Fourth Week of Advent, The Christmas Gift of Salvation

 PASTOR JEAN OWENS  607-273-5682                    
Some years ago, a young woman named Karen became a missionary. She was a well-trained nurse and was sent to serve in a mission hospital in a remote area in Africa. Karen loved her work. She knew that God had called her to this special healing ministry and she felt incredible fulfillment in bringing much needed love and medical care to such a poor area of the world.
But as Christmas approached, Karen’s thoughts returned to home. Christmas had always been a special time in her family. They would always go to church together on Christmas Eve and open presents together on Christmas morning. What could she send them? She wouldn’t be able to go home that year so she would have to send her presents by mail. But what should she send them?
She had very little money and no place to shop. Mailing a bunch of large presents was out of the question.
Then Karen smiled. She knew just what to do. Some days later, a small box arrived at the front door of her parent’s home. When Karen’s mother found the box and saw the postmark from Africa, she knew it contained Christmas presents from Karen. On the outside of the box, written in bold print, were these words, “Please open on Christmas morning with the whole family.”
So, on Christmas morning, after all the other gifts were exchanged, Karen’s mother opened the box. Inside it, she found a number of envelopes – one for Karen’s father, one for her mother, one for Karen’s sister, one for her brother-in-law, one for her niece and one for her nephew. When the family members opened the envelopes, at first, they were surprised. Each envelop held a small piece of poster paper. The pieces had been cut into funny shapes. Suddenly, they realized it was a homemade zigsaw puzzle, and each family member had a piece of the puzzle. They went to the table and put the pieces together. They put together the puzzle that was in the shape of a heart. On the poster heart were these words.
Silver and gold have I none,
But such as I have,
I give to you.
I give you my heart.
This is what God did for us that first Christmas. God sent us his heart. He sent His only Son into the world to save us. God sent us His heart to show us how much He loves us and show us how He wants us to love one another.
Perhaps the most famous Christmas story ever written, outside of the Bible, is a Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. It is about a gruff, miserly character called Ebenezer Scrooge. There is also a little boy in the story named Tiny Tim Cratchit. He is the opposite of Scrooge and is always saying, “God Bless us, every one!”  
This is actually a story about conversion.  Did Scrooge ever need conversion! He was a despicable, hard-hearted, selfish, arrogant, greedy, mean-spirited, uncaring, unchristian, unsympathetic tightwad. Bah! Humbug!
Scrooge is visited one night by some ghosts who subject him to a haunting the likes of which few in fiction have experienced. Scared out of his wits by the ghosts, Scrooge is forced to see himself as he really is. The visits of the ghosts, and the Christlike, unconditional love of the Cratchit family, who keep on loving him even while he treats them horribly, causes Scrooge to be converted.
He changes completely. A skinflint no more, Scrooge becomes a loving grandfather type. He loves Christmas now. He gets into the loving spirit of the season sending presents to the Cratchits and giving large amounts of money to charity. He dresses up and goes to his nephew’s house for Christmas dinner and announces to his clerk, Bob Cratchit, that he will be receiving a nice raise. Here we see a life converted, redeemed and saved.
It is not just a piece of classic literature. There is something more here. The truth is, it’s our story. Deep down inside, we all relate to Ebenezer Scrooge. We all need help. We all have flaws. We all need to face up to who we really are down deep. We all need to be converted from selfishness to love.
This is the Good News we celebrate at Christmas. Two thousand years ago, God looked down and saw the Scrooge likeness of the world. God sent His Son to save us and to change us and to show us a better way. Christ came to change us from being greedy, selfish people to being generous and loving towards others.
1 John 4 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
O come, all ye faithful,
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him,
Born the King of Angels;
O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.

O Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation,
Sing all that hear in heaven God’s holy word.
Give to our Father glory in the Highest;
O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.

All Hail! Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning,
O Jesus! for evermore be Thy name adored.
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing;
O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.

Songs of Christmas by Helen Lowrie Marshall
What is there about Christmas songs                                                           
That makes us love them so?                                                                      
This year – last year – the year before                                                                    
A hundred years ago –
Then, as now, hearts thrilled to hear                                                           
The grand old carols ring,                                                                            
As happy carolers proclaimed                                                                          
The birthday of the King.
Now, as then, the magic of                                                                        
Each old familiar strain                                                                              
 Brings to mind the beauty                                                                                   
Of the season once again.
We see the “little town of Bethlehem”                                                                    
 In quiet lie,                                                                                                     
Asleep beneath the glory                                                                                
Of that star high in the sky.
We sense the calm and peaceful hush                                                              
 The gentle radiant light                                                                             
That brought “joy to the world” upon                                                                  
That “silent, holy night.”
And when the children sing                                                                              
Of Santa Claus and Jingle Bells                                                                   
What glorious hope and happiness                                                                     
Their jolly music tells.
What is there about Christmas songs                                                       
That makes us love them all?                                                                 
Perhaps it’s partly all the lovely                                                                         
 Things that they recall.

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