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Christmas Day Family Service -

This is a family service talk by Nathan Buttery from the morning service on 25th December 2005.

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Well given the fact that its Christmas Day today, then I thought Iíd begin by opening one or two presents, so I wonder if anyone would like to help me. And inside these presents are the sorts of things we like at Christmas time. Present 1- Mince pies. Present 2- Decorations. Present 3- Toy. Now all of those things are great things. Itís lovely to eat lots of nice food at Christmas time and to enjoy Godís gifts to us. In fact, I have a mince pie chart to show how many mince pies I have eaten in December. And the record is 100! After which you need to go on a soup and celery diet for a month! Itís nice too to decorate our homes with lights and trees, and itís fun opening presents. But in all the enjoyment, we seem to have missed something havenít we? (Acetate 1- Christmas items and Question mark) You see weíve got decorations, and snowmen, and reindeer and holly and presents, but there is a big question mark right in the middle. Something is missing! Can anyone tell me what is missing? Well of course the thing that is missing is Jesus! And very often that is what happens at Christmas time. Christmas Day is the day on which we celebrate and give thanks to God for his greatest gift Jesus. But itís very easy, even for those of us who love him, to leave him out. To forget that he is the heart of the Christmas story. Heís the best present of all. So this morning I want to remind us of why Christmas is such a wonderful time. Just what is it that God has done for us in Jesus? And to help us understand weíre going to look at just five verses from Galatians chapter 4 verses 3-7. And there we find that through Jesus God has given us three wonderful presents!

1) A Brilliant Breakout (Vv 4-5a)

So letís open present number 1 and find out what God has given us. And Iíll need a volunteer to help. Pair of handcuffs! Well thatís a very strange present but it does show us that the first thing God has given us is a brilliant breakout. (Acetate 2- First title) Because when we read verse 3, we find that all of us were in a terrible position. "So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of this world." Now Paulís point here is that each one of us as human beings are actually slaves, or as Paul calls us elsewhere in the letter, prisoners. Weíre a bit like this man here. (Acetate 3- Prisoner) Itís like we are in prison or slaves of a nasty master who will not let us be free! So who is our master and what are we enslaved to? Well Paul has made it clear earlier on in his letter that every human being that has ever lived is in prison through their sin. In other words we are enslaved to a way of life that does not want to go Godís way. And the trouble is that we think we are free. We donít even realise we are slaves or prisoners. And even more sad is the fact that there is nothing we can do to break out of this jail. We are prisoners held captive by our attitude to God and there is nothing we can do about it. And itís not just murderers and dictators who are in that category. We are all, even respectable vicars like me.

Now to help us understand this I need a volunteer! And what Iím going to do is to place our volunteer into prison. (Tie up volunteer) Now there is nothing that our volunteer can do to escape. Now matter how much he struggles, he cannot escape. So what does he need? Well he needs someone to come and rescue him. He needs someone to break him out of prison and set him free. (Set prisoner free!) And Paul says that that is precisely what Christmas is all about. Have a look again at verse 4: "But when the time had fully come, God sent his son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under law." Jesus came to rescue us, thatís what the word redeem means! He came to break us out of prison. So the baby Jesus didnít stay in the crib all sweet and nice. (Acetate 4- From crib to cross) He grew up and became a man so that he might die on the cross for you and me. And thatís why we do a very strange thing on Christmas day. On the day we celebrate his birth, we actually remember his death as we share bread and wine remembering what he did for us on the cross. He came on a rescue mission to offer you and me a brilliant breakout, dying in our place so we could be free! (Acetate 5- Happy man) And so to everyone who receives that offer, we can be set free from slavery and prison! And that is something wonderful to celebrate! So thatís the first amazing present that God gives us in Jesus. Christmas is all about a brilliant breakout!

2) A Precious Privilege (Vv 5b-6)

But thereís a second present that God gives to us through Jesus, so letís open our next present. And itís a picture of my Mum and Dad. (Acetate 6- Second title) And that reminds us that the second present God gives to us is a precious privilege. Because see what happens when we are freed from our prison in verse 4: "But when the time had fully come, God sent his son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under law that we might receive the full rights of sons." In other words we are brought into Godís amazing family. We become children of God. We are no longer slaves or prisoners, but rather children of the King! Isnít that amazing? And that means we have a very precious privilege that Paul shows us in verse 6: "Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out Abba Father." When we become Christians we become children of God and God gives us the gift of his Spirit. We are washed clean and forgiven and are now in Godís family. And that means we can call God our father. We can have a precious personal relationship with the living God who made us. And that is something very special indeed.

