Sermon for the Christmas, December 25, 2022 1133 W. Orvilla
Hatfield, PA 19440
(215) 453-7452
Rev. Robert T. Tufton - Rector
Seminarian, Gregory Gibson
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alt Fr. Tufton
Christmas Eve
Holy Spirit Anglican Church

As I look around the communities in our country this Christmas Season, I fear we have allowed the Savior to be stolen from our celebrations. “Merry Christmas” has been replaced with “Happy Holidays.” Have you noticed that most lawn displays have become blow up figures like Frosty the snowman, snoopy, the grinch, sleighs full of gifts, Santa Claus, reindeer, and multicolored lights in the trees and shrubs? Yet, at the same time, we see very few Nativity scenes in the public square, places of business, or on the lawns of private homes.

And have you noticed that, the question “are you ready for Christmas?” is now often understood to mean “Do you have all your shopping done?”, RATHER THAN, “are you ready to celebrate the Birth of Jesus?”

It has become so easy to walk right past the manger with our arms full of gifts, and anticipating what gifts we might receive, instead of focusing on the real gift of Christmas – the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. We need to rediscover the reverence of the Incarnation because the whole foundation of the Christian Faith rests on the reality of Christmas. The word “Incarnation” literally means the act of assuming flesh, whereby the Son of God voluntarily assumed a human body and nature. “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us...” I want to suggest this morning that if we want to have a Merry Christmas, we need to understand that Christmas comes with a choice - A spiritual choice. The kind of choice Mary had to make when the angel of the Lord announced to her that she was pregnant with a child. Even though she was a virgin, she responded, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.

Joseph, on the other hand, struggled to figure out his part in God’s plan, but eventually he, “…did as the Lord had commanded Him and took Mary home as his wife.”

Mary and Joseph CHOSE to respond and receive the greatest gift of all time. That gift was Jesus! Luke, chapter 1 tells us that Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was also pregnant (John the Baptist). When Mary greeted her we are told that, “the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaped, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost; and with a loud voice said to Mary, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb (referring to Jesus).

Elizabeth then asked, “And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Mary was so filled with thankfulness that she burst into a psalm of praise saying, “My soul doth magnify the Lord. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savoir. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.

I share these two stories with you because, although Mary opened her heart to accept the gift God wanted to give her, for some reason, many people refuse to accept God’s gift. As Mary praised God, she recognized that not everyone would be so thankful for the gift. Some would consider themselves too self-sufficient to need a Savior. So, Mary says in verse 52, “He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and hath exalted the humble and meek.

Others have a difficult time receiving the gift of God because they are too comfortable to need Him. So, Mary’s continues in verse 53: “He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich He hath sent empty away.

In other words, if we’re full, food doesn’t look very good. If we’re warm, we don’t need a coat. If we feel like we have everything we need, then God’s gift will likely remain under the tree – unopened. The gift must be received!

Tonight, or tomorrow morning most of us will likely exchange gifts with loved ones. Yours will have your name on it. It will have been bought and wrapped just for you. It will be offered to you and you will hold out your arms and accept it. And then you will open it. Likewise, we can only receive God’s gift when we reach out to Him with our arms, hands, and hearts wide open. That gift is Salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord!

We can’t EARN this gift. Think about that: if we have to somehow earn something, it’s not a gift; it’s a wage. The Bible says that the only thing we can earn as a result of our efforts is death. Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death…” Thankfully the verse doesn’t end there. It goes on to say, “… but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Or as we are told in Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.

And not only can we never earn God’s gift, we can’t BUY it either. Salvation is not for sale because the price has already been paid. Jesus offers Himself to us as a gift. He offers Himself to us because He loves us. We’ve done nothing to deserve Him, and we certainly could never afford Him. The gift of Christmas is FREE but it’s not cheap. It cost God the death of His one-and-only Begotten Son. Yet, Salvation is available to anyone and everyone who wants it.

John 1:12 sums up the ultimate Christmas choice: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.

To “receive” means to welcome a visitor into your home. It’s what happens when someone knocks at our door and we open the door and invite him or her to come in.

To “receive” Christ means to welcome him as an honored guest and to have Him make our heart His home. In a real sense, if we have never invited Jesus into our life, He is still on the outside. But as Jesus states in Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will eat with him, and he with me.

John 1:13 teaches us that “salvation” DOES NOT pass automatically from one generation to another. It teaches that salvation is NOT something we are born with, it is not inherited through our family tree, and one can not will it to take place. “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name; which were born - NOT of blood, NOR of the flesh, NOR of the will of man, BUT OF GOD.

In other words, we aren’t Christians just because our parents are or were. And we won’t get brownie points with God because we come from a nice family or have a good education. We can’t save ourselves by human effort either, so we need not bother trying.

The heart of the gospel is in the short phrase “Born of God.” Salvation is of the Lord and it’s a free gift! In John 1:14, we see that God’s final word was Jesus: “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

I can tell you this. We will never truly enjoy Christmas, and experience all that life is intended to be, until we kneel before the altar of God and tell Him that we have received the Christmas gift He has sent to us. There’s nothing we can do to earn this gift, and there’s nothing we can do to pay for it. If you’re trying to earn it, you haven’t received it. If you’re trying to buy it, you haven’t received it. The only choice we have is to refuse it and lose it, OR to choose it and find what we’ve been searching for all along.

If you’ve never received Christ, please don’t leave the gift of God’s grace unopened. And if you’re a believer, don’t hide Him in the closet of your life like Christmas decorations that you pull out only once a year.

Once we open this gift, we will never want to return it, and we will never be the same! It is a gift of great value: more valuable than all the toys and trinkets of this life that will eventually disappear. It is the gift is Salvation through a relationship with Jesus Christ that will last forever. AMEN

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