All I Want for Christmas: The Gift of Good News

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Sunday - 9:15 AM Sunday School, 10:30 AM Worship Service

by: Denise Robinson

11/30/2021

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All I Want for Christmas: The Gift of Good News

Matthew 1:18-25; 1 Corinthians 13

Did you ever really want something for Christmas, asked for it year after year, but never got it? For me, it was a horse. Year after year, I wanted a horse. I never got it. The closest I came was when my eye doctor offered to exchange his horse for my younger brother. I immediately accepted his offer but when push came to shove, he wouldn’t go through with it. I would’ve honored my end of the deal. Maybe that’s one reason I went to law school to become a contract lawyer: when you make an offer which is accepted, you should have to follow through. 

This year in our Advent series, our focus is on the statement “All I want for Christmas.” There are two popular Christmas songs with that theme, dating about 50 years apart. In the older version, written in the 1940s, the words to the song are: “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth.” Not very inspiring, is it? The newer version, released in the 1990s by Mariah Caray, is more of a love song: “All I want for Christmas is you.” It’s a little better, but it’s a bit too “perky” for my taste. And do you really believe she doesn’t also want presents under that Christmas tree even though she denies it repeatedly in the song? This raises the question: “What is it we really want for Christmas?” I attempted one of my scientific surveys (AKA Google searches), but it’s difficult to get an answer to the question because it depends on who you’re buying for and what you’re willing to spend. One website I immediately ignored listed some sort of new wonder pan or skillet at #1, which is absolutely ridiculous. After some searching, I found a website listing the top Black Friday deals for this year, so here are just a few in no particular order. The first one I had to look up to even see what it does. They are Apple air tags which apparently you can attach to things to help you find them using your phone. That assumes you can find your phone. Anyway, a set of four will run you $99. Next, are “percussion” massage devices which claim to go 60% deeper into sore muscles than their older predecessors. Prices for those seem to be all over the place. Next on the list: noise cancelling wireless earbuds. If you want to tune out the world, for just under $250 these are apparently the ticket. For a good night’s sleep there’s the gravity blanket, a 20-lb. weighted blanket that will set you back around $150. I already have a 30-pound weighted blanket when my dog crawls on top of me. Finally, and I will admit I just sort of lumped them all together, there are the latest tech gizmos: the newest phones, laptops, tablets, watches, speakers, and so on. All guaranteed to run faster, perform better, look sleeker, and so on.  

There’s nothing wrong with wanting gifts for Christmas, but when we look at Christmas through the eyes of the Bible, we are reminded that Christmas itself has special gifts for each of us. For the next few weeks, this Advent, we are going to spend some time together unwrapping these gifts. It’s so easy at Christmas to get caught up in the excitement and the busyness of the season that we forget the real truth of Christmas. We concentrate so much on the gifts we want to give and what we’re hoping to receive that we miss the wonderful gifts Christmas brings us each year. These are truly the gifts that keep on giving. The first gift I want to share with you is the gift of the Gospel, the gift of good news. This gift came to us at the very moment of Jesus’ birth. What does this gift give us? Let’s unwrap the gift and take a look.

The first thing Matthew’s Gospel tells us about the birth of Jesus is that it fulfills a promise of God spoken of by the prophets for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Can you imagine living in the time before Jesus? What must the world have been like for people like us living without the knowledge of Jesus? People from the earliest of times created gods and made idols to worship – only the Jewish people had a God who created them, created all people, and did not want to be made into an idol. People who created their own gods created gods with very human qualities, and the gods they made displayed the worst of our qualities: human-made gods were all too human, showing anger, vengeance, pride, jealousy, envy. But from a small, mostly isolated nation came the story of a God who was always with his people, who remained with them even when they turned away and thought they could do better on their own, a God who wanted to be a God for all people. This God, although part of human history from the very beginning, would allow people the right to make their own choice, to decide what they would believe and how they would live. But they would make their decision knowing what God had to offer, because this God would pick a time and a place to break into human history in a very real way. And God’s prophets would talk about how it would happen years, centuries, before it happened. The prophet Isaiah said, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14). From the prophet Micah: "But you, Bethlehem, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel ….” (Micah 5:2). From Zechariah: “"Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey." (Zechariah 9:9). 

