We've already seen lots of presents that you've received this year - all very exciting! They'll give you lots of fun later on and in the days to come! One of the reasons we give presents to each other at Christmas is because God gave us the excellent present of his Son, sending Jesus to be with us.
You might remember that some people brought gifts to Jesus not long after he was born - the magi / wise men. But we're also told in the Bible that Jesus gives us a gift - can you imagine that, it's Jesus' birthday, and he gives us a present! In order to find out what it is, though, I need some help.
Here's a present, all wrapped up, and one of the young people come up to unwrap it: 'GRACE'
Jesus gives us grace - but what does that mean? Grace is when Jesus gives us good, when we don't deserve it.
You see, some people think that Jesus rewards those who are good (like Santa does), but that's not true. Jesus came into the world to forgive us for the wrong things we have done. It doesn't matter how bad you are, no matter what you have done wrong, Jesus offers you grace today.
Just think of all the things that Jesus offers us through his grace - the things that we don't deserve: he forgives our sins, all the wrong things we have done; he welcomes us into his family; he promises that we will live with him forever in heaven; and so much more. All the things we don't deserve, but Jesus gives us as he gives us his grace.
So that's grace. But Jesus offers us something else as well. A second gift at Christmas. Another present, so I'll need another volunteer to come up to the front and open the second wrapped present. So, if the first one was grace, what will the second one be?
One of the children come forward to unwrap it, and it says: 'GRACE' (!)
Oh dear, what has happened here? The first one said grace, and this one says grace too. What's happening? Have I made a terrible mistake as I was preparing the props today?
Actually, no, as we'll see as we look back at verse 16 which was read a wee while ago:
And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. (John 1:16)
Jesus doesn't just give us grace once and that's it - don't use it all at once. No, Jesus gives us grace, and then gives us more grace, and then gives us even more grace.
Have you ever seen a waterfall? We have some small ones here in Northern Ireland, but the biggest in the world is found in Africa, the Victoria Falls. And what happens with a waterfall? The water just keeps coming and coming and coming. Water upon water. You could say the same about the grace we receive from Jesus - grace upon grace. That's how amazing grace is - it just keeps flowing to us.
Have you ever heard the advertising slogan you hear around this time? A dog is for ___, not just for _____. What are the blanks? A dog is for life, not just for Christmas. What it's saying is that you don't just get a dog for Christmas, and it's exciting to receive a puppy as a present, but then you get rid of it by about the 28th December when you find it's too much work to clear up after the doggie. You could say the same about the grace from Jesus - grace is for life, not just for Christmas. In fact, we could even go further and say that God's grace is for ever, not just for Christmas!
Jesus offers us grace this Christmas Day. It's like any other present you might be offered today. You have to receive it in order to benefit. Will you receive this grace from Jesus today? Perhaps you've never heard of it before, speak to one of us. Maybe you need to think about it a bit more, and learn more before you receive it - come along to our Christianity Explored Course which begins on the 5th January, or take one of the 'Christmas in Three Words' leaflets from the church porch.
Jesus offers grace today - it's the best Christmas present you'll ever receive. Will you take it?
This sermon was preached at the Christmas Day Family service at St Elizabeth's Church, Dundonald on 25th December 2010.