Sometimes a gift is valuable because it is expensive. Sometimes a good gift is something you really need. Most often, it’s the thought and planning behind the gift that makes it special or or the love behind the gift. The gift of Jesus checks off everything that makes a gift special. The gift of Jesus was costly. It cost his own innocent life, his blood and his suffering. It was something we all desperately needed, the only way for us to get to heaven and be right with God. There was definitely thought put into it. It was planned by God from the beginning. After the very first sin entered the word, God announced he’d send a Savior from sin and continued promising the Savior Jesus throughout all history. And just the fact that he went through with it shows how much he loves you. God could have said, “Forget it. I’m not going to send my Son to them. I love my Son way too much to have him live with humans only to be ridiculed, mocked, beaten and killed. I’m not going to send my Son just so that people can pretend he doesn’t exist and treat him like some fairy tale.” God had every right to say that. But out of love, God kept his promise as he wrapped up his Son and gave him as a gift to the world. He chose to save you.
If God followed through on that promise, doesn’t that give you confidence that God will keep all his other promises as well? Because of Christmas, you can be sure that God will send his angels to guard you (Psalm 91). Because of Christmas, you can be sure God will be with you wherever you go (Joshua 1). Because of Christmas, you can be sure God will work out all things and that nothing can separate you from his love (Romans 8). Be assured, because God gave us the gift of his Son, “how will he not also, along with Jesus, graciously give us all things?” Today, we realize God isn’t just saying stuff, he’s doing it. He’s taking care of the big stuff and the small stuff both here and in eternity. God’s Word is true to his promises, and the manger we see each Christmas proves it.
Look at the manger. Look at God’s gift—to you. Humanly speaking, the Gift looks small. The Gift looks fragile. Maybe the Gift even looks disappointing. But after what we have heard today from God’s Word, we don’t have to look at the Gift and say, “That’s it?” Rather, we can look at this Gift and say, “That’s it! That’s the Gift I need! That’s God showing his love to me! That’s the Gift that wipes away my sins and makes me holy in God’s sight. That’s the Gift that saves me and brings me to heaven. That’s God keeping his promises for me!” Jesus is quite a Gift. Actually, He’s the greatest gift! Amen.