Christmas in Narnia
THE PERFECT GIFTS
I Corinthians 12:4-11 / Ephesians 4:7ff
“So, wadya get for Christmas?”
[Solicit responses from the children]
That’s a question that has been asked more over the last week than any other. Kids ask their friends. Grandparents, uncles, cousins and friends ask the little children what they got. When school starts this week, it will be one of the most talked about subjects around the lunch table and in the hallways.
“What’s the best gift you’ve ever received for Christmas?”
[Solicit responses from the adults]
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, the Mayville News, and a radio program I listen to regularly both asked the question, “What was the best Christmas gift you ever received?” People shared a wide variety of responses. One older guy called and responded that his best gift ever was a 1937 Lionel Electric Train that was still running around the Christmas tree at his house. Some called in about an unexpected bike, or some responded that it was a favorite doll. I understand that one little girl I know told her teacher that her best Christmas present was when her brother showed up unexpectedly from the war last year!
Gift giving is a great part of the Christmas holiday when it reminds us of the gift of life that God has given to us through Jesus Christ. Like everything, Satan has perverted gift giving, and made it into a competitive, stressful, greedy part of our lives – but if we can keep it in perspective, and keep our focus on the real meaning of Christmas, it can be a wonderful thing.
Most of us can remember some Christmas gift that stands out to us. I remember Christmas 1969- My uncle David got my brother Ed and I a clock with the Apollo 11 lunar landing depicted on it, with a little orange flame light that flickered. It was in our shared bedroom for years, I can remember watching that orange flame dance as I fell asleep on so many nights - now it sits in my office – and the orange flame light still flickers!
One of the most memorable gifts I ever got for Christmas was one that was incredibly practical – it was a trouble light that you could attach to the battery posts of your car – you carry it around in your car, and if you break down along the road somewhere, as long as your battery has some charge in it, you’ve got a light! I received it for Christmas in 1980, and I still have it! Toys are fun, but don’t tend to last too long. Some gifts are deeply meaningful, even sentimental, while others are great because they are practical. Practical gifts tend to be the ones we remember a year later – or 20 years later.
In The Chronicles of Narnia, the four children who are the main characters in the story, receive gifts that are not only practical, they are vital to them. Peter receives a sword and shield, Susan receives a bow and arrows, as well as a horn, which will summon help for her whenever she blows into it. Lucy receives a small vial, or cordial, of oil, which brings healing, as well as a small dagger for fighting off enemies. Over the course of the story, each of the gifts is used as the children advance the kingdom of good over the forces of evil.
When CS Lewis wrote the Chronicles, he was writing an allegory of the Christian story. There is imagery of the curse of sin, the long waiting for the coming of the Savior, the sacrifice of Christ for the redemption of world, and His resurrection. The parallels are obvious and powerful.
The giving of gifts is in keeping with the theme. Lewis’ gifts – the shield of faith, the sword of the spirit, intersession for help, anointing with oil for healing – remind us that God has indeed gifted us for the battle that lies ahead of us.
My goal for us today is three fold: First, I want us to wrap up, as it were, the Christmas season, by examining the gifts we’ve been given by God. Secondly, I want us to revisit the message that was shared one year ago today, which some of you might remember; and thirdly, I want us to look into the year ahead, returning to our study of the book of Ephesians.
But we’re going to start this morning in I Corinthians, chapter 12, where we read, beginning with verse 4:
4 Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are different activities, but the same God is active in everyone and everything. 7 A manifestation of the Spirit is given to each person to produce what is beneficial: 8 to one is given a message of wisdom through the Spirit, to another, a message of knowledge by the same Spirit, 9 to another, faith by the same Spirit, to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another, the performing of miracles, to another, prophecy, to another, distinguishing between spirits, to another, different kinds of languages, to another, interpretation of languages. 11 But one and the same Spirit is active in all these, distributing to each one as He wills
There are several things we learn about our gifts from God in this passage:
Ø we all don’t get the same gift – there are a wide variety of gifts (vs 4),
Ø each one is given by God (vs 5),
Ø and they are given to every believer (vs 7),
Ø and they are given to each one as God alone determines is best (vs 11).
