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A PRESENT FOR JESUS –
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
“And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child” (Luke 2:16-17).
I said in the sermon this morning that these shepherds were poor. They had nothing to bring to Jesus. They heard God’s message from the angel and they simply came to see Jesus. There is a certain blessing to being poor that most young people don’t know about today.
When I was a little boy we were very poor. I remember Christmas time in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1949. We couldn’t even afford a tree. We took some branches from a Tamarack tree, bound them together with string and put some old ornaments we had on it. Mother put a few presents for me under the tree. But I had nothing for her. That worried me, and I prayed for God to give me a present for my mother. But nothing happened.
That afternoon Mother took my friend and me downtown, to Goldwater’s Department Store. Back then we didn’t have big malls and shopping centers like you have now. That department store was the biggest place I ever saw. It was chock full of toys and presents, the air filled with Christmas music. But we had no money. We just went in to look at all the beautiful things. Mother went somewhere else in the store, and my friend and I were left alone. I said, “Maybe if we look around on the floor we can find some money that somebody dropped, and buy her a present.” He went one way, and I went the other, looking for money someone might have dropped. In just a few minutes he came running back to me, and showed me a dollar bill he said he found on the floor! You must understand that a dollar was a lot of money back in 1949, like twenty dollars or more today.
We took that money and went to the counter. There was a bottle of perfume that sold for exactly one dollar. But the lady at the counter told us we needed a few cents extra for the tax. I said sadly, “We wanted to buy it for Christmas for my mother.” The lady looked at me and took the dollar. She said, “That’s O.K., boys, I’ll pay the tax.” She put the perfume in the sack and gave it to us. My friend hid it in his coat. When we got home we sneaked and got some brown paper and wrapped it up with a piece of ribbon, and wrote on the package, “For Cecelia. Merry Christmas!” Cecelia was my mother's name. We put it back behind our presents under that makeshift Christmas tree. I can still remember how surprised Mother was on Christmas morning when she opened up the present God gave in answer to a child’s prayer.
But the shepherds on that first Christmas were even poorer than I was back in 1949. They came to Jesus with haste. They looked upon Him and worshipped Him. They had nothing to give Him but their hearts. That was enough! That’s what He wanted!
During the first year and a half of World War II, London was under heavy bombing from German airplanes. Churchill knew that Hitler would win, and England would be destroyed, if he could not unite America as an ally with Britain in the war. Then, on December 7, 1941, Hitler’s ally Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor. Churchill left London and rushed to Washington to meet with President Roosevelt and speak to Congress, to try to get America to help England fight the war.
It was Christmas Eve in 1941. Churchill was a guest of President Roosevelt at the White House. It had been a very busy day for Churchill. That morning he had given an important speech, broadcast live on radio, before a combined meeting of the House of Representatives and the United States Senate. He had spent the rest of that busy day in private interviews and meetings. That evening he had given another speech when he helped the President light the National Christmas Tree. Afterwards Churchill went to his room in the White House to prepare for a much needed night of rest.
Also staying in the White House that Christmas Eve was the President’s special assistant, Harry Hopkins, and his nine-year-old daughter Diana. Late in the evening there was a knock on the child’s door. She rose from her bed and opened it. There was the White House butler, standing stiffly in his formal dress. He looked down at the little girl and said in a very serious voice, “Miss Hopkins, the Prime Minister wants to see you.” The little girl was frightened as she pulled on her robe and followed the stately butler down a long, dark corridor to the Monroe Bedroom. The butler knocked on the door, and the girl heard a gruff indistinguishable response from inside. When the door opened the child saw the penetrating eyes of the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, staring down at her. She was shocked when Churchill reached out his arms and embraced her. He paused, and then said, “I’m a lonely old father and grandfather on Christmas Eve who wanted a little girl to hug.” Then he glanced bashfully at the butler and sent her back to bed.
One of Churchill’s many biographers said,
This is a side of Winston Churchill few people know. Images of Churchill the war leader, the award-winning author, the master speechmaker, or the astute politician come easily; but not images of Churchill the devoted father and grandfather – not the kind of man who might need a little girl’s hug on a lonely Christmas Eve (Stephen Mansfield, Never Give In, Highland Books, 1995, page 127).
Unlike my old first-generation Canadian English-blooded uncles, I would never dream of comparing Winston Churchill to God. But I think it is more than interesting to note that God went out of His way to send His special angel to tell these poor, lowly shepherds to come and see His only begotten, newborn Son.
But the shepherds brought nothing to the baby Jesus. That is, they brought nothing – but themselves. I think their visit gave Mary and Joseph the encouragement they needed that night, something they needed more than any earthly gift. Little Diana Hopkins brought no Christmas present to Churchill. She gave him a hug. It was the best Christmas gift he received on that cold December night, in time of war, on December 24, 1941.
What can we bring to Jesus this Christmas? We can thank Him for leaving Heaven and coming to this earth to die on the Cross, so our sins might be forever washed clean by His precious Blood. We can thank Him for rising physically from the dead to save us. We can come to Him, and trust Him, and say with Dr. Watts,
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine;
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
(“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,”
by Isaac Watts, D.D., 1674-1748).
Which takes us back to those shepherds.
“And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child”
Isn’t that a present we can give to Jesus today – the gift of bringing lost souls to Him? Remember that Jesus said,
“Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel [them] to come in, that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:23).
I think that’s what Jesus wants most of all. I think He wants us to spread the good news, and bring lost sinners to His house, to “the church, which is his body” (Ephesians 1:22-23). Will you do that next Wednesday and Thursday night? Will you make every effort to be here those two nights to go evangelizing as a gift to Jesus?
(END OF SERMON)
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Prayer Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“What Child Is This?” (by William C. Dix, 1837-1898).