“The Perfect Gift”
Christmas 2, January 3, 2016 #1174
The Perfect Gift
Text: Ephesians 1:3–14
Okay. By now most of you have gotten rid of the trees, the outside lights are gone, half the toys are broken, the kids joy of ten days ago is replaced by boredom and cries of…”We don’t want to go back to school!” I get it. A lot of folks are putting Christmas behind them for another year. But that’s out there. In here, it is still Christmas. It is until Wednesday. And Paul still wants to talk to us about how God has given us the perfect gift. God’s gift to you is that you be adopted as God’s son, a child of God in Jesus Christ.
St. Paul lays this out for us in today’s Epistle from Ephesians. He tells us that God’s Perfect, Glorious Gift Is Salvation; that We Get to Be His Children in Christ.
Ever thought about how getting someone a Christmas gift is a three-part process? The gift of your salvation is too. Allow me to show you.
What’s the first thing you do to get a gift for someone? You have to find the perfect gift. You have to figure out what it is going to be. You have to decide. That might involve some looking around in stores or online. It means finding just the right present that the person you’re giving the gift to will like and enjoy. And if you have a special someone that needs a special gift and you draw a blank as to what that gift should be? God help you…
In a similar way, so it was that your salvation was planned by God long before you were even born. In fact, says Paul, “before the foundation of the world” (v 4). Before anything was even made, God had chosen to call you in Jesus Christ to be His child. Before Genesis 1:1! Jesus has always been the Son of God. And it was always what God planned to do. Before anything was made, the Father had the perfect gift in mind: “he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ” (v 5). Therefore it should not surprise us when Joseph and Mary find Jesus in the temple, that they find Jesus is about the Father’s business, because that was always the way it was going to be. That is the first step, and God knew we needed Jesus to save us.
The second part of that Christmas gift-giving is the wrapping of the present. Just the right paper and bow to grab attention. A tag to show to whom the gift is given. And then place it there under the tree until it’s time to open the presents. That is usually how it works, right? Unless you are one of those who does all their shopping on Christmas Eve and then throw everything into a couple of gift bags.
Just so, the gift was wrapped and put on the tree for you in Christ. Jesus, true God in the flesh, is born, wrapped in flesh and swaddling cloths. He became man so that we can see God in Him. So that He could go to the cross and pay for all your sins. So that He can be the price paid to redeem and ransom you from sin and death. Not the price of gold or silver or even wrapping and bow. The ransom price is His holy, precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. And it is in Him, says Paul, that you have been chosen, literally, favored, just as Mary was “highly favored” when Gabriel spoke to her. And today in the Gospel, Jesus stands in the temple going about His Father’s business because ultimately His business is Good Friday and the gift given that day: His blood to earn your forgiveness, life, and salvation.
Three things about a gift. Pick it out…wrap it…and the third thing is, of course, the gift is given. The person receives the gift, opens the wrapped box, and is happy to receive this great gift you put so much thought into. All the planning and wrapping does no good if the gift isn’t received.
In the text, Paul says, we have believed the Good News of Christ and been given the Spirit in Baptism. In other words, the gift God planned for you, that gift He wrapped and put on the tree of the cross for you, is now delivered to you! Jesus, His forgiveness, salvation, eternal life are yours. It’s all yours!
How do you know? It’s the Holy Spirit in here, given to you when you hear the Word and are baptized by water and the Word at the font. Baptism and the Good News of the Gospel—along with Absolution and the Lord’s Supper—are the proof that all of God’s saving gifts are for you.
We start to wrap up with this: Ken Klass told the story years ago of a family at Christmas. A family was wrapping some Christmas presents. Julie, the man’s 4½ year old daughter wanted to do something, too. When her father took the cover off a box and laid it off to the side, Julie took it. When a piece of silvered wrapping paper was discarded, she took that, too. Eventually she had enough of these cast-off scraps to go to her room, and with great concentration, wrapped a special gift for her daddy. The package didn’t have the neatly folded corners of the other presents. Indeed, the box looked pretty strange, but you know, a parent would think was special.
On Christmas morning, the family had gathered to distribute the plunder and rip open the wrappings. All the presents had been distributed, opened and ooohhhed over; all of them except that of the little girl, Julie. As sort of the supreme climax to the festivities, she went behind the tree where she had hidden her present, and proudly presented it. “Daddy,” she explained, “this is for you.” Dad shook it. “Julie,” daddy commented, “it’s mighty light.” Dad made some appropriate guesses about the gift: “Is it a Volkswagen? Is it a St. Bernard? Is it a bowling ball?” No, it was none of those things. Finally, with considerable care he opened it. Looking inside and finding nothing, he commented, “Julie the box is empty. I love what you did, but I’m confused, this is an empty box.” “But Daddy, it’s not empty. Before I wrapped your present, I blew the box full of kisses, and put into it all my love.”
God has given you the best gift: His Love in His Son. God has been planning this since before He created everything. He has been accomplishing it and carrying it out in Jesus Christ. He has given it to you in His Holy Church. His Son is born so that you will be born again, a child of God. As Jesus is God’s Son, so you have been adopted in Him to be God’s child. As Jesus was in the temple about the Father’s business, so you are in church, in the Father’s house, a child of God about His business—which is all about being saved, being forgiven, receiving eternal life. Don’t for a moment doubt that everything God has been doing is for you in Christ. You, who are His beloved child with every possible blessing. Happy tenth day of Christmas in Jesus’ name.