Like everyone, I have a birthday—mine is November 13. When I was a young boy growing up in Michigan, one of my birthday wishes was that it would not snow on my birthday (usually to no avail). Like most kids, I always looked forward to and anticipated the gifts I would receive. My mother always made me a Carrot Cake (those were the days!) These days I don’t anticipate gifts any more. Now, in fact, I’m just happy if my birthday doesn’t cost me anything. When Jesus was born, the Bible tells us that the wise men came bringing him gifts. Yet Jesus is not like us. His birthday is not about what he gets. It’s about what he gives. Randy Travis, the country singer, in singing about Jesus put it best, “He had the birthday, but we got the gift.”
Rom. 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
A gift is not earned. You earn a wage. The first official job I had was with a Summer Youth Program. I remember how excited I was to turn 14 and be able to earn a paycheck. I was paid minimum wage. At the time it was $3.35/hour (even then a slave wage). They didn’t gift me a check every two weeks. I earned it. I didn’t thank them for their generosity. The check was what I deserved for my labors.
The Bible here tells us that death is a wage earned for the labor of sin. The work of sin in this world is a work deserving a wage. It is a wage the Bible says is to be paid in full. In the work of sin, we are all employed (Rom. 3:23). And not only are we all employed, but we are each individually compensated (Eze.18:20). I won’t get paid for your sins. And you won’t get paid for mine. And on payday, no one will be treated unfairly. With sin, everyone will get what they deserve. Death is not the minimum wage. It is not the maximum wage. Death is the only wage. There are no wage negotiations. Everyone receives the same. The sobering truth is that hell is earned everyday in this life. “But…”
Because Jesus was born, there is a “but.” Because our savior had a birthday, there is a “but.” But because Jesus had a birthday, there is a gift.
God’s “buts” in the Bible are very important. (Rom. 3:21; Eph 24). But brings hope. But brings joy. But brings life. And no “but” is any more important than the one found in this text: The wages of sin is death, BUT the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 6:23).
A gift is not earned. A gift is not deserved. A really true gift is unexpected. It leaves you wondering, “What did I do to deserve it?” “What did I do to earn it?” The answer is “Nothing!”
Everyday of your life, since your birth, you have been working to earn a wage. That work is sin. That wage is death. But in the birth of Jesus Christ, God was saying to you, “You don’t have to work to die anymore.” True life is not a wage earned. It is a gift given. Christ had a birthday. And here is the gift–the free, undeserved, unearned, gift of God–eternal life. Death is a wage. Life is a gift.
The Bible tells us that Satan came to kill, steal, and destroy, but Christ was born so that we might have life, now and forever (Jn. 10:10). In fact, Jesus did not come to condemn anyone. He did not come to destroy the world. He did not come to end your life. He came to save it (Jn. 3:17). He came to give you life. It’s free for you!
It is his gift to you on his birthday. You don’t earn it. It’s not a Christmas bonus. It is not even Santa Claus seeking who’s been naughty and who’s been nice. (We’ve all been naughty!) Rather it is the surprising, good, and gracious gift of God that comes to all who will receive it. It is for all who will stop working to get into Hell and receive the free gift of God, which is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Beloved, there are only two ways to live this Christmas: You either live by what you deserve from God or you live in the free gift of God in Christ Jesus. Like Deut. 30:19, our text this Christmas morning sets before you life and death. This Christmas morning—CHOOSE LIFE! It is our Lord’s gift to you!
He was the Son God sent to one and all,
put on this earth to hang there on that cross,
born to die so we could live.
He had the birthday, we got the gift.