What happened on that first Christmas day? From Matthew 1:23, we get one word in Hebrew, three words when translated into English. The child will be called “Immanuel,” which means “God with us.” This is the first gift of Christmas, the good news that came that day; that through the birth of Jesus, God is with us. For many years, the poem “Footprints in the Sand” has been a favorite. You can find it on coffee mugs, refrigerator magnets, t-shirts, books, posters, and paintings. Several people have claimed to be the author, but its origin is hard to confirm. I suspect almost everyone here has seen it and knows the poem. It describes a dream in which someone walks on a beach talking with God, who is walking alongside. The dreamer sees visions of his or her life, often with two sets of footprints symbolizing the constant presence of God. But during the most difficult times of life there are only one set of footprints leading to the question, “Where was God during those times?” Did God desert him? The answer, of course, is that God didn’t leave her, doesn’t leave us, when God is needed most. There is only set of footprints because during our most difficult days, when we can’t make it on our own, God carries us. Jesus’ birth is tangible proof that God is with us. Jesus’ birth is the proof of what the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8, that “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” This is the message of Christmas, isn’t it? Even during our worst times, when we think we’re all alone, God is with us. 

So, in our Christmas box, there’s another gift that comes with the good news of Christmas, and that’s the gift of faith. At Christmas, our faith is renewed. Our batteries are recharged, we are reconnected to our power source. Without Christmas, we’d have no faith. We would be like those people over 2,000 years ago living in darkness. Think of the faith Joseph had to have. He’s a young man, about to be married. He finds out the young woman about to be his wife is pregnant. Even today, that’s a major trust issue. Under Jewish law at the time, Joseph would have been well within his rights to demand Mary be publicly shamed; in fact, the penalty could even include her death. But Joseph loves her and so he’s not going to make a big deal of it; he plans to dismiss her quietly, which means that he is going to take responsibility for stopping the marriage. People will assume he’s the one backing out of the deal. But then he has a vision of an angel. We read these words and think to ourselves, “Well that must have been normal back then.” It wasn’t. Imagine at 21st century Joseph going to his family and saying, “You won’t believe this, but an angel of the Lord came to me in a vision and gave me all this info.” The first century Joseph received pretty much the same reaction as we would expect today. Next, Joseph is told that Mary’s pregnancy is not because she slept with another man, but is from the Holy Spirit. That is something that had never happened before and hasn’t happened since. Who’s going to believe that story? The answer is, Joseph believes. Joseph has faith – he believes what he has been told and he acts in faith by following through with the marriage, living with the rumors, and doing his part to be an earthly father to a divine Son. That takes faith. 

The next gift in our Christmas box is the gift of hope. People lived for thousands of years waiting for the promised Messiah. And, finally, that promised was fulfilled in a simple birth. That child, grown to manhood, crucified on a cross and resurrected from the dead, promised that he would return. There’s so much contained in that promise of a second coming. There’s the promise of our resurrection, the promise of eternal life, the promise of a restored world with no suffering or death, the promise of being reunited with loved ones, the promise of living in the presence of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. God has fulfilled promises made in the past, God continues to fulfill promises in the present, and that gives us the assurance that God will fulfill God’s promises in the future. This kind of hope is not just a desire that something will happen; it is an expectation and a confidence that it will happen. The author of Hebrews defines this “hope” as “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.”

The final gift in our Christmas box this week is the gift of love. As John 3:16 reminds us, God sent his Son into the world because God so loved the world. God came to be with us for the simple reason that God loves us. The Christmas story should remind you that God wanted you, chose you, and has adopted you as his child.  What a wonderful gift! The Apostle Paul writes of love in 1 Corinthians 13: “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” And, then, in that same chapter, he compares the three gifts of love, faith, and hope, concluding that while all three are important, love is the greatest. Why is love the greatest gift? Without love, our faith is cold and lifeless. Without love, what is the point of hope? Love gives purpose to our faith and meaning to our hope.  

These are our first gifts of Christmas. Emmanuel, God with us, is the gift of good news. And this gift of good news inspires our faith, nurtures our hope, and empowers us to love. And that’s what Christmas is all about! Next week, we have another gift to open.  


