Sneaking a Peek at the Gift Under the Tree

Bible Book: Isaiah  9
Subject: Christmas; God's Love; God's Gift
Sneaking a Peek at the Gift Under the Tree
Dr. J. Mike Minnix
Isaiah 9:2, 6, 7

Have you ever taken a peek at your Christmas gift before Christmas? I remember my brother and I hatching a plan to open one of our gifts under the tree without our parent’s knowledge. We talked about it for some time and decided we could peal back the tape holding the package closed and re-tape it without anyone discovering what we had done. We gently and carefully tugged on the tape, but as anyone knows who has tried it, you can’t do that without making small cracks in the Christmas paper. We took a look at one present each, sealed them up and went out way. Mom and dad were not as naïve as we thought and they were none too happy either. So much for a holly, jolly Christmas. I don’t want to tell you what we got for doing that, but I can tell you it was not a present any child wants!

Interestingly, God actually pulled back the wrapping of and allowed a peak at the amazing Gift He had prepared for us. He gave the word to Isaiah seven-hundred years before Jesus was born, and told Isaiah to write it down for the world to see.

Let’s look at the gift that sat under the tree for seven-hundred years before being opened and note what an amazing gift it – I means – HE is! You see, God’s gift was His Son, Jesus Christ. This was a unique, one of a kind gift! In fact, there was a dual nature to it. Listen to what Isaiah penned.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given...".

In the Hebrew language, the term child speaks of human birth, while the word Son speaks of Jesus’ relationship to the Father.

A child is born ... that speaks of humanity
A son is given ... that speaks of divinity
A child is born ... that speaks of impotence
A son is given ... that speaks of omnipotence
A child is born ... that speaks of the terrestrial
A son is given ... that speaks of the celestial
A child is born ... that speaks of the earthly
A son is given ... that speaks of the heavenly
A child is born ... that speaks of the son of man
A son is given ... that speaks of the Son of God

Isaiah caught the duality of Jesus nature in the profound words he used to describe the marvelous gift that was to be given.

Jesus had an earthly mother but no earthly father.
Jesus had a heavenly Father but no heavenly mother.

He is the most special child ever born. He is the gift of God to you and to me.

Christmas is more than just a special feeling in the air, more than goodwill and love among people; Christmas is special because God entered into human flesh to become the greatest gift the world has or ever will experience. Look at the gift Isaiah described and note several things it reveals…

I. This is a Gift Everyone Needs

Do you ever receive gifts you don’t need? Every Christmas we receive gifts which we do not need and are forced to act like as though we really wanted that very thing. Honestly, you don’t want to hurt the feelings of someone who cares enough to buy you a gift. Also, you don’t want to tell a lie. So, you say something like, “Oh, wow. That’s something! Thanks.” That’s not a lie; after all, it is SOME THING!

Think of some of the gifts you received. Like a necktie that went out of style in 1963 or an electric fork! Actually, I eat too fast as it is, I don't need an electric fork! A report was issued by a consumers council which stated that people place a great deal more value on the things they give people than people place on the gifts they receive. In fact, this council estimated that Americans spend one billion dollars annually on Christmas gifts that people do not want or need.

Also, we often don't want what we need, we want something that we do not need. I remember watching a television vision commercial some time ago that offered an exercise device called a Belly Burner. How many of you have ever seen one? No, it is not a gadget for branding large people, it is a contraption for reducing the size of your stomach through tension related sit ups. I started to order one and then I said to myself, "You don't want that thing. What you want is another piece of fruitcake." So, instead of dialing the toll-free number on the screen I went to the kitchen and cut a piece of fruitcake. Believe it or not, I love fruitcake! Let me tell you what hurt my feelings. That same Christmas someone in my family gave me a Belly Burner as a gift. What does that tell you about being uncouth! Thankfully, in the years that followed I took up running and lost sixty pounds – so, I gave that Belly Burner to Goodwill.

