Summary: This is the second of the Advent 2007 series. The focus is on the greatest gift of love the world has ever seen... the gift of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 15:4-13

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy, as it is written:

“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing hymns to your name.”

Again it says,

“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.”

And again,

“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and sing praises to him, all you peoples.”

And again, Isaiah says,

“The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him.”

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

“The Gift of Love”

“Mommy, what is Christmas?” asked the three-year-old girl. Her mother carefully explained that Christmas is Jesus’ birthday. “Then why do we not give gifts to Jesus if it’s His birthday?” The mother explained the tradition of exchanging Christmas gifts as expressions of our love for each other, and that seemed to end the matter.

It did not come up again until Christmas Eve when a sleepy little girl placed a package under the Christmas tree on her way to bed and explained that it was a birthday gift for Jesus which she was sure He would open during the night while she slept. After she was asleep, the mother not wanting her daughter to be disappointed, opened the clumsily wrapped package and found the box empty.

On Christmas morning the little girl was thrilled to find the package had been opened and her gift was gone. “What was in it?” asked the confused mother. “It was a box full of love,” came the answer.

—Beverly I. White “The Christian Reader”

Today, we lit our second candle of Advent… the candle of Love. Appropriately… today is a day for focusing on the meaning of Christmas through the eyes of love. By this, I mean… we look forward… to Bethlehem… we see the babe lying in a manger and we see it for what it is… a gift of love.

You’ve probably heard it said that the greatest gifts ever given… are gifts of love. In my experience this adage has been very true. What do you think? If you would please… think back for a moment… think back to a Christmas gift that you really remember. Maybe even think back to that one Christmas gift that really stands out more than any of the others. What made that gift so special? My guess is… the reason the gift is so special… is because there was a great deal of love behind it.

I remember a Christmas back when I was about 9 years old. There was one toy I wanted more than anything in the world. You may remember a set of toys back when… known as The Transformers. The Autobots and Decepticons… vehicles that transformed into robots and back into vehicles. They were toys that truly were “more than meets the eye!” And my deepest Christmas wish that year, was to get the fearless leader of the Transformers… Optimus Prime!

The only problem with this Christmas wish was… every other little boy in the world wanted Optimus Prime too. And he was sold out everywhere. My parents tried and tried to find an Optimus Prime for me… but couldn’t find him anywhere. Heartbroken… they tried reasoning with me… “Wouldn’t you rather have a Bumblebee Transformer for Christmas?” And I began to get the hint… I wasn’t going to be getting an Optimus Prime for Christmas.

On Christmas morning I didn’t have any hope left that there was an Optimus Prime under the tree. So that morning felt a little less magical than Christmas’ past. I opened my presents and was happy for everything I got. I was very settled on being content that Christmas. My very last gift was in a box that was perfectly sized for a nice “sweater” and I began to open it thinking ah… a sweater… I’ll have to remember to smile.

But then through some magical luck… this sweater box did not have a sweater inside of it. It… had… an Optimus Prime inside of it. Brothers and sisters… I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a 9 year old explode like a nuclear explosion... but that’s what my reaction was like. About a week before Christmas, my uncle managed to find an Optimus Prime in the big city of Minneapolis! You see my father had recruited the entire family in the Transformer hunt… and he did not waste any of his resources to make sure that I would get one for Christmas.

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