Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
Here's a story that was supposed to have taken place in the early 1900s. It may serve as a good reminder of our need for the Savior.
The story tells of a man who had worked hard all his life. The earning of a fortune had not stopped him from being a good husband, father, employer and friend. He had given generously to charities and treated all men fairly.
Living that kind of good life, as you might imagine, had been most wearying.
That's why one day the man woke up, looked in the mirror and decided it's time for a vacation. "I've earned it," he said. A trip to America seemed like just the ticket. Two days later he was standing in the shadow of an ocean liner ready to make the crossing to New York. As he waited in line to board the ship, he felt good about the past and what he felt would be his future.
In short he was more than ready to take that trip his many selfless acts had earned.
At the foot of the gangway, the cruise company's representative asked if he had a ticket. The man replied, he had no ticket, indeed, he felt no need of a ticket. The representative informed him that without a ticket he couldn't go on board.
That was when the man reviewed his impressive and lengthy list of good works. He summed up his feelings by finally declaring, "I am sailing on this ship. I've earned my vacation."
The representative summed up the cruise line's position with the words, "No ticket. No travel. You may have been good, but nobody's goodness will let them take this trip."
This, of course, is the point St. Paul was trying to make to the church in Ephesus.
He wanted believers in every generation to know that if you're trying to get into heaven through your own accomplishments, you're not going to make it. No matter how big, how impressive, how dedicated you've been, you're not going to make it -- not on your own power.
Seeing our helpless condition, the Lord Jesus was born into this world to take our place. As our Substitute, He would have to live a perfect life by fulfilling all the Commandments all the time; He would have to resist Satan's temptations all the time; He would have to carry our sins with Him to the cross and die the death we had coming.
That Jesus did everything that was necessary is an example of love beyond understanding. All we can do with God's grace is say, "Thank You!"
Dear Lord, today we give thanks to You because You continued to love us even though You despise our sin. Thank You for sending Your Son into this world as our Substitute. Thanks for this special time of the year we celebrate Your birth. In Jesus’ name, Amen.