When God sent His Son into our world, He gave us a gift which we desperately need! Many people have not accepted this gift because they do not want what they need, but that does not change the reality of the situation. God looked down on a world that was stained with sin and bound for eternal judgment and then gave us the best heaven had to give.

A. We needed Love

Only love and grace could help us in our condition. The Bible states, "In that while we were yet sinners Christ died for our sins." We did not receive the gift of God's Son because we deserved it, we received this gift as an act of love.

People give the most expensive gifts to the people they love the most.  God must have loved you very much to send His only begotten Son into human form to suffer and die in your place.

Now, if you already have this gift – if Jesus is your Lord and Savior – why don’t you give the gift of witnessing to someone you know who needs Christ. This is one gift you can give away without losing it!

Not only did we need love, …

B. We needed Light

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. Jesus came to be the light of the world because our world was in the grip of terrible, spiritual darkness. When Christ was born, the Father hung a star in the sky above Bethlehem to symbolize the light giving ministry which Jesus came to fulfill.

An artist painted a dark and foreboding picture with dark hills and a gloomy forest, and in the midst of it he added an obscure little cabin. Then, he took his brush and dipped it in yellow paint, moved to the canvas and simply touched the window panes of the small, dark cottage with the yellow pigment. Everyone who saw it said that it was a picture of comfort and peace. There in the shadowy woods, was a cabin with light in the windows.  One could almost imagine a family sitting around a warm fire enjoying fellowship together.

That is exactly what Jesus did for us. He came into the murky, dark woods of our world to be born in a small village called Bethlehem.  God splashed the saffron yellow of heaven on the dark landscape of man. All who come to enter into that light enjoy the warmth and glow of God's Spirit. All who enter into that light bask in the fellowship of the Godhead.

Also, …

C. We needed Life

Isaiah said that those dwelling in the shadow of death have experienced the dawn. Death! The word chills us to the bone. Yet, Christ came to remove the spell that death has upon mankind. He came to give us life, abundant and everlasting!

You can see that what God gave, all the world needed and still needs. But notice something else …

II.   This is a Gift that Works

Many gifts shared at Christmastime don’t work. That gadget that does not work is often bought on sale and cannot be returned.  So, you are stuck with it!

God made a promise and fulfilled the promise with the divine provision. This gift, His Son, is real!

Two little boys were playing one day in December when one of them noticed that the Christmas tree of the other was artificial. He said to his friend, "We have a real tree at our house, but yours is artificial.  Doesn't it bother you that your tree is not real?" The other little boy replied, "Oh no, it does not bother me one bit that the tree is not real, just as long as the presents under it are real!"

Dear friend, God's Son is a present that is real. So much about Christmas is artificial, but Jesus is real. He really saves, really forgives, really takes His children to heaven, and really becomes sweeter every day! There are two ways by which Isaiah describes the effectiveness of this Gift.

A. We See this in the Display of His Power

“The government shall be upon his shoulders.”

He who bore our sins on His back, and he will bear our souls as well. He bore the cross and conquered death, now nothing can defeat Him. He has the shoulders to carry us into eternity.

One cannot look at the promise of God’s gift without observing the nature of that gift. Jesus came into the world looking like any other baby. He grew up as any boy might grow, except for the fact that He was sinless. Now listen to me, that is the greatest miracle in the Bible. To live on this earth for thirty-three years and never think, say or do anything sinful – that is the most incredible thing ever done. Then, he took our sins on Him and died in our place on a cruel, Roman cross. The following Sunday morning, He stepped out of the grace to assure us that He was the first fruit of all that trust in Him. Yes, His is the power, glory and honor for ever and ever!

Note also …

B. We See this in the Definition of His Person
He is our guide, for He is the Wonderful Counselor.
He is our God, for He is the Mighty God.
He is our Father, for He is the Everlasting Father.
He is our Peace, for He is the Prince of Peace.

