There are many great milestones along the path of growing up.
Getting a driver’s license. Earning that first paycheck, which is quickly followed by that enlightening first lesson in taxes.
And then eventually: Moving out.
Regardless of the specifics, whether it’s an apartment by yourself, a new home with your spouse, etc., this great transition is quickly followed by a shocking revelation.
You now must pay for everything. And nothing is free.
From saltshakers to cleaning supplies to car insurance. Everything you took for granted when you were 17 now costs a surprising amount of money.
You quickly learn - everything in the world, from the water you drink to the clothes on your back, has a price.
The principle of free is a rare commodity in our world, and I sometimes wonder if it’s this attribute regarding the birth and life of Jesus Christ that is the hardest for us to understand.
John 3:16, the most repeated verse in the Bible, explains it clearly: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
He gave His one and only Son.
Jesus was and is a gift. But on earth, in today’s culture, the idea of free or gift often sounds like a foreign concept, like there’s a trick somewhere hidden in the fine print.
When you read the word “FREE” on a flyer or poster, more often than not, we don’t react out of excitement, but out of apprehension.
“Ok, but what’s the catch?”
We’re accustomed to principles such as You get what you earn. You never get something for nothing. Etc. And the more important or valuable the object, the more expensive it is.
These are not evil ideals. Reaping and sowing, earning your keep - these are all sensible characteristics of being a grown-up in the world today.
However, like many other attributes of Jesus Christ, this aspect is flipped on its head.
The salvation Jesus offers is the most consequential, most valuable, most transformative thing that you could ever experience, and it’s 100% free.
That is the entire Christmas story. God sent salvation to the world, to a human race that deserved nothing close to salvation, and all we have to do is believe in Jesus Christ.
We need only accept the free gift.
And yet, so many of us look at that baby in the manger, and later that Savior on the cross, and we think to ourselves that we must somehow earn that salvation.
The freeness of God’s redemption seems so counterintuitive to us.
Imagine a Christmas morning, where the ecstatic young children scurry down the stairs, tear open their presents, and then immediately whip out a notepad and start adding up how much they owe their parents for their new toys.
Of course not. Because when we’re young, we understand that our parents love us, and that because they love us, they want to give us gifts. It is out of love, not some obligation or hope for future repayment, that they give to us.
Likewise, it is out of His love for humanity that God gave His only Son for us at Christmas, so that we could have eternal life. Christmas time, more than anything else, is a celebration of that gift.
Sadly, some will spend their entire lives trying to earn something that was given to us for free.
We try to work hard enough or be good enough for Christ’s salvation. If we can just complete enough works, earn enough points, we think we’ll even the score and rightly receive God’s favor.
This isn’t to say that acting morally and following God’s Word isn’t important. It absolutely is.
But the decrepit state that we were in, before that Christmas birth, was absolutely hopeless. No amount of work or commitment to morality could have brought what Jesus did. In other words, there was no way for us to earn what God gave us.
Pastor Judah Smith put it this way: “The greatest challenge is not your discipline, your devotion, your focus. Your greatest challenge is believing the gospel.”
The magnitude of the Christmas gift is not only contained in the freeness of the gift, but also in the fact that it was the only way we could ever hope to experience salvation. We would never have seen it otherwise.
When we celebrate Christmas, what we’re celebrating is God giving us Jesus Christ, our one and only chance at eternal life.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.