We have just come through the Christmas season. Now, Christmas for many means GIFTS. What am I getting this year? What deals am I going to find to give to my family and friends? What will I put on my Christmas list this year. This past week in youth group, I asked our students and leaders what was the greatest gift that they have ever been given? Some responses were boots, clothes, a guitar, or video game systems. One leader responded a poem her kids had written her. Now, what if we opened gifts, and there was a bill at the bottom of the gift for what we owed for the gift? Also, what if how we acted during the year determined if we got a gift or not? This would change things! A gift is given not based upon how we acted during the year, or how much we will pay for the gift. A gift is freely given to us not based upon us being deserving of it or on us giving something in return.
Now, these are all great gifts that these students and leaders mentioned, but NONE of these gifts even begin to compare to the greatest gift ever given! This gift is the gift of grace given by Christ. “For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God!” Think about the extravagant grace of the Father in the parable of the Prodigal Son. The story is not all about the son living a sinful life, it is more about the grace demonstrated by the Father. When the Son came to himself, he realized that even the lowliest of his father’s servants lived better than he did. So, he went back to try and but work for his father as his servant. He had disgraced his father’s name and brought shame to the household. As his father saw him a far off, his father RAN to him! He did not wait for the son, he ran to the Son demonstrating his grace toward his son. In this culture, running was not a dignified thing to do. His father was willing to run (pulling up his robe-bearing his bare legs) despite the shame he would face for his son. In a way, he took on the shame so that his son would not have to experience it. This is grace! Grace is giving something that he did not deserve. His son did not deserve grace or the acceptance his father gave him! Do you understand, we do not deserve what our Heavenly Father has given us. We did nothing to earn it, or even to keep it. He willingly laid down His life (bearing our shame and pain) in order to give us NEW LIFE even when we were enemies of Him. This is Grace, and the greatest gift that a person could ever receive.