Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott
"Sermon held prior to celebration of the Lord's Supper"
Singing: (Psalms and Hymns are from the "Book of Praise"
Anglo Genevan Psalter):
Beloved Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ!
We celebrate the Lord’s Supper today with Christmas in our minds. Christmas: in the Australia of 2002, Christmas is very much a commercialized event; it’s seen as the season for gift giving, the season for partying – in short, the time of year to enjoy the good life with family and friends. As Australians amongst Australians, the temptation is real for us is to treat the Christmas season in the same way as the world around us treats it.
This morning the Lord brings us to His table. At this table He sets before us His Christmas message. He would impress upon us the reality of Jn 3:16: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son."
"The world." That’s the creation God made. More specifically, this is the creation that fell into sin, the creation that rebelled against God, slapped Him in the face, went off to worship and follow the devil. "The world": that’s the people who offended God with the fall into sin, the people who continue to offend God day by day with their continuing unbelief and rebellion against Him.
This, says Jn 3:16, is what God loved! Why He loved such a world? Pure grace! There was nothing attractive about the world, nothing desirable, nothing within the world that could prompt any other emotion in God than rage, righteous anger. But God had compassion on the undeserving, such mercy that He did the most surprising thing imaginable, a deed the heart of fallen man could not conceive – and even the regenerated struggle to appreciate the wealth of this deed.
What God did? Says our text: "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. One only Son He had, dearly beloved, who enjoyed the bosom of the Father, who shared eternity in glory with the Father. But this dearest possession of all God gave! That’s to say: He sent Him out of the presence of the Father and His holy angels, sent Him into the company of sinners – those who had once rejected God and daily continue in rebellion against Him! Instead of bursting out in wrath against these sinners –and they certainly deserved it!- God smothered them in love! Such was His compassion for the lost, such was His mercy for the cursed, that He gave, that He emptied Himself, surrendered what was dearest to Him – so that He might save the unholy, the unworthy, the damnable. Save them how? By having the sins of the unholy transferred from these unholy people and laid on the shoulders of His holy Son – so that in turn Jesus Christ might suffer the terrible justice of God that we had to face; it’s the message of the sacrament! Truly, with whom did [God] take counsel, and who instructed Him, and taught Him the path of justice?! The way of the Lord is past finding out, infinitely beyond human comprehension!
This is the Christmas God would have us celebrate! An unbelieving society has made Christmas a horizontal thing: people giving gifts –to whom?- to those whom you want to keep as your friends, to those who have earned it. Such gift giving happens amongst Christians too, but in the process the essence of Christmas is lost. For Christmas is about giving, O yes, is about God giving! But –though we may wish it otherwise- in the hype of Christmas shopping and wrapping of gifts, and in the hype of getting the parties together, the fact that God emptied Himself gets forgotten. More, in the hype of Christmas shopping and Christmas partying, the fact that we were damned before God, lost, cursed is forgotten also; where does the reality of our Sins and Misery receive a place in today’s Christmas season? And if our Sins and Misery are placed in the background, if we don’t understand the loading of that awful word ‘world’ in our text, how shall we ever marvel at the miracle of God’s compassion, of His act of mercy in that He gave, gave even His only begotten Son??!
We sit at the table of the Lord today, and here we eat and drink the tokens of Christ’s work on Calvary for sinners. In so doing we’re confronted with God’s work of redemption that began when He gave His only Son: Christmas! That gospel of divine mercy must stay before our eyes throughout this Christmas season and in all we do in this Christmas season; never, never may God’s self-emptying-for-the-undeserving be lost in the wrappings and trappings of our Christmas celebration!
In a word: Christmas must stand in the shadow of the cross, our conduct this month an extension of the table today. Amen.