Now let me tell you a story to help us all understand how wonderful that privilege is! Itís a true story about an American soldier many years ago and he might have looked something like this. (Acetate 7- Soldier). And this soldier wanted to be allowed to leave the army so he could go and visit his Mum who was very sick. He tried to get permission but failed. Everyone said he was needed to fight the war. So he decided he would go straight to the top. He decided that the best thing to do would be to go and see the President of the United States. (Acetate 8- Lincoln) And in those days it was this man, Abraham Lincoln. Now Presidents of America are not the sort of people that you just go up to and ask a favour of. But this soldier thought he would try. It was his last resort. (Acetate 9- White House) So he walked up to the gates of the White House, and asked to see the President. But he was told that it was impossible to see the President. President Lincoln was just too busy. And so the soldier went away sad and sat in the local park thinking he would never get home to care for his Mum. But just at that moment, a little boy came up to him (Acetate 10- boy) and asked what was wrong. So the soldier told his story, and at the end of his tale the little boy simply said: "Follow me." So they went back up the White House Drive through the doors, down a corridor and through another door into where President Lincoln himself was sitting. When Lincoln saw the little boy, he said: "Hello son, what can I do for you?" And the little boy replied, "Father, there is a man here who wants to speak to you. Please would you listen to him?"

Itís a great story isnít it, but it illustrates this great privilege of being a child of God. We have access to our heavenly Father. We can come to him whenever he wants and he loves us to come to him so much. And thatís the second amazing present that God has given to us through Jesus, something to celebrate this Christmas time. Our precious privilege.

3) A Fabulous Future (V 7)

And that brings us to our third and final present. So letís open it up and we discover that itís a globe. A model of the world. (Acetate 11- third title) And this reminds us that through Jesus we have a fabulous future. Because have a look at verse 7: "So you are no longer a slave, but a son. And since you are a son, God has made you also an heir." Paul says that because through Jesus we are sons or children of God, then it means that we are heirs with Jesus. Now an heir is someone who will inherit the family fortune. And in this case, Christians, those of us who have trusted in Jesus, stand to become heirs with Jesus. So what will Jesus inherit? Well the Bible tells us that Jesus will inherit the whole world, the whole universe. One day God will transform the whole universe including this world to be a perfect place once again where you and I can live with God in his kingdom for ever. And that is our inheritance. Isnít that a fabulous future. And itís all because God sent his Son Jesus into the world to die for us on the cross, something we remember this Christmas time.

Now just before we finish, I have one final task for the children to do. Now on the screen (Acetate 12- Christmas items) are ten things we often see at Christmas time. And I want you to try and remember all ten and then write them on the sheet you were given as you came in when I switch off the OHP. And while youíre trying to remember all ten, I want to say a few words to the adults.

Because as we celebrate another Christmas, I guess it is tempting to leave out the most important part. Or even if we donít do that to perhaps grow a little weary of the Christmas message. After all some of us will have heard it many times before. But I want to challenge and encourage us this morning by urging us to give thanks again for Jesus this morning. Because what would have happened if Jesus had never come. Well we would still be in slavery and not even know it. We would be prisoners of sin and we would be happily living our lives not even realising we were prisoners. We would not have the awesome privilege of knowing God as our Father. And we would be without hope in a hopeless world. But praise God for Jesus this morning. Why not spend just a few moments this afternoon over lunch giving thanks to God for sending his Son Jesus at just the right time. Because it is easy to forgot how much we have been given in Jesus. And surely there is no better news than the good news of Jesus. And may we never ever grow wary of such a message.

So letís see how our children got on! Anyone get all ten? Of course, there is one thing missing from this collection of ten items, that I hope by now you know who it is! It is of course the Lord Jesus Christ. (Acetate 13- all three titles) So today gives thanks again to God for these three wonderful Christmas presents given to us through Jesus. A brilliant breakout, a precious privilege and a fabulous future.




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