Christmas — The Feast of God the Father
“Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift!” – II Corinthians 9:15
“Feast,” as it is used in our title, refers to a joyful festival or celebration which honors God. For example, in The Lutheran Hymnal (TLH), we have, on page 67, reference to “Easter Day, The Feast of The Resurrection of Our Lord,” and, on page 73, “The Feast of The Holy Trinity.” Now, at this time in the new church year, we anticipate with joy “The Feast of God the Father,” which is none other than the festal, joyous celebrating of God the Father’s giving His only begotten Son (John 3:16) as “THE [one and only] propitiation for…the sins of the whole world” (I John 2:2). This marvelous GIFT is the foundation for real, genuine, and overflowing joy at Christmas, but not only at Christmas, but always in our short stay (compared to eternity) in this world. Let us ask ourselves: What gives us real (not pretend) and lasting (not temporary) joy, even when we are sad and disappointed?
The “Spirit of truth” (John 14:17) counsels us in Philippians 4: “Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say, Rejoice” (v. 4). What a shame that we have not always heeded (I John 2:1a; Matthew 5:48) this counsel in our daily lives! How often we “have sinned and come short” (Romans 3:23) of what God commands us to do and what surely is our duty to do as His blood bought property (I Corinthians 6:20), which includes “giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). The psalmist is not “going overboard” when, in only one psalm, he repeats, four different times, the same plea: “Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men” (v’s. 8, 15, 21, 31). Oh, how we need to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18)! Yes, how we need to “abound more and more” (I Thessalonians 4:1) in praising and pleasing the heavenly Father for not only giving the sure promises of the “Seed” (Genesis 3:15; Galatians 3:16) of the woman, who brought blessing to “all the nations of the earth” (Genesis 22:18), including the blessing of forgiveness for all of our sins of ingratitude and forgetting “His benefits” (Psalm 103:2), but also for perfectly fulfilling His unchanging promises of the Savior being born of a “virgin” and being called “Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:22-23). Let us “abound more and more” in thanking our heavenly Father for “His unspeakable gift” by
ར Serving Him “with gladness” (Psalm 100:2) more and more in our marriages as we follow the pattern set before us by Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:22-33), live and work with our families (Galatians 6:10; Romans 12:18), prepare and study for classes (Ecclesiastes 9:10), labor diligently at our jobs (II Thessalonians 3:12), let the light of our faith in Jesus show itself in our Christian congregation (Matthew 5:16; James 2:18b), and “endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3) with our sister, like-minded (I Corinthians 1:10) congregations in the Concordia Lutheran Conference;
ར Entering “into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise” (Psalm 100:4) more and more where He is honored (Psalm 26:8; Matthew 6:9b) by the faithful teaching and preaching of His Word (Jeremiah 23:28; II Timothy 4:2; Titus 1:9), ever continuing in those things which He has taught us from His Word of truth (John 8:31-32; II Timothy 3:14), “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25), and
ར Remembering more and more that He “is good, His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endureth to all generations” (Psalm 100:5), especially as we ponder “His unspeakable gift.”
But what exactly is God’s “unspeakable gift,” for which we are to thank Him in our lives? This “unspeakable gift” is “the exceeding grace of God” (v. 14) or, as it referred to in verse 13, “the Gospel of Christ.” What are some of the things which we are told regarding this “gift” here in II Corinthians 9 and in other places of Scripture?
ར This “gift” is so great that it is “unspeakable,” indescribable, and inexpressible; words are not adequate to properly define and describe it. It is most certainly “awesome,” filling one with wonder and awe at its sight and existence. There is no Christmas gift like it; it is THE GIFT above all gifts!
ར This “gift” is so very necessary because “by one man sin entered into the world” (Romans 5:12). And the consequences from sin? “By the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation” (Romans 5:18), so that as a result of God’s sentence of justice based on His Law “every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Romans 3:19). Furthermore, no matter how much we try to keep and follow the demands (Leviticus 19:2; Matthew 5:48) of God’s Law, we cannot change the verdict of condemnation into a verdict of justification. Romans 3 leaves no doubt when it makes the declaration: “By the deeds of the Law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight” (v. 20). So, if sinful human beings, on their own, attempt to do what God wants them to do and, also, on their own, attempt to “pay off” the debt and damages from their sins by their “good” deeds, they will most certainly bring on themselves God’s just anger, His deserved condemnation, and His everlasting rejection. This changeless conclusion is confirmed in Galatians 3: “Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the Book of the Law to do them” (v. 10).
ར This “gift” from God the Father is always “the exceeding grace of God” in Christ. The grace of God, His undeserved, unmerited, and unearned favor which He shows toward all human beings, is grace gained by Christ’s fulfillment of the Law of God (Matthew 5:17) in our place, in our behalf, in our stead. He was “made under the Law, to redeem them that were under the Law” (Galatians 4:4-5) — His active obedience for us and for all. Furthermore, Christ totally suffered (John 19:30) the curse and condemnation of the Law for “the whole world” (I John 2:2) as spelled out so clearly in Galatians 3, verse 13: “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us” — His passive obedience for us and for all. On account of that active and passive obedience by Christ for all sinners (Romans 3:23), God the Father has freely justified all by His grace (Romans 3:24), “not imputing their trespasses unto them” (II Corinthians 5:19).
ར This “gift” of “the Gospel of Christ” (II Corinthians 9:13) can surely be included in the statement of truth in James 1: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights” (v. 17). Therefore, it is very much in order to sing: “Thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 15:57). After the angel of the Lord announced the birth of the Savior, “Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11), that announcement which brought generation-after-generation “good tidings of great joy” (Luke 2:10), it was very much in order that a multitude of holy angels praised God and said: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). What a proper, fitting, and deserved feast of praise to God the Father! Yes, “thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.”
—R. J. L.