The Perfect Gift For Christmas
Time is running out. You only have a few days left to shop. I know you want to get the perfect gift for your loved ones this Christmas. As your pastor, I feel a special responsibility to help so I have searched the catalogs, Christmas flyers, and Internet opportunities that might narrow your list as you try and find the perfect gift. Let me just give you a sampling of some of the items that you should not buy your husband or wife this year.
TOP TEN GIFTS YOUR WIVES DON’T WANT FOR CHRISTMAS
10. A car wash kit.
9. A table saw.
8. Two all-day passes to Circuit City’s Home Theatre Installation Seminar.
7. A case of oil.
6. Five-year subscription to Sports Illustrated.
5. Tickets to the WWF “New Year’s Slamfest.”
4. New outboard motor for fishing boat.
3. Rambo Trilogy on DVD.
2. New satellite dish with sports package.
1. Three-year membership to Weight-Watchers Clinic.
TOP TEN GIFTS YOUR HUSBANDS DON’T WANT FOR CHRISTMAS
10. Anne of Green Gables Collectors Edition DVD with 74 minutes of extra footage.
9. Any knick-knack.
8. Tickets to the ballet.
7. Another new tie.
6. A Bath and Body Works Soap Basket.
5. New teddy bear pajamas.
4. Vacuum cleaner.
3. A weekend seminar on "Getting in Touch With Your Feelings."
2. Pair of fuzzy bunny slippers.
1. A nose and ear hair trimmer. (Contributed by Jonathon’sResources.com)
If you are looking for the perfect gift for your husband, wife, boyfriend, or girlfriend this Christmas then I would encourage you to heed the advice and stay away from the items we’ve just listed.
On the other hand, if you are looking for the perfect gift this Christmas, then there are some things that you might want to consider. I have done my homework and have a few suggestions for you. Let’s begin.
First of all, let me give you some ideas for the kids. Those of you who have young sons are assured of receiving “Parent of the Year” awards if you buy your son a chance to be a “ball boy” for a day. We’re not talking about being a ball boy for the Sooners or Cowboys, but how about the New York Knicks! This gift idea comes to us from the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book. Your son’s gift will begin an hour and a half before the game as your child arrives for the big game and won’t end until the game is over and he is hanging with the players in the locker room celebrating the victory. Two club level seats are included in this package, as well as a premium gift bag with one-of-a-kind Knicks’ memorabilia. The cost? Whose worried about the cost when it is for one of our precious little ones right? Well, the cost is a bargain basement $10,000.00!
Those of us who have little girls couldn’t bear the thought of having her little heart broken because her brother got a better gift than she did, right? I’ve found the perfect gift for the little princess of our hearts. How about being a Radio City Music Hall Rockette for a day. A day as a Rockette at New York’s Radio City Music Hall begins with a Rockettes’ dance training class. After practice we are off to have a costume fitting with the Radio City wardrobe department. After hair and makeup are professionally done, the day culminates with a once-in-a-lifetime role as an extra in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. This experience also includes four tickets to the Christmas Spectacular, a tour of the Music Hall, and a ‘meet and greet’ photo opportunity backstage with the Rockettes. The cost? A mere $10,000.00 – the same we will spend on our sons!
You ladies that want to get your man the perfect Christmas gift, have I got a deal for you! This year you don’t have to get him another gift certificate to Home Depot or a dozen golf balls. You can get him a new pair of boots! These are not just any cowboy boots, these are meticulously handcrafted boots made of ranch-raised American alligator. The tops are crafted of supple mocha-hued French calfskin that has been hand cut and detailed. The boots are made in El Paso, Texas and will only set you back $2500.00! For another $2200.00 you can get him a Resistol Hat made of beaver and sable fur. The boots are on my list!
Ladies, you know what a hassle it is to fight the Christmas traffic, try and find a parking place at a crowded mall, or to wait in line to pick up your child after school. Well, have no fear because I’m giving your husbands a gift idea that is certain to solve all of your problems. I’m encouraging you men to dig deep this Christmas and show your honey how much love her with the Neiman Marcus Limited Edition 430 Helicopter from Bell. The ride is as smooth as silk, the cabin as quiet as a luxury car, the interior surrounds you in luxury with beige Italian leather seats, embossed Italian leather sidewalls, custom rosewood finishes, a passenger refreshment center, and deluxe sculpted carpeting with the Neiman Marcus logo inlaid. Forget “Calgon take me away!” You can be swept away in your own Bell helicopter. Men, you’re going to have dig a little for this one, but it will pay huge dividends come Valentine’s Day. The cost is $6,700,000.00!
Does anybody really buy these kinds of gifts for someone at Christmas? You would think that they aren’t making them not to sell, but who would buy a helicopter for someone at Christmas? How would you wrap the thing? How would Santa ever get it down the chimney? The perfect Christmas gift? I doubt that a new helicopter, a night with the Knicks or Rockettes, or even a new pair of cowboy boots would make you any happier than you were before you opened that special gift.
If you truly want to give your loved one the perfect gift this Christmas then I would encourage you to cancel your visit to the mall and make an appointment to visit the King. God holds in His gracious and glorious hands the most precious gift for you and me this Christmas. This gift is not for those who are glorified by society. It is not for those who have their act together. It isn’t for the popular, prestigious, or pompous. You won’t find it at Target, Neimans, Wal Mart, or Abercrombie & Fitch. You can’t acquire it from your mom, dad, best friend, or even Santa Claus. If you want the most precious, perfect gift this Christmas then you must go to God with a hungry heart, a broken and humbled spirit, and a willingness to surrender, absolutely surrender, to the Lord.
Turn with me to Luke 1 and let’s read the story of a person who learned about the greatest gift of all.
39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” 46 And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. 50 His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. 51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful 55 to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.” 56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home. (Luke 1:39-56 NIV)
Many folks have talked about Mary throughout the years. They’ve made more of her role in the birth of Jesus than they should have. They have commented on her young age, her humble state, and the trials that she and Joseph went through leading up to Jesus’ birth. This morning I want to take another look at Mary and I want you and me to take the time to recognize the wisdom of this young expectant mother. As you read Mary’s response to Elizabeth’s blessing you find not a hint of arrogance or pride, but a humble wisdom that goes far beyond Mary’s years. Let me share a few phrases that have jumped out at me this past week as I have studied this Scripture. Mary says things like,
· My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
· …The Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name.
· He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
· He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
· He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.
· He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.
· He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.
You want to know what jumps out at me about Mary’s comments? I’m so glad you asked. Notice where Mary places her focus. Notice how many times Mary says, “He has…” Mary recognized that her carrying the promised Messiah had nothing to do with her, but everything to do with the mercy of Almighty God. Mary recognizes who she is – a woman of no standing in society, no claim to fame, no promising future, no heir to the fortune. Mary was a woman chosen by God, a recipient of His grace and mercy.
You may say, “Well, Mary says that from now on all generations will call her ‘blessed.” You are so right, but don’t stop reading at that point. Why will all generations recognize Mary? Why will people from all over the world know the name of Mary? Mary answers the question for us when she says, “From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name.” Once again we find that awesome phrase, “He has done…” In this instance Mary says, “…for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is His name.”
I have good news for you this Christmas. The Mighty One is not through doing great things on the behalf of His people! God is a God of action, not apathy. He is acting even this morning on your behalf and mine. I don’t know where you have come from this morning. I don’t have any idea what you are facing, but I know that He is a God who can and does act when we are paralyzed by our circumstances, when we find ourselves stuck so deep in sin that we think we can never be delivered.
There are a myriad of situations that many of us are facing that appear to be hopeless, but there is no situation that appears to be more hopeless than a sinner living life on his or her own, apart from the salvation and redemption of our Savior. If God can save a lost sinner, then we should conclude that any other situation we might face in life is a cakewalk for our God. If God can save me from the penalty of my sin, then surely He can put my marriage back together. If God can claim me as His child, then surely He can bring my child back from the brink of destruction. If God can transform me from a child of darkness to a child of His glorious light, then surely He can deliver me from lying, lust, drunkenness, addiction, depression, or bitterness. If God could find me while I was lost, then surely He can bring me out of my hopeless looking situation – surely He can bring me out of the darkness and into His glorious light. Let me show you what I am talking about with an illustration. Let me ask you a few questions.
If Henry Ford can build an automobile from scratch, do you think he might be able to change the oil? If Michelangelo can paint The Sistine Chapel, do you think he might be able to paint the kitchen? If Bob Villa can build a house, do you think it might be possible for him to change a light bulb or built a shelf? If the Wright Brothers can invent an airplane, do you think they might be able to fly a kite? If Dr. Daniel Hale Williams can invent the procedure we know as open-heart surgery, do you think he might be able to treat a skinned knee? If Sarah Boone can invent the ironing board, do you think she might be able to press your shirt or pants? If Jesus can rescue you from the bondage of sin and the penalty that accompanies it, do you think His mercy might be sufficient for whatever you are facing today? I say He will! I know He will!
Few people truly know the love God has for them. For so many today, God is merely a cultural icon, a celestial rabbit’s foot to be held onto for good luck as we stroll through life. God is more than a four leaf clover, more than a rabbit’s foot, He is the One who has fashioned you with His hands, given you every breath you have ever breathed, and continually seeks to draw you to Himself though we stray and go our own way.
