A. My text this morning is 2 Corinthians 9:15. It is a short verse, only 8 words long. Listen as the apostle Paul says, "Thanks be unto God for His indescribable gift."
This is the time of year when we are concerned about choosing just the right Christmas gifts to give to the special people in our lives. But let me ask you, "Have you ever received an indescribable gift?" Have you ever received a gift that was beyond description?
I thought about that for a while this week. What kind of gift would it have to be to be called "indescribable?" Would it be a gift that you open & look at & say, "This is just beautiful, & it is something that Iíve wanted all my life - what is it?"
Or maybe it is a gift that carries a lot of emotional feelings with it. It was given to you by someone very special, & it was a complete surprise when it was given. Youíll treasure it always because of the memories. Would that make it an indescribable gift?
Or maybe it would be a gift that you cared so little about that you wouldnít even bother to find words to try to describe it.
ILL. A while back, on "Good Morning, America," Joan Lunden featured some gift ideas that might be called indescribable. They were extraordinary gifts that some of you might want to include on your Christmas gift list.
One of them was a Jaguar automobile, the Jaguar 220. If you care to order one of these, go to your Jaguar dealer & put down your $80,000 deposit. Then when the automobile is delivered, you are expected to pay the balance of $507,000. The Jaguar 220 is a $587,000 automobile, & they only make 250 of them a year.
Now if you should care to buy your preacher one of those to express your love & appreciation for him, Iíll be a gracious recipient. But I warn you ahead of time, I may not be able to find words to describe my gratitude. It might be an indescribable gift.
Joan Lunden also mentioned that if you were to purchase such an automobile, you might also be interested in a new car wax that promises to give it the ultimate shine. It retails for $3,400 for an 8 ounce can. I guess if you can afford a $587,000 automobile, why not spend $3,400 for car wax?
A third item she mentioned was a $300,000 gold & silver toilet seat inlaid with precious stones. Of course, there were cheaper gifts for those who have everything: an $18,000 frisbee, a $10,000 yoyo, a $12,000 mousetrap, & even a $27,000 pair of sunglasses.
And for the proud grandparent who is wondering what to buy the new grandbaby, how about a $28,000 pacifier?
Such gifts stagger our imagination, donít they? But they are not indescribable. Even though we may not be able to find words to describe them, I assure you the manufacturers can, & they will spend lots of money describing them in TV & newspaper ads.
They will seek to describe them in such appealing ways as to entice you into believing that you simply canít live the rest of your life without them. You see, every human gift is describable by someone.
APPL. In 2 Corinthians 9, Paul at first is writing about human gifts. The church in Corinth is taking up offerings to give to the poor Christians in Jerusalem. He commends them for their eagerness to help, & reminds them that those who sow sparingly will also reap sparingly, but that those who sow generously will reap generously.
B. Then he shifts his attention from human gifts to Godís gift of sending Jesus to earth for us. And he cannot find words to describe that. He simply says, "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift."
ILL. Now at this time of the year we do our best to depict the wonderfulness of Godís gift of Jesus to us.
Musicians have composed some of their greatest music on this theme: Handelís "Messiah," Bachís "Christmas Oratorio," & the beautiful hymns, "Joy to the World," "Silent Night, Holy Night," "O Little Town of Bethlehem," & my favorite, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day."
Some of the greatest music our ears will ever hear were written about Godís indescribable gift.
Poets & painters & sculptors have taken up the tools of their trade to pay tribute to Jesus, the gift of Godís love.
PROP. Now Paul said, "Thanks be unto God for His indescribable gift." Why does Paul call Jesus "indescribable?" I think that there are at least four reasons.
I. BECAUSE OF HIS NATURE
A. First of all, I believe that Paul calls Jesus "indescribable" because of His nature. How do you describe Jesus? What words would you choose? How do you describe a baby born of a virgin? How do you describe God in flesh, walking upon our earth & reaching out to the hurting masses of humanity?
Isaiah said He would be called Emanuel, "God with us." How do you describe that? What words would you choose?
How do you describe that which is spirit when all we have ever known is that which is either physical or material? How do you describe God who has all knowledge when all we have is limited knowledge?
How do you describe God who is all powerful? How do you describe the eternal? How do you describe the indescribable?
B. Paul says that we canít. Words arenít adequate. But many of the wisest men in the world have tried to describe Jesus.
ILL. Listen to the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D. The greatest theological minds of the time came together & tried to describe Jesus. Here is their description:
"Perfect in Godhead & also perfect in manhood. Truly man of a reasonable, rational soul & body. Consubstantial, co-essential with the Father according to the manhood. In all things like unto us without sin. Begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead. And in these latter times for us & for our salvation, born of the virgin Mary & of the mother of God. According to the manhood - one & the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten to be acknowledged in two natures. Inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably & the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved."
SUM. Did you understand that? Neither did I. Thatís manís attempt to describe the indescribable. Even when we bring together our greatest minds & our most extensive vocabularies, we cannot adequately describe Jesus.
II. BECAUSE OF HIS PURPOSE IN COMING TO EARTH
A. Secondly, I think Paul called Jesus indescribable because of His purpose in coming to earth. The angels announced to the shepherds, "Unto you is born this day in the City of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord."
What do we celebrate at Christmas? We celebrate the fact that Jesus came into our world to save us. God saw that mankind needed saving. He saw manís inhumanity to his fellow man.
