Jean and I are honored to serve the great state of Mississippi! As we serve together with you and Move Mississippi Forward, we want to keep in mind that we exist to SERVE and empower the people of Mississippi to connect with their purpose. There is no greater time than Christmas to help people unwrap the gift of Christ in their life.
This is the time of year when we think back to when the Three Wise Men went to see the baby Jesus, and, according to the Book of Matthew, “presented unto Him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” These are simple words, but if we analyze them carefully, we discover an important, yet often-overlooked, theological fact: In this account: There is no mention of wrapping paper!
Pastor Jerry Shirley illustrated the fact that if there had been wrapping paper, Matthew would have said so: “And lo, the gifts were encompassed about with 7 square cubits of paper. And the paper was covered within and without with pictures of Frosty, a man of snow. And Joseph purposed in his heart to cast the paper into the barrel of refuse, but Mary saith unto him, `Cease man! Drop the decorative parchment! It should be set aside for future generations!’ And Joseph didst roll his eyeballs. And it came to pass that the babe WAS more interested in the paper than the frankincense.” …But these words do not appear in the Bible, which means that the very first Christmas gifts were NOT wrapped. This is because the people giving those gifts had two important characteristics: 1. They were wise. 2. They were men. Well, Man doesn’t know much about wrapping, but man HAS learned all that he knows about giving from God. God is in the giving business. God has unwrapped His gift to us and He wants us to enjoy what He has given us. I want to observe 3 gifts that were unwrapped because of the first Christmas.
- The first gift Christmas unwrapped was FORGIVENESS.
The angel’s first word to the frightened shepherds was, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people.” He was declaring good news to a society suffering from insecurity, meaninglessness, and the futility of life in general. And here is how the angel announced this good news: “For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior who is Christ the Lord.” The long-awaited Messiah had been born in the flesh so that man could be born again. “Forgiveness” means to release one’s sins from the sinner. This required Jesus’ coming as man so the sins of the world may be cast upon Him. That means He took on the punishment of sin upon Himself. Because Jesus did this He saves the repentant sinner from the guilt and the power of sin, from eternal death, from punishment, and misery as the consequence of sin. And because of this FORGIVENESS we can have a change of life! Oh, what a GIFT!
- Christmas unwrapped expresses the forgiveness of sins which produces the gift of a life filled with peace.
One of the best gifts Christmas gives us is the gift of peace. This is one of the key themes, isn’t it? “Peace on earth, good will toward all.” Christ is the Prince of Peace. He brings the peace that passes all understanding. He comes to visit and redeem His people… and to guide our feet into the way of peace. Christ’s coming means that we can have peace in our own hearts and minds. That is why on the night Jesus was born the great company of the heavenly host appeared, praising God and said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests” (Luke 2:14). This peace comes to those on whom God’s favor rests. Who is that? It’s those of us who have been justified by faith in Christ. Those at peace with God can experience the peace of God.
- When the gifts of FORGIVENESS and PEACE are unwrapped in your heart you will enjoy the gift of ETERNAL LIFE.
The story is told of a Sunday school teacher whose assignment was to explain to the six-year-olds in his class what someone had to do in order to go to heaven. In an attempt to discover what the kids already believed about the subject, he asked them a few questions. “If I sold my house and my car, had a big garage sale, and gave all my money to the church, would that get me into heaven?” “NO!” the children all answered. “If I cleaned the church every day, mowed the yard, and kept everything neat and tidy, would that get me into heaven?” Again the answer was, “NO!” “Well then,” he said, “if I was kind to animals and gave candy to all the children and loved my wife, would that get me into heaven?” Again they all shouted, “NO!” “Well, how CAN I get into heaven?” A boy in the back row stood up and shouted, “YOU GOTTA BE DEAD!”
Everyone is going to die someday. The Bible says, “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,” (Hebrews 9:27). It is up to each individual to decide just where they are going to spend it. The choice is heaven or hell. Which gift are you going to unwrap? The fact is everyone is going to spend more time on the other side of this life than is spent here. One great day God is going to unwrap the eastern sky and Jesus is going to come to take us all home with Him. I am looking forward to that GIFT – How about you?
Jean and I love you and are praying you have an incredible Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas!