We celebrate God’s great gift at Christmas, but have we misunderstood it?
Inspired by his love, God has given his Son Jesus to be our Savior. The value of this gift is beyond calculation. Is there nothing that we can or should do in response?
Jesus and his sacrifice at Calvary are the essence of God’s amazing grace. Given 10,000 lifetimes we could never do enough good deeds to earn such an astounding act of mercy and its eternal blessings. And if we could earn it, God’s grace would no longer be a gift, right?
In Jesus’ own teaching we find an important aspect of his God-given mission that we dare not miss. During a conflict with the Jewish religious leaders just days before his crucifixion, our Lord told a parable that reveals something vital about a healthy relationship with the God of grace.
In Jesus’ parable a landowner entrusts his vineyard to tenant farmers. The farmers refuse to turn over the fruit of the vineyard when the landowner sends his servants to collect. They even kill the landowner’s son when he comes for the harvest.
The landowner represents God, the farmers are the religious leaders, and the son is Jesus. God sent Jesus looking for spiritual fruit from the Jewish religious leaders, but they rejected him, even plotting against him and having him crucified.
Jesus warns these religious leaders that God’s kingdom will be taken away from them and given to a people who will produce its fruit. The new people who take up responsibility for God’s kingdom is the Christian church. As followers of Jesus, we are now the farmers in God’s vineyard, blessed with the opportunity and honor of producing fruit for God.
God’s desire for spiritual fruit from his people is a common theme in Jesus’ teaching. A tree is known by its fruit. Only a good tree can bear good fruit. A tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
But what does the fruit represent? First, a holy life. God is holy and his people are to live holy lives. When God’s people live holy and righteous lives in an unholy and unrighteous world, they bear testimony to God’s goodness, shining like light in a dark place.
In addition to a holy life, God expects his people to be faithful witnesses. God entrusts his word to his people. His word is not meant to be hidden away like a lamp under a bowl. It is meant to be scattered like seed, finding receptive hearts and bearing fruit for eternal life.
God gives us his kingdom, an astounding expression of his marvelous grace. We did nothing to earn the honor of working in his kingdom. But fruitful labor in God’s vineyard is the proper response to God’s grace. God’s grace is not meant to lie fallow in our lives, idle and useless.
Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me, and I in him, he will bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing.” We need not fear failure. With Christ as our source we will share in a great harvest, an eternal victory.
As we rejoice over God’s great gift this Christmas let’s also remember and celebrate the fact that God has blessed us with fruitful labor in his eternal kingdom. The proper response to the gift of Jesus is to give ourselves to God in service.
May God’s Spirit enable us to bear much fruit for his kingdom,