ILL. The hopes of world peace brought about by the break?up of the Soviet Union have been shattered by civil wars that have since broken out. We may have peace treaties between the great powers, but these treaties will never ensure peace because the nature of man has not changed.
When God looked at our world He knew that our greatest need is not for more wealth, nor better schools, not even a better welfare system. Our greatest need is for a Savior.
B. But there will never be peace on earth until men have been lifted out of their sin, & their hearts changed, & their way of thinking changed, because the Savior has come into their lives. Our greatest need is to be saved from the very flames of hell, itself.
How do you describe that? How do you put into words what God accomplished when He sent His only begotten Son into the world?
SUM. I think that Jesus, Godís gift, is indescribable because of His nature, because of His purpose in coming to earth, & thirdly, because of the grace by which Jesus is given.
III. BECAUSE OF THE GRACE BY WHICH JESUS IS GIVEN
A. You know, every gift that I give this Christmas will be given because the recipient of that gift has some claim on me.
Now you might not like that idea, but that is as frank as I know how to be. Iíll buy a gift for my wife because she is my wife. Iíll buy gifts for my children because they are my children. Iíll buy gifts for my grandchildren because theyíre my grandchildren. We buy gifts for family members because they are family.
Now if I buy a gift for you & you are not in my family, it is probably because you bought a gift for me last year & I didnít buy a gift for you. So I owe you one this year, & thus the cycle keeps on going.
If I give a gift to feed the hungry, or clothe the naked or to take care of the homeless, I do it because down deep inside I recognize that I have a debt to humanity, a feeling of obligation to them.
B. That is what makes Godís gift so special. He doesnít owe us anything. Indeed, we are in constant rebellion against Him & His will for our lives.
With that in mind, Paul says something remarkable in the 5th chapter of Romans. He says, "While we were yet in our sin, while we were yet the enemies of God, Christ died on the cross for us."
God gives a gift, not because He feels obligated to give a gift but because His love is so overwhelming. Itís a gift of grace.
And when you stop at the manger at Bethlehem & look at the Christ child, you must realize that He is a gift of grace. And there are no words adequate enough to describe Godís grace towards us in Jesus.
IV. BECAUSE OF HIS EFFECT ON US
A. Now what happens when I receive Godís gift? When you open your gifts this Christmas will your life be different? When you receive the gifts that have been purchased for you by loved ones, will this change your life & make you different? Or will you be the same as you have always been?
The Bible teaches that when we accept Jesus, the indescribable gift of God, that we will never be the same again because of how He affects our life.
1. The first effect of Jesus coming into our life & our obedience to Him is that we are forgiven of our sins. Now that may be so old & so elementary that you think, "So what else is new?"
But donít dismiss it that quickly because when our sins are forgiven, God forgets them, will not remember them, & buries them as deep as the sea.
Because Jesus is now my Savior my sins are forgiven. Cherish that promise with all your heart.
2. #2, when I accept Jesus I am adopted into His family & I am guaranteed citizenship in His kingdom. Before, I was a foreigner & an alien, separated from God. But now, because I have accepted Him, I am an adopted son of Almighty God. Everything that belongs to Jesus also belongs to me. We are brothers & sisters in Godís family because I accepted His indescribable gift.
3. #3, when I accept Jesus I receive the gift of His Holy Spirit to live within me. Now He will guide & counsel & protect & empower me.
4. #4, I am also given His peace. Not the peace of the world, but the peace that passes all understanding. Peace that allows me to cope with everyday situations. Peace that allows me to look beyond the smug & smog of our world to see the great pure air of Almighty God in heaven.
5. #5, because of Jesus my mansion in heaven is paid for, a dwelling place that will last for all eternity. And thatís indescribable, too.
B. I knew when I started this sermon that I would fail in my attempt to describe Jesus because someone else failed before me, & he was better at it than I. The apostle Paul looked at Jesus & said, "I canít describe Him. All I can do is fall on my knees & thank God for His indescribable gift."
And I guess thatís what we need to do at Christmas time, too, to fall on our knees & thank God for His indescribable gift.
C. When God looked at our confused world nearly 2,000 years ago; when He saw Roman soldiers marching in the streets; when He saw people looking for peace & meaning & depth in life, He wanted so urgently to communicate His love.
But how? "How shall I communicate my love? If I appear in person," He must have thought, "If I stand before the people in all my glory, theyíll be frightened, theyíll be scared away. They will never feel that they can come to me & talk with me. Theyíll be much like Moses who stood on the mountain & took off His shoes because he was on holy ground."
"If I speak, if they hear the thunder of my voice, they may never grasp the words of my love. If I send down legions of angels perhaps they will not know how to respond. Maybe they will never be able to experience my love."
CONCL. Folks, how in the world do you describe that which is indescribable? God said, "I know. I will send a baby. Babies donít frighten people. Babies are so tender & soft & helpless. Maybe they will hold the baby in their arms. Maybe they will touch the soft skin of a baby. Maybe they will hear the gentle sighs of a baby. Maybe they will experience my love if I send a baby."
So in the fullness of time God sent His only begotten Son, as a baby. Indescribable! But the good news is that you donít have to be able to describe Him to accept Him. You just have to be warmed & changed by Him. So make your journey to the manger with the shepherds. Take Him into your heart & accept Godís indescribable gift for you.
We offer Him to you this morning, & we pray that you will respond as we stand & as we sing.