Bishop Craig L. Oliver, Sr. 


“Because of the tender mercy of our God,  whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” - Luke 1:78-79


I want to talk today about this simple thought and theme: 


Jesus: God's gift to the world.


I'm not going to tell you the usual, traditional message about the birth of Jesus. Instead, today, I invite you to join me as we dig deeper into the story as it is told in the Bible. 

In the New Testament, we see two Christmas stories, one appearing in Matthew 1-2 and the other in Luke 1-2.  The two stories have some points in common, but there are also some differences regarding the characters, the plot, the message, and the tone.


In the standard version of the Christmas story, Mary gives Joseph the most surprising news of his life. Mary shows up and says she's expecting a baby, even though it's not because she had a physical relationship with Joseph. God has to dispatch an angel named Gabriel to calm Joseph down before walking out on the entire relationship.


I understand how Joseph must have felt. If I were in his shoes, it would take the whole angelic host of Heaven to calm me down and convince me that some supernatural birth would have to take place with my wife outside of my participation. Instead, Gabriel reassured Joseph that Mary had not been unfaithful. 


You know how the story is typically told. Mary and Joseph travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Because there is no room for them in the inn, the baby Jesus was born in a manger. The choirs of the angels and even the shepherds came to celebrate the humble birth, and even the Magi came and presented precious gifts of frankincense, gold, and myrrh. This version of the Christmas story blends the material as it relates to the two biblical accounts, as seen in Matthew and Luke.


The True Heart of Christmas


Now that we’ve heard the traditional story of Christmas, I want to share with you, from an evangelistic perspective, the true heart of Christmas. And together, let's extract some practical lessons from the Nativity narrative so that we will see that Jesus is God's ultimate gift to the world.


In Luke 1:78-79 we read about the prophetic statement that comes from Zechariah. We don't usually think about this passage during Advent, but Zechariah gives us some insight into Christ's gifts to the world. While this passage is not an exhaustive list of the gifts we receive from Christ, it helps us see how God truly gave His Son as a gift to the world. 


Jesus offers the gift of light.


The first thing we see from this passage in Luke 1:78–79: is that Jesus offers the gift of light to those seated in darkness. Notice what the text says – “because of the tender mercy of God”. 


Jesus came into the world in response to God's initiative, which is motivated by His mercy. In other words, God, the Sovereign, is the origin of mercy. Sinners are the object of His mercy, and salvation is His mercy's offer.


The text says Jesus will visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness. It predicts a sunrise, a dawning, the first appearance of light in the midst of the dark world in which we live. So we see number one, the light prophecy, in ​​Malachi 4:2, which says that the Son of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings, referring to the coming Messiah. 


Consider the imagery: a picture of a sunrise beginning in the east and spreading light over the world shrouded in darkness. The world is in a bad state, full of corruption and wickedness. But in the midst of this world's darkness, there will be light. Luke is saying that there will be a sunrise, a picture, an image of Christ. 


“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” - John 8:12


Jesus makes it clear that there will be some who will follow Him and some who won’t. I pray and trust that you're one of those following Him. Just as the Magi followed the light, so must we. They followed the star, and it led them directly to Jesus Christ. That's really what Christmas is all about—that Jesus came into this dark world to bring light. He came into this world so that you and I would follow that light. 


We are reflectors of His light.


If Jesus is the light, we are the mirrors that reflect that light. As a matter of fact, the text says we're to let our lives shine, but where does our light come from? Our light comes from the source, Jesus, who is the light of the world.


I agree with Michelle Obama. In her book “The Light We Carry," she writes that we, as believers, carry a light that comes from this world as followers of Jesus Christ, but the light we carry is a light that comes from Jesus Himself. 


So then, how do we reflect the light? We reflect the light by sharing the gospel. Ultimately, the heart of Christmas is that Jesus Christ came to light our dark world, and we are to tell that message to others. The true heart of Christmas is that we're to reflect the light of Christ by sharing the good news of His kingdom. That's what Christmas is all about. It's not about the feasts; it's not about the toys; it's not about exchanging gifts. It's the reality that the light has arrived.


Never miss the chance to share the gospel and spread the light and goodness of God to those who need to hear about it. Jesus is the greatest gift the world has ever received, and we have the calling to share this precious gift.

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