Christmas Day December 25
“GOD’S PRESENT TO NAUGHTY CHILDREN”
Coal! Coal under the tree, coal in the stockings, coal coming out of your ears, coal! That’s what children are threatened with every Christmas. “If you misbehave, if you fight with your brothers andsisters, if you don’t clean your room, if you get less than stellar grades, if you don’t do what you’re told, if you’re naughty, you’re getting coal on Christmas!” Of all the things one could threaten with, we threatenwith coal!Have any of you ever actually given your children coal on Christmas? And when I say “actuallygiven,” I don’t mean as a joke that brings a couple of laughs; I mean, did you give no gifts to your childrenon Christmas morning other than coal? Certainly not, even though they might deserve nothing based ontheir behavior!Children are taught early on that if they are naughty, which all children are at some point, that they will receive no gifts on Christmas which they will be able to enjoy. Instead, they’re promised coal,which you can light on fire and watch it become a pile of ashes. Sounds like fun! And yet, on Christmasmorning, when they wake up and their eyes are still blurry, they hurry to the tree to find...not an ounce of coal, not ashes, but an abundance of wonderful gifts.I often have used that picture to illustrate the biblical concept of “grace.” Grace is the gift-givingaction of God. And though we have shown ourselves to be naughty children, breaking every one of ourheavenly Father’s commandments persistently, what he presents to us on this great festival day is not ashes, but a beautiful gift: the Christ-child in the manger, that shocking, unexpected and utterly needfulgift, which has caused us to burst into song today. “Joy to the World,” we sing! “Glory to God in theHighest!” That gift, placed ever so tenderly and lovingly into this utterly sin-depraved, naughty world,lying ever so pitifully in a manger, gives us exactly what we need: freedom from sin, true and lastingpeace and life without end. What better reason could there possibly be to gather together and rejoice thisChristmas Day – and to urge others to do the same?Coal! Ashes! Ruins! That’s how the prophet describes Jerusalem in verse 9, and rightly so. Howspiritually depraved the people of Israel had become, and they would receive a portion of recompense fortheir unbelief. The naughty children of God, who were chosen by grace, received a bit of coal and ashesfor their transgressions. The city they treasured, the homes they built, the wealth they enjoyed, the landthey inherited via promise, all ashes! Now, the prophecy here in Isaiah foretells two times whenJerusalem would lie in ashes: the first is an exilic destruction where the people would be led away fromtheir homes to a foreign land to live in poverty, slavery and depravity for a period of about 70 years; andthe second, the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Jerusalem, their pride and joy in ashes – and thepeople only had themselves to blame!But even they, the ashes and ruins of Jerusalem, are told to rejoice! By inspiration of the HolySpirit, Isaiah speaks shocking words in verse 9:
Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem,for the L
has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.”
Burst into song because of comfort and redemption – those were reasons for the naughty children of Israel to rejoice, and those are the samereasons that you and I rejoice on this festival day, because God has NOT given us what we truly deserve!