If you are a person who likes television game shows, you may also be a person who enjoys getting television show board games as a gift for Christmas, board games like the one patterned after a show which was recently voted one of the greatest game shows of all time and whose board version is in at least its fifth edition – the game show called Family Feud. Maybe some of you here this morning have bought or received it as a gift at some point in time. The popularity of Family Feud over the years is based on a single simple concept: It tries to get people to guess what kinds of answers other people gave to a certain question, such as “Name the top five things people said in answer to the question, ‘What items in your house run on electricity?’” If you and your family teammates guess all five, you win; if you don’t, you lose, which can sometimes cause a family feud.
What do you think would be the answers people would give to the question: “What are the top five blessings of Christmas?” I would think people would say things like love, joy, peace, good will and generosity. I also hope many people would say things like the Christ Child, forgiveness, redemption, salvation and eternal life. But how many people do you think would give the answer “equity.” Christmas Equity. God’s Christmas Equity. Listen to the words of Psalm 98:
Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. 2 The Lord has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations. 3 He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. 4 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; 5 make music to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing, 6 with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—shout for joy before the Lord, the King. 7 Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. 8 Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy; 9 let them sing before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity.
“Equity” is not a word that we use very often to talk about the work of God. For example, we see the word equity only three times in the entire Bible. But even though the word isn’t very commonly used, the basic concept of the word is written all over the Scriptures. “Equity” literally means that something is level, that something is straight, that something is fair, that something is right. It means the same thing as the word in the second last line of Psalm 98 right above the last line about equity where the Psalmwriter says, “He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity.” Equity is another word that is referring to the way we get to heaven through the special Christmas gift named Jesus. And we can see from the opening verse of Psalm 98 that that way of getting to heaven through the righteousness of Jesus truly is a marvelous gift. It is a marvelous gift God made. “Sing to the Lord a new song,” this Psalm tells us, “for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.”
Have you ever received a Christmas gift that someone himself made for you – a homemade Christmas gift? For those of you who have had someone use their craft-making or woodworking skills to give you something for Christmas, it can really cause a special feeling that they took the time to make that just for you. It can also mean extra much to you if you do not have that particular craft-making or woodworking skill in any way whatsoever yourself.
Isn’t that the whole point of our Christmas celebration today – a celebration that this Psalm pictures with people giving shouts of joy and singing jubilant songs and blowing out the blasts of trumpets and also with rivers clapping their hands and mountains singing to one another in holy joy? There is that kind of “Joy to the World” joy in what you and I express, because there is no way that we could make this gift of Christmas equity ourselves. I cannot make a level, a straight, a fair, a right life in the level, straight, fair and right way God wants me to. That’s why I want to hear again — and why I need to hear again — the words of the angels, “Don’t be afraid. For to you is born a Savior. He is Christ the Lord.” God didn’t send those angels to tell me, “Don’t be afraid. I love you just the way you are.” God didn’t send those angels to tell me, “Don’t be afraid. All your words and thoughts and actions are level enough for me, so don’t worry about it so much.” God didn’t send those angels to tell me, “Don’t be afraid. I am bringing you the good news that you can be your own savior from sin.” God sent those angels to tell me, “Don’t be afraid. I am sending someone else to be your Savior from sin. He is Christ the Lord. Christ the Lord is my homemade gift to you.”
All we can say, as we are saying and singing this morning, is that that is a marvelous gift which God made. God himself went to all the trouble and took all the time to painstakingly make a gift of Christmas Equity in the person of Jesus – Christmas equity which he then gives to everyone else in the world – the Christmas forgiveness of sins which is the joy of life and the peace in death for everyone who believes it. Because of the straight, level, perfect work of Jesus when he came to earth, I have a straight and level and perfect way to heaven when I leave this earth. That is God’s gift of Christmas Equity. That is the #1 answer which anyone could ever hope to give to the top blessings of Christmas.
There is also something else about this homemade gift that makes it so great and worthy of our praise. God didn’t keep it to himself. I would think that for some people who are especially good at making nice things for others, there could at least be the thought or temptation every once in a while that they would like to keep that gift that they have been working on for so long for themselves, especially if in the meantime that person they were making that gift for stopped being their friend or betrayed them in some way.
Wouldn’t God have had every right to do just that – to keep his gift of equity for himself and to just enjoy his life with his Son forever in heaven, without needing to worry about all of us who have betrayed him and not acted like his friend every day of our lives? But that’s not what God did, and that’s not what these words from Psalm 98 tell us. God’s Christmas Equity is a marvelous gift God made. It’s also a marvelous gift God made known. He actually gave it to us. That’s what verses 2-3 tell us: “The Lord has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations. He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.”
When you look into the manger, when you read in the Bible everything that that baby in the manger grew up to do, when you hear someone tell you the story of Jesus Christ from the manger to the grave and back to the right hand of God, you are experiencing how God makes his salvation known to the nations. What a gift it is that God gave you other people in your life, who also had received that gift, to pass it on to you and not keep it for themselves – your parents or a friend or a teacher or a pastor – and possibly many, many more. What a gift that God allowed – and allows – so many people in your life to keep sharing that gift with you when you need a reminder or correction or encouragement or strength, just as your Lord has privileged you to give that gift to others. The way God makes his salvation known – the way God gives his gift of Christmas equity – is through the people who believe it. Wouldn’t it be great if even more people could join us in passing on that gift by joining us in believing it?
We know that will take a lot of work, though, because we also know that it’s not a stretch at all to say that many don’t really put the gift of Christmas Equity at the top of their list. For example, a branch of Family Feud called Christmas Family Feud asks the participants to name the top answer to the question, “Which person do you most associate with Christmas?” … Jesus wasn’t even a close second with 24. The big man in the red outfit had 74. That man, however, could never bring to us what Jesus brought to you and me when he came on Christmas, because Jesus’ gift on Christmas gives us the most important reason to sing and shout for joy. What else can you do when you understand why God’s Christmas Equity is the best gift you could ever get, because it is a gift from God himself? It’s the gift God made just for you, because you could never make it yourself. And it’s the gift God made known to you by letting someone else tell you about it, so you wouldn’t have to figure out how to get it by yourself. And that, really, is why we have come to this place of worship today — not to adore us, but to adore him, Christ the Lord. So, all ye faithful, let’s do just that right now!