The First Christmas Gift
From Genesis 1: “1In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 27…God created humans to be like himself.” Thus, we can experience love – love for him and love for each other. But, by its nature love must be voluntary, so we have the freedom to love God and others – or not.
Most people chose not – they loved only themselves. Later, in Genesis 6: “5The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled…8But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” So, God had Noah build an ark and promised that his family would be kept safe from the flood that He was going to send.
After the flood, many of Noah’s descendents lived good lives. After about 400 years, Noah’s great—seven times—grandson – Abraham, (Gen 11) – was living such a good life that God rewarded him by making a very special agreement with him – today this agreement is called the Covenant. This agreement with Abraham was that, if he would always obey God and would always do right, everyone on earth would be blessed because of him. (Gen 12:2 & 17:20) ON THE FIRST CHRISTMAS GOD KEPT THIS PROMISE.
About 3900 years ago, He also made the same promise to Abraham’s grandson Jacob. From Genesis 28:14: “14Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.”
To make the world a better place to live, He gave the people rules to live by and He punished evil people and helped good people. He sometimes sent Angels to help. For example, in Genesis 19 Angels said to Lot: “12Do you have anyone else here—sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, 13because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the LORD against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.”
Sometimes he sent other people to help and sometimes he talked directly to the people. For example in Exodus 3: “7The LORD said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering…9And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.’ 11But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’ 12And God said, ‘I will be with you.’”
For over 500 years, He sent many prophets to remind the people of the covenant agreement and to instruct the people how to have better lives. For example, he told Jeremiah to tell the people “14‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land.” Jeremiah 33
After telling David that one of his son's will always be King, God began to prepare the world for this new kind of King – who would bring them a New–Agreement – called the Second Covenant – and a new way to live. He did this by telling His prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zachariah, Daniel, and Micah to tell the people that:
- The new King was to be called Immanuel (meaning “God with us”). (Isa 7:14)
- The New–Agreement, was to be:
- He would be our God and we would be His people (Jer 31:33)
- He would write His law in our minds and our hearts (Jer 31:33)
- He would forgive us when we do evil things (Jer 31:34)
- The new King would:
- Be from King David’s family and have The Spirit of the LORD with Him.(Isa 11:1)
- Be called; wonderful advisor and mighty God, Eternal Father and Prince of Peace.(Isa 9:6)
- Be honest, wise and rule with justice.(Jer 23:5)
- His mother would be a virgin, (Isa 7:14)
- He would be born in Bethlehem, (Mic 5:2)
- People from every nation would serve Him, He would rule forever,(Dan 7:13)
- His power would never end, and peace would last forever.(Isa 9:6)
This wonderful King was Jesus, who was, indeed, born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem on the first Christmas, and WAS THE FIRST AND GREATEST CHRISTMAS GIFT EVER.
This great gift is summarized in John 3: “16For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
In Jesus’ brief ministry, He taught us how to live the loving life that God would have us live – The wonderful life. These teachings can be summarized by these three passages:
Matt 7:12 “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
Matt 22:34–40 “…the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
John 14:21 “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
HE THEN GAVE HIS LIFE ON THE CROSS SO THAT WE COULD LIVE WITH OUR HEAVENLY FATHER FOR ETERNITY.
This concludes the Scripture-based summary, but you may want to consider reading one or both of the following:
Whoever Takes the Son…Gets It All
Years ago, there was a very wealthy man who, with his devoted young son, shared a passion for art collecting. Together they traveled around the world, adding only the finest art treasures to their collection. Priceless works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet and many others adorned the walls of the family estate. The widowed father looked on with satisfaction as his only child became an experienced art collector.
But the day came when war engulfed the nation, and the young man left to serve his country. After only a few short weeks, his father received a telegram that his beloved son had been killed while carrying a fellow soldier to a medic. On Christmas morning a knock came at the door of the old man’s home, and as he opened the door, he was greeted by a soldier with a large package in his hand. He introduced himself to the man by saying, “I was a friend of your son. I was the one he was rescuing when he died. May I come in for a few moments? I have something to show you. I’m an artist,” said the soldier, “and I want to give you this.” As the old man unwrapped the package, the paper gave way to reveal a portrait of his son. Though the art critics would never consider the work a piece of genius, the painting did feature the young man’s face in striking detail, and seemed to capture his personality.
The following spring, the old man became ill and passed away. The art world was in anticipation! According to the will of the old man, all of the art works would be auctioned. The day soon arrived, and art collectors from around the world gathered to bid on some of the world’s most spectacular paintings. The auction began with a painting that was not on any museum’s list. It was the painting of the man’s son.
The auctioneer asked for an opening bid. The room was silent. “Who will open the bidding with $100?” he asked. Minutes passed with not a sound from those who came to buy. From the back of the room someone callously called out, “Who cares about that painting? It’s just a picture of his son. Let’s forget it and go on to the important paintings.” There were other voices which echoed in agreement. But the auctioneer replied, “No, we have to sell this one first. Now, who will take the son?” Finally, a friend of the old man spoke. “I knew the boy, so I’d like to have it. I will bid the $100.” “I have a bid for $100,” called the auctioneer.“Will anyone go higher?” After a long silence, the auctioneer said, “Going once. Going twice. Gone.”The gavel fell. Cheers filled the room and someone was heard to say, “Now we can get on with it!” But the auctioneer looked at the audience and announced the auction was over.
Stunned disbelief quieted the room. Someone spoke up and asked, “What do you mean it’s over? We didn’t come here for a picture of some old guy’s son. What about all of these paintings? There are millions of dollars worth of art here! We demand that you explain what’s going on!” The auctioneer replied, “It’s very simple. According to the will of the father, whoever takes the son…gets it all.
That is the essence of the story of Christmas: Whoever takes the Son gets it all.
The Bible puts it like this: “God has also said that he gave us eternal life and that this life comes to us from his Son. And so, if we have God’s Son, we have this life. But if we don’t have the Son, we don’t have this life.” (1 John 5:11–12).
One Solitary Life
Christ’s impact on the world has been enormous and far beyond our understanding. The writing One Solitary Life used in the “Radio City Christmas Spectacular” provides the right perspective:
He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another obscure village, where He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher. He never had a family or owned a home. He never set foot inside a big city. He never traveled 200 miles from the place He was born. He never wrote a book, or held an office. He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness.
While He was still a young man, the tide of the popular opinion turned against Him. His friends deserted Him. He was turned over to His enemies, and went through the mockery of the trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While He was dying, His executioners’ gambled for the only piece of property He had − His coat. When He was dead, he was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave.
Nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today He is the central figure for much of the human race. All the armies that ever marched and all the navies that ever sailed and all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as this “One Solitary Life”.
This document itself is not copyrighted but some of the material—including the NIV translation—is, so it’s okay to copy it for your own use but not for sale. GDN 12/15/2012