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Monday, December 26 2011

Luke 2:1-20

          A Jewish comedian tells about a Jewish lady named Mrs. Rosenberg many years ago who was stranded late one night at a fashionable resort on Cape Cod - one that did not admit Jews. The desk clerk looked down at his book and said, “Sorry, no room. The hotel is full.”

          The Jewish lady said, “But your sign says that you have vacancies.”

          The desk clerk stammered and then said curtly, “You know that we do not admit Jews. Now if you will try the other side of town . . .”

          Mrs. Rosenberg stiffened noticeably and said, “I'll have you know I converted to your religion.”

          The desk clerk said, “Oh, yeah, let me give you a little test. How was Jesus born?”

          Mrs. Rosenberg replied, "He was born to a virgin named Mary in a little town called Bethlehem."

          “Very good,” replied the hotel clerk. “tell me more.”

          Mrs. Rosenberg replied, “He was born in a manger.”

          “That's right,” said the hotel clerk. “Why was he born in a manger?”

          And Mrs. Rosenberg said loudly, “Because a jerk like you in the hotel wouldn't give a Jewish lady a room for the night!”

          Welcome to our Christmas celebration!  It is good to see all of you here tonight.  We all seem to know that wonderful story – the story that I just shared with you just a few moments ago – the story of a young Jewish couple by the name of Mary and Joseph who gave birth to Jesus in a place where animals were kept – they placed him in a feeding trough – a manger – because there was no room for them in the inn in Bethlehem.  It’s a story that we never seem to get tired of hearing.

          It’s the story of Jesus.  And how he was born.  The Bible calls him the Son of the Most High – the Son of God.  And he grew to become a man – and through the life that he lived – his healings – his miracles – his teachings – but mostly because of his great love for people just like you and me – he showed us the way to God.  And through his death and resurrection we have the forgiveness of our sins – we are made right with God – and because He lives – because He is risen from the dead – we too have the promise and the hope of eternal life with God forever.

          That’s the story.  That’s the story in a nutshell.  I am here to tell you tonight that this is no fairy tale.  The story of Jesus is no fairy tale!

          I am here to tell you tonight – that we tell the story – we tell His story – because His story can change your story.

          Now one of the traditions of this Christmas season is that gifts are shared.  Children especially get excited tonight because they can’t wait for Christmas morning to get here.  I remember that excitement when I was a child – and I lived it all over again when my boys were young.   I still remember when our foster daughter – 16 years old at the time – spent her first Christmas with us.  And she came into our bedroom jumping on the bed – to get Nancy and me up to celebrate that first Christmas morning.

          It is an exciting time of year.  And we look for those gifts.  Quite frankly – looking for that perfect gift – trying to guess sometimes – to buy that someone special – a husband – a wife – a son or daughter – or even a mother-in-law – can be a bit of a stressful thing.  You know what I’m talking about, right?          The perfect gift. 

          Folks – I want to talk to you tonight about the perfect gift.  I couldn’t help thinking about this as I was driving through the center of town here just one block up here at the four corners.  I’ve seen the sign a hundred times.  I’ve been in that store – well – just once for all the years it’s been there.  But there it was – staring me in the face this past week.  The sign on the store – the name of the store – right down here at the corner – it says “The Perfect Gift.”   And I thought, “That’s it!  That’s what this night is all about.  The perfect gift”.

          Now – you talk about gifts.  I couldn’t help rejoicing this past week when we learned that our military presence in Iraq had ended.  And over the years we have seen picture after picture – video after video of soldiers returning to their families.

          The most striking stories, however, are those of the GI’s – both men and women – who come home to surprise their family members.  Mothers and fathers surprising their sons and daughters at school – or at baseball games.  Husbands surprising their wives on the front porch of their homes wrapped up as a Christmas present – and jumping out of that wrapped up gift to the delight and the surprise and to the tears of their totally surprised loved ones.  You can watch any number of these on U-tube.  Any number of them!  And if you do – be prepared.  You’ll need a Kleenex.

          Ask any of those family members what it is like – especially those who are coming home this week – ask them and they will tell you that it is the best gift –the best Christmas gift – that they ever received.

          And yet – I’m here to tell you that the perfect gift – better than the best gift – the perfect gift arrived a little over 2,000 years ago.  God come to us in human flesh.  Wrapped in strips of cloth and placed in a manger.  The perfect gift – is Jesus Christ.  The perfect gift sent from God directly to you tonight. 

          You see – God doesn’t need to guess.  God knows what we need.  He knows exactly what we need.  You see…

“If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent an educator.

          If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist.             If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist.        

                   If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us      an                                  entertainer.

But since our greatest need was forgiveness, God sent us a Savior, Jesus Christ,         our Lord.” [i]


          He became like us, so we could become like him.  Let me share with you a story.

          “Long ago, there ruled in Persia a wise and good king. He loved his people. He wanted to know how they lived. He wanted to know about their hardships. Often he dressed in the clothes of a working man or a beggar, and went to the homes of the poor. No one whom he visited thought that he was their ruler. One time he visited a very poor man who lived in a cellar. He ate the coarse food the poor man ate. He spoke cheerful, kind words to him. Then he left.

          “Later he visited the poor man again and disclosed his identity by saying, ‘I am your king!’  The king thought the man would surely ask for some gift or favor, but he didn't.  Instead he said, ‘You left your palace and your glory to visit me in this dark, dreary place. You ate the coarse food I ate. You brought gladness to my heart! To others you have given your rich gifts. To me you have given yourself!’

          “The King of glory, the Lord Jesus Christ, gave himself to you and me. The Bible calls Him, "the unspeakable gift!”

          Tonight – he is the perfect gift.  That’s what this moment is all about.  You didn’t come here tonight just to hear once again this wonderful story.  You didn’t come here tonight just to pass the time. 

          You’re here tonight because you know that you need something.  It might not even be anywhere on your Christmas gift list – but there is something that you need.  You’re here because you know that you are a sinner in need of grace – God’s undeserved love and favor – and forgiveness. I know, because I need it too.  You see, I am a sinner too. 

          What I want and what I need more than anything else right now comes tonight to all of us as a gift.  What you and I need – and what I hope now IS on the top of your Christmas list and mine – is a Savior.  This perfect gift.  His name is Jesus.

          Folks – earlier I said that we tell the story because His story can change your story.  Are you allowing Him to do that?  Are you allowing Jesus to come into your heart – into your life – into your home?  To change your life?   To change your story?  To change you?

          Tonight God gives you the perfect gift—the gift of His Son Jesus Christ.  And through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – the work of your salvation is made complete.  But it is not mine – it is not yours – until we receive that gift – and open it – and claim it – and welcome this gift – Jesus Christ – into our hearts and into our homes and into our lives. 

          And that’s what Christmas is all about.  This unspeakable gift – the greatest gift – the perfect gift – is Jesus Christ.  Receive this gift today – and know that you are loved and you are forgiven.                   Amen

[i] Author B. J. Morbitzer 1976

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Zion Lutheran Church
9535 Clarence Center Road

PO Box 235
Clarence Center, NY 14032
Phone: 716-741-2656

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