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  • Writer's pictureTim Hemingway

God's Gift To the World


"For 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." John 3:16

I guess if you were to take the gift-giving out of Christmas, people might say you don’t really have Christmas. That’s probably true. Giving gifts is integral to Christmas isn’t it?


And as we move into the last week before Christmas, no doubt the panic will set in as we all frantically shop around to find those last outstanding items.


Or, as someone told me this week, to find all the items, if, as yet, you haven’t got around to buying any of them! Christmas is certainly more than giving gifts, but it’s not less than that, it seems.

As we think about the gift-giving aspect of Christmas, I wonder: if we were to try to boil down the act of gift-giving to its main parts, what we would say is integral to gift giving.


Let’s put aside the choice of wrapping paper or whether you do a label (like my wife does) or write on the wrapper (like I do). Let’s put aside the details and just think about the principles of gift-giving at Christmas.


As I did this, I came up with 5 essentials. See if you agree with me. The first thing is, you need two parties, right? You need a giving party and receiving party. So, I’m actually making two essentials out of this first point. You need two parties – a giver and a receiver.


Then you obviously need the gift. That’s an item that passes from the giver to the receiver. We wrap it up to give the element of surprise which makes it extra special. So, that’s number 3 – the gift.

Number 4 and number 5, you can’t see, but they are essential. Number 4 is the cost factor. A gift is costly to give, I think it’s fair to say. If you buythe gift, it costs you in your pocket – or bank account.

If you make the gift, it costs you in your time, but probably in your pocket too.

Even if you choose to give something that you’ve owned for a long time, it may cost you emotionally. And if you think to yourself, I’ll try to dodge the cost by giving something that is worthless to me and that you would be getting rid of anyway, then it’s probably going to cost you in guilt. So whichever way you look at it, gift-giving is costly.


So, with the cost in mind, what is the motivator? Well, that’s where gift-giving essential number 5 comes in. The motivation to give the gift - that costs the giver time, energy, emotion, and money - is surely none other than love! Love moves people to give gifts to each other at Christmas. There’s a reason why gift-givers target their gifts and don’t indiscriminately give them away. It’s because the gift-giver loves the receiver and wants them to have the gift.


So, those are my 5 gift-giving essentials. The giver, the receiver, the gift, the cost of the gift, and the love behind the gift.

Now, it may come as no great surprise to you that the bible has a fair bit to say about gift-giving too. Afterall, the wise men, didn’t they come bearing gifts at Jesus’ birth? And they did. Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh were their gifts.

But, I’m thinking of a way in which the bible talks about gift-giving that is more profound than that. It’s found printed in the verse in your order of service under the title ‘talk’. The first half of the verse says, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son’.

And what’s interesting is, that the 5 essentials of Christmas gift-giving are contained in this one half verse. Take a look for yourself.


In the middle of the verse, it says ‘he gave’. That’s referring back to the person at the beginning of the verse, who is God. So, God is the giver.


Then you’ve got a receiver too. That would be indicated by the words ‘the world’.

Next, we need to find the gift. And that comes at the end of the half verse – it is the giver’s Son. We know him as Jesus – the baby born on Bethlehem.

So, you’ve got God the giver, giving his own Son – Jesus – who is the gift, to the World – who is the recipient.


What about the cost and what about love? The cost is contained in the words ‘one and only’. God only had one son and so, to give him away to the world was very costly to him.


So, what motivated him to do it? Well, the same thing that motivates us to give gifts. Love. It’s right there at the beginning of the verse. ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only son to the world’.

And the little word ‘so’ just before ‘loved’, is a measure indicator. It tells you how precious his son was to him. It tells you how much he loved the world. And it tells you how costly it was for him to part with that gift.

The big picture then of the bible – it’s main message if you like – is this: God parted with his precious Son Jesus – he did that when he was borninto the world – he parted with him in order to gift to the world Jesus,because God loved the world so much.

Now, I do think I missed an ‘essential’ out earlier on. See if you agree. This is what I missed out. There is no good in giving a gift to someone you love that they will not enjoy. Is there now?

When we give a gift, we strain to think of the thing they will either need- and so it will make their lives easier - or enjoy, because it will be delightful to them.

So, the question is, what benefit is Jesus to the world? Did God part with his precious son for nothing – without any benefit in mind for the receiver? If he did then that would be a waste. He didn’t do that! Just like you wouldn’t do that.

The benefit is found in the second half of verse 16. The word ‘that’ at the beginning of the second half tells us we’re about to encounter the goal of God’s giving.