You have been given a gift from God! And because the gift is from God Himself, we know that the gift is perfect for us – it is the exact fit for you – a unique blending of spiritual gift, personality and passions that has been created and crafted just for you! If you are a believer in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you have been given a spiritual gift – a special mix of talent, passion and personality that uniquely qualifies you to fill a role in the church that no one else can fill. It has been entrusted to you by God and it is your responsibility to use that gift faithfully.
You can get an idea of the variety of gifts by looking at this chapter, and other passages from the Bible. There’s wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, tongues, and interpretation just in these few verses. Totaling the gifts listed here with other passages, we have compiled a list of 19 gifts that we study in our Spiritual Gift class.
So how do you discover what your gift is? Well, one of the easiest ways is to go to our website and complete the Spiritual Gifts questionnaire that we have online. It will give you an immediate report of your gift or gifts. Then you can take the one-day class that we will be offering within the next few weeks to find out more about you gift, and how it can be used in the church.
But why is this important?
Turn with me, if you will to Ephesians, chapter 4. In verses 11-13 we find the “why” question answered. Paul writes,
11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Quite simply, each of us has been given a gift so that we can use that gift to help the church to grow – to grow larger in size, and more importantly, grow deeper spiritually. In verses 12 & 13 Paul makes this clear – “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we reach unity in faith and knowledge, and become mature…”
Paul says in verse 14, “THEN we will no longer be infants…” Our maturity will not take place unless the gifts are being used properly and fully. In verse 16, he concludes this portion by pointing out that “each part must do it’s work.”
It’s time Gateway Community Church move from infancy to maturity. Maturity is not measured by a calendar – yes, we have begun our 11th year – but more important than the chronological age of a church is the level of spiritual maturity – and that maturity is a direct result of the people of God using the gifts God has given them to the fullest measure possible. It is absolutely necessary that every person who calls Gateway Community Church “home” take their responsibility seriously. We must all be involved in the mission and ministry of the church.
A year ago today, I stood here and said that I could not guarantee that this church would be in existence on New Years Day, 2006. We were in about as perilous a spot as we have ever been as a church. Morale was nonexistent. Financially we were slowly bleeding to death. We had not seen growth in maturity or numbers. We entered into a 52 day period of prayer for God’s intervention – and He has marvelously preserved us, and moved us forward. Great strides have been made in the depth and maturity of the leadership and ministry heads, we’ve seen new members and new friends added to the mix. The foundations are being laid for a men’s ministry that calls men to be all they can be for God and family. A new women’s ministry is well under way.
Financially, we paid back the money we had to use from our savings to pay the bills last year, and we paid every bill along the way. The leadership has worked with Dr. Perry to put together a strategy for the future of the church that is still being developed, but is a great start. In short - Gateway Community Church is still here, and by God’s grace, we have just begun to make the impact for God’s kingdom that He has intended for us!
But we have so much more to do! Our focus is on reaching the people of this area who do not know Jesus – who do not know what it is to have a personal, deep, meaningful relationship with Him – and bring them to Him. There are thousands of people in this area who are lost – and we have been charged with reaching as many of them as possible.
In order to do so, we must all recognize, unwrap and use the gift that God has given us…whatever it may be. Maybe you can be part of the team that welcomes people to the church as they enter the door. Maybe you can help with setting up the sound system, or move equipment for the services. Perhaps you can make calls, or write a note to people who have visited us each week, or prepare a meal for a family in need. Could you work with a little child at AWANA – just listening to them recite a verse? Are you handy with a hammer or nail gun? We’ve got projects for you! How about devoting the next year to attending a Saturday night alternative service and being part of the launch team for that ministry? The possibilities are huge, the gift you have is given by God, so you know it’s a perfect fit – but will you use it?
To me, the best gifts are not the most expensive – they are meaningful. They are the gifts that get lots of use over the years…they stand the test of time…they are practical, meaningful and durable…
The very best gifts we’ll ever get are the gifts God has given us – They are perfectly designed for each of us individually, and they are meant to be used! Will we use them, or let them sit on the shelf?
Help your church to grow and mature – use your gift for His kingdom in the year ahead – it’s one way to insure that you will have a happy new year!