Now, we could take each one of those descriptions and spend an hour detailing the meaning contained in each one. Let it suffice to say that He leads, He is Lord, He is Loving, and He grants Lasting Peace to all who trust in Him. The very description given for Him tells us that this is a gift above all others.

The old Isuzu car commercials were fascinating. A fast talking salesman appeared on TV beside a gleaming new Isuzu. He made outlandish promises. He said, "If you buy this car in the next 30 days, we will give you a lifetime warranty. As long as you live, we will fix this car free of charge." Underneath the speaker a crawl line appeared which read, "You can't believe this man, he is lying." We live in a cynical age. We live in a time when it seems all promises are futile and useless. But God's promise to us in Christ, is a promise you can believe in!

"That night when shepherds heard the song
 Of hosts angelic singing near,
A deaf man lay in slumber spell
And dreamed that he could hear.
"That night when in a cattle stall
 Slept mother and child in humble fold,
A crippled turned his twisted limbs
And dreamed that he was whole.
"That night when o'er the babe,
A tender mother rose to lean,
A loathsome leper smiled in sleep
And dreamed that he was clean.
"That night when to his mother's breast
The little king was help secure,
A harlot dreamed a happy sleep
And dreamed that she was pure.
"That night when in a manger lay
The Son of God who had come to save,
A man turned in the sleep of death
And dreamed there was no grave." (Author Unknown)

In Boston Harbor a submarine sunk a few years ago. Divers went down to rescue the occupants. As they arrived at the submarine they heard Morse Code being tapped out by sailors on the inside. They listened for the complete message and this is what they heard: "Is there any hope? Is there any hope?" The divers tapped in response, "Yes, there is hope, we are here to save you." That was the message of Jesus to our lost world. There is hope. Jesus came to say, “I am here to save you!”

III. This is a Gift that Lasts

Most of the gifts you received last year probably cannot be located now. They have been used up or worn out or simply tossed aside, but God sent a gift that lasts forever. In a world where most warranties are about 90 days, it is good to know there is something that never fails and is never out of date.

When all the food has run out, the money has been spent out, the candles are burned out, the trees dried out, thank God that Jesus will never give out!

A little child saw workers putting away the manger scene at the church on the day after Christmas.  She said, "Look, daddy, they are putting Jesus away." They put away the plastic Jesus in a manger scene, but they can't put away the Jesus who sits enthroned in heaven. He is a Savior that lasts!

A printer prepared a program for presentation of Handel's Messiah. At one place, he was to have printed a line that stated, "The Lord God omnipotent reigneth." By mistake he printed, "The Lord God omnipotent resigneth." Thank God, Jesus never resigns! He rules, reigns, but He never resigns!

Conclusion

I know you remember the story Dr. Seuss, entitled, “How The Grinch Stole Christmas.” A grinch hates the joy of Christmas that he sees in the residents of Whoville.  The grinch is determined to stop the Christmas cheer, so he and his trusty dog slip into the village on Christmas Eve and steal everything. They take the ornaments, the lights, the trees, the wreaths, the toys, the food - they take everything. The next morning, he waits with glee to hear their moans and cries of the Whoville residents. He can hardly wait to see their disappointment. He has stolen Christmas, or so he thinks.

The people of Whoville come out into the street and they share with each other the loss they have suffered, but then they make a circle in the village center and begin to sing Christmas carols. The Grinch cannot believe it. He has stolen Christmas at all. You can neglect Christmas, but you cannot steal it.  Christmas is more than brightly wrapped presents under a lighted tree. Christmas would be Christmas to a Christian even if none of the modern accoutrements were present.

Christina Rossette penned,

"What shall I give him, poor as I am?
 If I were a shepherd, I would give him a Lamb.
 If I were a wiseman, I'd do my part.
What shall I give? Give him my heart!"

God has given us His Gift. Have you given Him your heart and life? You can – right now – today – right here.