Here’s the goal of his giving: ‘that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’. So, very straight forwardly: the need of the world is to avoid ‘perishing’ and the benefit to the world is ‘eternal life’.


In other words, God gave his precious Son – Jesus – to the world, which is an act of great love, because the world is perishing. And he wants the world to receive eternal life. That’s the summary of the bible’s amazingChristmas gift-giving message.

Let me explain just a little bit more. The whole world has a problem which is called ‘sin’. The essence of sin is: the corrupt preference that causes people to choose the glory of made things – people, earth, sea, sky, objects, holidays, you name it – over the all-glorious God of the universe.


That is the most morally broken choice that can be performed. And it has eternal consequences for everyone. Every single person will receive the just judgement of God for that dreadful and morally corrupt choice.


And the fact is that we’re all making that choice whether we realise it or not. People don’t care for God – that’s just the truth. They care for anything but God. The word ‘perishing’ refers then to the eternal consequences of people’s sin against God.

We can know they are eternal consequences because, the benefit promised in the second half of the verse is not just life, but eternal life.

Eternal life’ is the antidote to ‘perishing’. So, we can be sure, the perishing is eternal perishing. God is revealing to us the measure of the predicament we’re in!

Continuous, eternal, pain and suffering is appointed for anybody who will not delight themselves in God but chooses to delight themselves in anything but God.


So, ask yourself, does that ring true in your life? If it does, you really need to hear this next part because it is such good news – which is what the angel said Jesus was, when he told of his birth to the shepherds.

The whole verse – both halves together – is telling us that God is pleased to part with his Son – Jesus – at immense cost to himself in order to translate people from eternal perishing to eternal life.


How does that happen? What is it about Jesus that makes that happen? It is this: Jesus was a unique baby – born perfect; born sin-free. He came into the world as God in human flesh. He lived a perfect life – no sin was found in him.

His mission was to die on a cross, which we know he did. The reason forthat mission was that on the cross he could bear the punishment owing for the sins of people who were perishing. On the cross he could bear the punishment for those people in their stead. He could take their punishment for them on himself.


That means that the consequences of the sins of the people could no longer be counted against them. To put it in the terms of this verse, the people that Jesus died for are no longer ‘perishing’ they are receiving ‘eternal life’.


That means that Jesus, who never committed any crime against God, was punished by God for the sins of the people. That’s why this gift was so costly to God. This is why his love for the world is shown to be so great - by the gift he gave.


So, we’re clear, Jesus is the gift that is so beneficial to people becauseit removes the eternal punishment owing to their sin. And, Jesus is the gift that is so joyous to people because it confers eternal life on them. The angel said, ‘I bring you good news that will cause great joy for the people’- and boy did he mean it!

So how do you receive God’s gift to you? Well, let me ask, how do you receive your Christmas gifts? You certainly don’t try to pay for the gift, that would be a massive insult. And you certainly don’t say, ‘I just don’t believe that you would want to give me a gift’ – that would be wrong too. No, you receive it believing it is for you and that it is free.


God’s gift of Jesus is received in the same way. The second half of the verse says, ‘whoever believes in him’ will get the joy of eternal life.


If you don’t believe the Christmas gift is for you, you won’t receive it will you? In reality no one thinks like that and so we always receive our Christmas gifts.

But it’s not like that with Jesus. Most people reject God’s gift. In fact, you may have rejected Jesus all your life.


The verse says, the benefit; the joy, is received by believing in Jesus. You must believe that the gift of God is for you. That Jesus went to the cross for you. That you have sins that need bearing away and that he went and did that on your behalf. You must believe that to receive the joy of eternal life, according to this verse.

Tragically, countless millions, even billions of people will not receive God’s gift to them – Jesus Christ - who was born into the world to save sinners like us. People just reject the gift of God.


I think God makes his appeal to us today, don’t reject the gift he’s giving. He loves the world so much that he sent Jesus to save anybody who would believe in him.

All you need to do is believe he was given for you, and you willreceive the gift of God, and you will reap the benefit of sins forgiven, and you will enjoy the fruit of eternal life.

Some of you may know the slogan that the Dog Trust came up with in 1978 to encourage people to think about dogs that were given as gifts at Christmas.

The slogan went like this: ‘A dog is for life not just for Christmas’.

They wrote it because so many people were getting dogs for Christmas and then forgetting about them or abandoning them afterwards.


I feel like that about Jesus at Christmas. Every year people roll out Jesus for a few weeks, on the cards, in the nativity scenes, on the television. But the verse we’ve just been considering is saying ‘Jesus is for life – eternal life! - Not just for Christmas’.

May it be so for us this Christmas.


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