The greatest gift ever given –out of all gifts that were ever given- is the gift of God when He gave His One and Only Son for sinners. We who have accepted God’s gift of eternal life now have the confidence that we have eternal life. Our confidence should never flow from our own credentials. If we seek to justify ourselves by how good we are, we will always feel condemned. But our confidence flows from the fact that God sent His Son –and that’s just how much He loves us. It’s more than we can measure or comprehend… His love is amazing and greater than all sin. And if we were ever to doubt God’s sincerity, we have more proof that God loves us. He not only sent His Son, but His Son was baptized.
I have often wondered, “Why would Jesus even need to be baptized… wasn’t He already righteous?” Yes, but Jesus did the because He came in the form of sinful man. Though Jesus never sinned, He identified with all of us by making Himself a sin sacrifice. To be able to do that, He had to do what sinners do –which was to receive baptism to fulfill all righteousness. His obedience to His Father was so complete that He was already identifying Himself with the cross by submitting Himself to John the baptist’s baptism. Baptism has always symbolized death and cleansing. Peter identified baptism with the flood of Noah. Paul identified baptism with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. So when Jesus decided to receive baptism, He initiated a new access to God that had never existed on earth before: Man could have the Presence of God within His own “temple.” When Jesus was baptized, He was baptized for all of us. And His baptism pointed to the cross.
The second testimony that we have that God has given us eternal life in Jesus is the cross. Jesus came by water (He buried sinful man and committed Himself to the cross) but He also came by blood. His willingness to become an atoning sacrifice for us condemned sin in sinful man. Sin was obliterated at the cross. All who identify with Jesus by His death also have their sins obliterated. Because our sin has been obliterated, God now declares us righteous, looks at us as He would His own Son, and says, “This is my son (or daughter) in whom I am well pleased…” The water and the blood testify to God’s amazing commitment to save, and to verify this, He gives His Spirit.
I am more than awestruck by God’s willingness to dwell within us. Not only has God obliterated our sin (even though our fleshly nature still tried to reassert itself) but He has chosen to live within us and make our temple… HIS TEMPLE. What a mighty God we serve! The Spirit is also a “deposit” or better yet, a guarantee that God has accepted us and He will complete the obliteration of sin and restore our relationship completely –all because of Jesus, in Jesus, by His body and for all who identify with the water, blood and Spirit of Jesus Christ. These three testify that we are saved. What an amazing grace God has given us! God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son. This is the Good News of the Gospel: God gave first. This is why we celebrate Christmas –God gave, so should we. But not material things. The greater gift, as Jesus has shown us, is the giving of ourselves. When we give of ourselves, one person at a time, the world is changed forever –one person at a time.
Noel Regney was impressed by the story of Christ’s birth. When he wrote the lyrics to “Do You Hear What I Hear?” in 1962, the world had reached the height of the cold war. The United States and the Soviet Union were on the brink of nuclear war. Was there any hope for peace when the world seemed doomed to inevitable destruction? Regney reminded us all that, yes, there is hope. We all need to remind one another that a power more significant that a nuclear weapon entered this world. The Message and salvation found in Jesus Christ has already come through God’s Spirit: “Said the night wind to the little lamb…” Regney also reminded us that peace is inevitable when he wrote, “Pray for peace, people everywhere.” He admitted in an interview later that he came to tears and was broken, unable to sing the lyrics of his own song, when he considered the evil of mankind; at the time it was the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis. But he wrote the lyrics to remind us all that the Message of Christmas has been shared with the lowest of creatures to the highest of kings of all creation. The message is for people everywhere, so that when they are reminded of the magnificent love and commitment of God to save us, we can’t help but honor Jesus Christ and tell others about Him. For God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son.