From birth, our sin separated us from the One who loves us and we were unable to do anything about it, but He did. God acted on our behalf by sending us His Son to do for us what we were absolutely unable to do on our own. The price that Jesus paid is greater than any of us can even imagine. Let me read to you from the prophet Isaiah,
3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. 9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the LORD’S will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. 11 After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. (Isaiah 53:3-11 NIV)
Isaiah tells us that Jesus “bore our iniquities;” He was our “guilt offering;” He was stricken for our transgressions; God laid on Him the iniquity, the sin, of us all. Can you imagine? What kind of love is this? How could someone love us so deeply? If you have ever found yourself in a situation where you were confronted with your sin, the ugliness of your actions, thoughts, or behavior, then you know what a depressing, overwhelming feeling that can be. It is enough to have to bear our own sin, to take responsibility for what we have done, isn’t it? Can you imagine bearing the sin of the entire world? God possesses a love for you and me that is hard for us to even comprehend. Jesus had no sin and yet He took the sin of every single person who has or will ever live upon His shoulders at Calvary.
In Ephesians, Paul writes about our condition before Christ came to deliver us from the sin that was destroying us. Paul says,
1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—9 not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:1-9 NIV)
I love verses 4-5 where Paul says, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” It is because of God’s great mercy, it is because of God’s great love for us that He has resurrected us from a life of sin and destruction, hopelessness and despair, and made us alive with Christ. This is the greatest gift of all this Christmas.
Even Santa makes a list and checks it twice to find out who has been naughty and nice. The naughty are going to get a lump of coal this Christmas and those who have been nice will get something a little more valuable, but God’s great love for us is extended to all! Salvation is not offered to you or me this morning because we have been good this past year, but because God is good all the time! You can read about this even further in Titus 3, where we are told,
3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:3-7 NIV)
God saves us, not because of the good things we have done, but because of His mercy. There are many people today in our country who believe that for them to go to Heaven they must be good enough to impress God. I hear people say, “I hope that when I die I will have lived a good enough life so that God will allow me to go to Heaven.” My friend I have news for you, you can take the most noble lives that have ever been lived and put all of their good deeds together and they will not move God to open the gates of Heaven and allow even one soul in. Mother Theresa will always be someone who touches my heart, but she never earned salvation. Billy Graham has preached to more people than any other person on the face of the planet, but he is yet to earn his salvation. God doesn’t grade on the curve. God doesn’t lower His standard of righteous and holiness and neither you nor I can jump that high. God does freely offer His salvation to the lowliest, most despised and utterly despicable sinner who is willing to cry out for His mercy.
The reality of Christmas this year is that there are millions who will not have a good Christmas by the standards of the world. There are folks who are hoping and praying for that one gift that they believe will make them truly happy, but they aren’t going to get it for one reason or another. The good news is that this can be the best Christmas that you and I have ever had if we will realize that the one gift we need most is the mercy of God that is freely offered to all who will turn to Him in humility and brokenness. God’s mercy is offered to the least just as passionately as it is the most. It is offered to the lowliest just as feverishly as it is the loftiest. It is offered to the vilest, most despised, as it is the noblest, most honored. It is offered to the crack head just as freely as it is the corporate big shot. It is offered to the prostitute with the same tenderness and it is the President of the United States.
This past week Wes Lane, our District Attorney and a brother in Christ, prosecuted the case against Dr. John Hamilton here in Oklahoma City. From the reports that I have read over the past several months it was a gruesome crime and Dr. Hamilton was charged with murder. The jury was shocked when the description of how Susan Hamilton was killed was described to them. When the last argument was made in court the verdict was “guilty.” Dr. Hamilton is now facing life in prison without the possibility of parole. If he lives a full life he will have many more years ahead of him confined to a prison cell and not a luxury home in Quail Creek. He will be driven around in the back of police car or van used to transport prisoners and not a Cadillac, Mercedes, or Lexus. He won’t be wearing Armani suits, but an orange jumpsuit. Dr. Hamilton’s life, for all intents and purposes, is over. Oh, but Dr. Hamilton’s life could just be beginning if he were to cry out to the Lord and recite the words of another scandalous sinner, King David,
1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. 5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. 6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. 7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. 10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 51:1-10 NIV)
Is that your prayer this morning? I pray that your Christmas “Wish List” has changed since the time you arrived at worship this morning and that you will cry to the One who has given His Son so that you might know eternal life, so that you might know the freedom that only He can bring, and so that you might taste the mercy of our great King. Won’t you invite Him in?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
Oklahoma City, OK. 73114
December 23, 2001