I love taking young pastors out to eat. I remember what it was like when I was a youth pastor and we had a very tight budget. There was a couple in our church, Harvey and Tina, and they would take us to a small, but very fancy, place in our neighborhood for dinner. Barresi’s Italian Restaurant had an elegant atmosphere with candles and fine linens on every table. We couldn’t afford this place. We once wandered in there when we first moved to Deere Park and had to leave after seeing the menu and prices.
When Harvey learned we lived in Deere Park, he called me and said, “We want to take you to one of our favorite restaurants near your house.” I said, “Harvey, I really appreciate that, but it is too expensive.” He said, “Not for me. I want to treat you to something nice.” Harvey’s love, prayers, and many dinners taught me about God’s grace. The Bible says, “Jesus Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross” (I Peter 2:24). You see, when you have what it takes to pay, and you love the person, you can choose to pay the price. Harvey and Tina were glad to give us that gift. Jesus was glad to give you salvation.
Most of us try to live our whole life trying to pay for our own sins. We keep score and look for ways to save and earn our freedom. We can’t. Harvey would tell me, “I had a friend in college that would buy Tina’s and my dinner. This is my way of honoring his memory.” When you and I give to the Christmas offering to help another in need, it is not to pay a bill Jesus has paid for us. Accepting Jesus’ payment is like saying “Yes, I receive the meal, communion, that someone else paid for on my behalf”. We don’t have to feel guilty. Just enjoy the meal. You can’t later come back and pay for that meal. That would be offensive to the gift giver even if you could afford it at a later date. When you and I do buy lunch, share a kindness, give an offering, we do so in honor of the One who taught us grace and generosity. In the same way, Harvey remembered his friend who taught him to be kind to young couples.
“Christ… Having been offered once to bear the sins of many” (Hebrews 9:28). He could afford all our sins when we could afford none. Jesus came at Christmas to buy us something far more than a meal. However, when we receive communion, we think of HIM. When we buy a gift for someone in need, it honors Jesus. It helps others believe someone might pick up the cost of my sin, too.