(This series is based on "All I Want for Christmas" by James W. Moore)

All I Want for Christmas: The Gift of Good News

Matthew 1:18-25; 1 Corinthians 13

Did you ever really want something for Christmas, asked for it year after year, but never got it? For me, it was a horse. Year after year, I wanted a horse. I never got it. The closest I came was when my eye doctor offered to exchange his horse for my younger brother. I immediately accepted his offer but when push came to shove, he wouldn’t go through with it. I would’ve honored my end of the deal. Maybe that’s one reason I went to law school to become a contract lawyer: when you make an offer which is accepted, you should have to follow through. 

This year in our Advent series, our focus is on the statement “All I want for Christmas.” There are two popular Christmas songs with that theme, dating about 50 years apart. In the older version, written in the 1940s, the words to the song are: “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth.” Not very inspiring, is it? The newer version, released in the 1990s by Mariah Caray, is more of a love song: “All I want for Christmas is you.” It’s a little better, but it’s a bit too “perky” for my taste. And do you really believe she doesn’t also want presents under that Christmas tree even though she denies it repeatedly in the song? This raises the question: “What is it we really want for Christmas?” I attempted one of my scientific surveys (AKA Google searches), but it’s difficult to get an answer to the question because it depends on who you’re buying for and what you’re willing to spend. One website I immediately ignored listed some sort of new wonder pan or skillet at #1, which is absolutely ridiculous. After some searching, I found a website listing the top Black Friday deals for this year, so here are just a few in no particular order. The first one I had to look up to even see what it does. They are Apple air tags which apparently you can attach to things to help you find them using your phone. That assumes you can find your phone. Anyway, a set of four will run you $99. Next, are “percussion” massage devices which claim to go 60% deeper into sore muscles than their older predecessors. Prices for those seem to be all over the place. Next on the list: noise cancelling wireless earbuds. If you want to tune out the world, for just under $250 these are apparently the ticket. For a good night’s sleep there’s the gravity blanket, a 20-lb. weighted blanket that will set you back around $150. I already have a 30-pound weighted blanket when my dog crawls on top of me. Finally, and I will admit I just sort of lumped them all together, there are the latest tech gizmos: the newest phones, laptops, tablets, watches, speakers, and so on. All guaranteed to run faster, perform better, look sleeker, and so on.  

There’s nothing wrong with wanting gifts for Christmas, but when we look at Christmas through the eyes of the Bible, we are reminded that Christmas itself has special gifts for each of us. For the next few weeks, this Advent, we are going to spend some time together unwrapping these gifts. It’s so easy at Christmas to get caught up in the excitement and the busyness of the season that we forget the real truth of Christmas. We concentrate so much on the gifts we want to give and what we’re hoping to receive that we miss the wonderful gifts Christmas brings us each year. These are truly the gifts that keep on giving. The first gift I want to share with you is the gift of the Gospel, the gift of good news. This gift came to us at the very moment of Jesus’ birth. What does this gift give us? Let’s unwrap the gift and take a look.

The first thing Matthew’s Gospel tells us about the birth of Jesus is that it fulfills a promise of God spoken of by the prophets for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Can you imagine living in the time before Jesus? What must the world have been like for people like us living without the knowledge of Jesus? People from the earliest of times created gods and made idols to worship – only the Jewish people had a God who created them, created all people, and did not want to be made into an idol. People who created their own gods created gods with very human qualities, and the gods they made displayed the worst of our qualities: human-made gods were all too human, showing anger, vengeance, pride, jealousy, envy. But from a small, mostly isolated nation came the story of a God who was always with his people, who remained with them even when they turned away and thought they could do better on their own, a God who wanted to be a God for all people. This God, although part of human history from the very beginning, would allow people the right to make their own choice, to decide what they would believe and how they would live. But they would make their decision knowing what God had to offer, because this God would pick a time and a place to break into human history in a very real way. And God’s prophets would talk about how it would happen years, centuries, before it happened. The prophet Isaiah said, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14). From the prophet Micah: "But you, Bethlehem, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel ….” (Micah 5:2). From Zechariah: “"Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey." (Zechariah 9:9). 

