Advent 3 – The Gift 1

Scripture:  Romans 5:6-8

While stockings and lights tend to grab our attention this time of year, there is no other aspect of Christmas that dominates more of our time than the gifts which populate the base of the Christmas tree.  We spend a great deal of time and worry searching for that perfect gift.  The one that will properly express our feelings, earn us the praise we desire, or allow us to keep up with the other givers we’ll be competing with.

God, through Christ, not only gives us the greatest gift, but also shows us how to give in a “more excellent” way:

“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.  For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone might dare to die.  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” –Romans 5:6-8

Christ’s coming to earth is, among other things, an expression of God’s love for us.  God’s love is not dependent upon us; it is unconditional love.  We may ask, “What does this love look like?  What does this love really mean?”  Jonathan Edwards, in his sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, makes a profound statement about the love of God in the midst of hellfire and brimstone:

“So that thus it is, that natural men are held in the hand of God over the pit of hell; they have deserved the fiery pit, and are already sentenced to it; and God is dreadfully provoked, His anger is as great towards them as to those that are actually suffering the executions of the fierceness of His wrath in hell, and they have done nothing in the least to appease or abate that anger, neither is God in the least bound by any promise to hold ‘em up one moment; the devil is waiting for them, the flames gather and flash about them, and would fain lay hold of them and swallow them up; the fire pent up in their own hearts is struggling to break out; and they have no interest in any Mediator, there is no means within reach that can be any security to them.  In short they have no refuge, nothing to take hold of; all that preserves them every moment is the mere arbitrary will, and uncovenanted, unobliged forbearance of an incensed God.”

Edwards makes it abundantly clear that while we were still purely sinners, still enemies of God, it was only God who kept us from destruction in hell at any given moment.  Why?  Why would such a terrifyingly angry God hold back from unleashing His wrath?  The answer is God’s great love for us.  It is because God loves us that He did not destroy us and instead offers us salvation.

It is the love of God which holds the wrath of God at bay until the appointed time.

Consider also that it was in our state of sinfulness that God, rather than justly punishing us, gave us Himself in Christ.  That is how much God loves us and how we know that God loves us more than we can ever comprehend in this life.  God shows us that gifts are not tokens to be repaid later; they are expressions of our love.  Just like a kiss between lovers or time spent with friends, you cannot put a value on them.

The greatest gift that we can give to others is to give them God.  We do this by reflecting Him in our lives.  In Christ, God gave us Himself; we give God to others by reflecting His image to them and sharing His love with them.

Practical Questions

  1. Why do you give gifts at Christmas?
  2. Have you ever thought of God as able to be angry and still love us more than we know?  Why or why not?
  3. What are some specific ways that you can give God to others?

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