Let us pray: Dear Savior, as we begin a new year we also begin a new timeframe. Because of Your coming our old sins have been washed away and we have been cleansed from the inside out. So, today we stand before You as new creations, clean, spotless, and holy—made so by Your timeless gift of grace. May we all use our new status in a way that honors You and uplifts us. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE GOD OF NEWNESS!
TEXT: John 1: 15-18
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
When you hear the phrase: “the gift that keeps on giving,” what comes immediately to mind? For me, it is a traffic ticket. A local talk radio host employs that phrase when discussing the wonderful traffic laws of Massachusetts. Go too fast on Route 128, receive a ticket for your heavy foot, and not only will you have to pay the fine, you’ll receive a surcharge on your auto insurance policy. I believe that surcharge continues for the next 6 years.—Hence, the “gift that keeps on giving.”
Aunt Mabel’s fruit cake might also earn that phrase considering the indigestion it often causes. Likewise, when cousin Sue comes for Christmas dinner with the flu and infects everyone, well, I’m sure people have described that “gift” in the very same way. Usually, “the gift that keeps on giving” is a pejorative expression. That is, it almost always describes a negative.
Let’s change that today! Let’s look closely at this marvelous little text from St. John by considering:
CHRIST, THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING
The presents are all unwrapped, played with, some broken, and others discarded for future use. The big meals are but a memory of which the bathroom scale reminds us every morning. Of course, the bills remain—another little “gift” that keeps on giving, hopefully not for long. Where is Jesus in all this let down? Has the Baby Jesus shrunk into the mundane? Is He an afterthought? Have you put Him into the cold backyard of your life, kind of like the now forlorn Christmas tree? Or, does His light and His love continue to burn brightly and warm your heart?
After penning the amazing first 17 verses of his gospel, outlining the profound meaning of Jesus and His Christmas coming, St. John now writes this: “John (the Baptist) testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, ‘This (Christ) was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'”
We know that the disciple Andrew was a follower of John the Baptist. We know that his brother, Peter, might well have been a follower of the Baptist, too. Likewise, James and his brother, John, the writer of this Gospel may well have known the Baptist. If this was so, and I believe it was, than St. John was writing this from personal memory. The truth of the quote is quite amazing if you really analyze it. “Jesus Christ is the person that I, John the Baptist, described in this way: Jesus is coming after I have begun my ministry and He will far surpass me, John, because He existed before me.” In other words, before the Baptist was born, Jesus Christ existed. How? Jesus is 6 months younger. Nonetheless, it’s true because Christ is eternal, He is the Son of God. He has no beginning and no end. Wow! John the Baptist knew all this. God the Holy Spirit had poured this knowledge into his heart. Can you imagine God pouring that kind of never-ending knowledge into us? Well, wonder no more because He has and does! He does so through the “gift that keeps on giving.”
“From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.” There it is, my friends. From the fullness, not the partialness or God’s boundless love, you and I have received, with John the Baptist, John the apostle, and all the other heroes of faith, we have received one, two, 100, 10,000 and more blessings! We have received more gifts from God than we can count. Family, health, wealth, toys, friends, peace, kindness, the list is endless. And God has given them all to us in, and through, and because of the Baby Jesus. Not a day goes by that we don’t receive these unasked for blessings. Scripture says of Him, “In Him we live, move, and have our very being.” Yes, each breath you draw is dependent upon Him. His force field of blessings surrounds you like a protective bubble.
The Apostle John continues in this vein: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Moses was a great man. He will be seated in a high place of honor in heaven. God picked him to give us the 10 commandments, God’s guide for holy living. Those commandments would earn us a place in heaven, too, if we could but keep and follow them perfectly. But, alas, that is impossible. We’re sinners who never seem to take God seriously for more than a moment or two. However, “grace and truth” came to us through Jesus Christ. He is the 2nd Moses, the greater Moses. He makes our salvation possible. He doesn’t demand anything from us because we’re incapable of fulfilling those demands. Instead He gives to us freely His undeserved love won for us on the cross and also the truth of how to live a blessed life and die a blessed death—through faith in Him, alone. The Baby Jesus serves us. The Baby Jesus loves us. The Baby Jesus forgives us. The Baby Jesus makes us holy and pure in God’s sight. Yes, the Baby Jesus is the gift that keeps on giving.
And lest you still worry about how small and insignificant you are to God Almighty, lest you fret over the fact that your puny mind cannot ever grasp of comprehend the infinite ways of God, John adds this: “No one has ever seen God, but God the only Son, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.”
I’ll admit that most people don’t think too deeply about God. I’ll admit that most are afraid of Him if and when they do. I’ll admit that more often than not people make God in their own image, ascribe to God their own traits and personality, and thus try to shrink Him down to their own size. We do this because we’re limited sinners who cannot bear to stand in the presence of God’s awesomeness or we’ll die. Yes, no mere human has ever or will ever see God’s total glory this side of heaven, or they will be struck down dead on the spot. And yet, God has bridged that great divide and come to us and made Himself known to us in a way that isn’t fearful but welcoming.—In the form of a Baby. Yes, Jesus is at the Father’s side and has made God known to us. All that we need to survive is wrapped up in Christ. All that we need to live a blessed life is given to us by Him in the form of grace. So, yes, Christ is the gift that truly does keep on giving. Rejoice and enjoy! Amen