What happened on that first Christmas day? From Matthew 1:23, we get one word in Hebrew, three words when translated into English. The child will be called “Immanuel,” which means “God with us.” This is the first gift of Christmas, the good news that came that day; that through the birth of Jesus, God is with us. For many years, the poem “Footprints in the Sand” has been a favorite. You can find it on coffee mugs, refrigerator magnets, t-shirts, books, posters, and paintings. Several people have claimed to be the author, but its origin is hard to confirm. I suspect almost everyone here has seen it and knows the poem. It describes a dream in which someone walks on a beach talking with God, who is walking alongside. The dreamer sees visions of his or her life, often with two sets of footprints symbolizing the constant presence of God. But during the most difficult times of life there are only one set of footprints leading to the question, “Where was God during those times?” Did God desert him? The answer, of course, is that God didn’t leave her, doesn’t leave us, when God is needed most. There is only set of footprints because during our most difficult days, when we can’t make it on our own, God carries us. Jesus’ birth is tangible proof that God is with us. Jesus’ birth is the proof of what the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8, that “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” This is the message of Christmas, isn’t it? Even during our worst times, when we think we’re all alone, God is with us. 

So, in our Christmas box, there’s another gift that comes with the good news of Christmas, and that’s the gift of faith. At Christmas, our faith is renewed. Our batteries are recharged, we are reconnected to our power source. Without Christmas, we’d have no faith. We would be like those people over 2,000 years ago living in darkness. Think of the faith Joseph had to have. He’s a young man, about to be married. He finds out the young woman about to be his wife is pregnant. Even today, that’s a major trust issue. Under Jewish law at the time, Joseph would have been well within his rights to demand Mary be publicly shamed; in fact, the penalty could even include her death. But Joseph loves her and so he’s not going to make a big deal of it; he plans to dismiss her quietly, which means that he is going to take responsibility for stopping the marriage. People will assume he’s the one backing out of the deal. But then he has a vision of an angel. We read these words and think to ourselves, “Well that must have been normal back then.” It wasn’t. Imagine at 21st century Joseph going to his family and saying, “You won’t believe this, but an angel of the Lord came to me in a vision and gave me all this info.” The first century Joseph received pretty much the same reaction as we would expect today. Next, Joseph is told that Mary’s pregnancy is not because she slept with another man, but is from the Holy Spirit. That is something that had never happened before and hasn’t happened since. Who’s going to believe that story? The answer is, Joseph believes. Joseph has faith – he believes what he has been told and he acts in faith by following through with the marriage, living with the rumors, and doing his part to be an earthly father to a divine Son. That takes faith. 

The next gift in our Christmas box is the gift of hope. People lived for thousands of years waiting for the promised Messiah. And, finally, that promised was fulfilled in a simple birth. That child, grown to manhood, crucified on a cross and resurrected from the dead, promised that he would return. There’s so much contained in that promise of a second coming. There’s the promise of our resurrection, the promise of eternal life, the promise of a restored world with no suffering or death, the promise of being reunited with loved ones, the promise of living in the presence of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. God has fulfilled promises made in the past, God continues to fulfill promises in the present, and that gives us the assurance that God will fulfill God’s promises in the future. This kind of hope is not just a desire that something will happen; it is an expectation and a confidence that it will happen. The author of Hebrews defines this “hope” as “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.”

The final gift in our Christmas box this week is the gift of love. As John 3:16 reminds us, God sent his Son into the world because God so loved the world. God came to be with us for the simple reason that God loves us. The Christmas story should remind you that God wanted you, chose you, and has adopted you as his child.  What a wonderful gift! The Apostle Paul writes of love in 1 Corinthians 13: “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” And, then, in that same chapter, he compares the three gifts of love, faith, and hope, concluding that while all three are important, love is the greatest. Why is love the greatest gift? Without love, our faith is cold and lifeless. Without love, what is the point of hope? Love gives purpose to our faith and meaning to our hope.  

These are our first gifts of Christmas. Emmanuel, God with us, is the gift of good news. And this gift of good news inspires our faith, nurtures our hope, and empowers us to love. And that’s what Christmas is all about! Next week, we have another gift to open.  


(This series is based on "All I Want for Christmas" by James W. Moore)

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