Summary: The presents we ofter to Christ fall short of what he wants, our presence. This sermon addresses his desire for our hearts versus our meager attempts to please him.
Scripture: Matthew 1:23 & Various Other Texts
Theme: More than duty or sacrifice or religion, more than the things we can do for God, he wants
our presence, a relationship with us.
celebrate the birth of Christ we must let our hearts be changed by Him.
Seed: Personal Study
Purpose: To invite the listeners to examine what it is they offer God when they come before him.
Some people don’t like birthdays. They don’t like birthdays because their birthday reminds them that they are getting older. For some reason we hate the idea of getting older. It reminds us that our beauty fades. It reminds us that we can’t do what we once could. Mostly we don’t like it because it reminds us of our mortality.
This past week parents were here to visit and Kaitlyn said to my mom, “Grandma, I’m going to die.”
My mom responded, “Kaitlyn, what are you talking about?”
Katy said, “I’m going to die when I get old. When you get old you die.” Then she said, “Grandma, you’re almost there.”
No, most people don’t like the fact that their birthday reminds them that they’re getting older, but that’s not the case with children. Children love birthdays. They love birthdays because it is a celebration of them. They are the focus of attention, they are honored, they are celebrated and they are given gifts.
That’s what we do in our culture; we give the birthday boy or girl gifts to celebrate the event. But at Christmas we do it differently. At Christmas we celebrate the birth of the Messiah. We celebrate Jesus’ birthday by giving each other gifts. Since it’s his birthday, don’t you think HE deserves the gifts? I do, but when it comes to gifts for God, he doesn’t want your presents. He wants your presence. That’s what he gave us, his presence.
"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" —which means, "God with us."
Matthew 1:23 (NIV)
Presence refers to nearness. Presence means that we are near by. We are currently with him. God wants our presence, our nearness to him. In presence there is a sense of closeness. More than the things we can offer him, God wants for us to be near him, but how?
So often the gifts we offer are not the gifts that are needed or wanted. Maybe you’ve heard the radio commercial that’s been playing lately here in the metro area. The dad gets his son a sled instead of a snowboard, his daughter a gerbil instead of a dog and his wife a cubic zirconia instead of a diamond. He says, "It’s not quite what they asked for, but almost."
That’s kind of what we are with God, isn’t it? Rather than give him our presence, which he so desperately wants, we give him presents that are really just a cheap imitation.
Let’s look at the difference between the presents we try to offer God, and the presence he desires from us.
What We Offer: DUTY
One of the presents we offer to him is DUTY. We do so much for him that we feel like we’re supposed to do, but don’t really want to do. We offer our words and actions to him but we don’t give him our hearts.
The Lord says:
“These people come near to me with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me
is made up only of rules taught by men.”
Isaiah 29:13 (NIV)
This verse makes it painfully obvious that we have a tendency to offer God that which is cheap and easy rather than what is costly and difficult. He wants our hearts and we give him a few words of honor and attempt to meet a few obligations that we feel he has placed upon us.
How many of you, when you sit to eat a meal, feel like you cannot eat, you cannot move forward without praying. You’ve tried and you have actually felt guilty when you ate without praying first. Maybe you have been corrected or maybe you have corrected someone else who sat down to eat with you and didn’t pray first. That sense that you “must pray” that sense of guilt when you don’t pray before you eat a bologna sandwich or a Big Mac is caused because you are praying out of duty.
I’m not saying that it’s wrong to pray before you eat. It is good and right to give thanks to God for providing you with the nourishment you need to survive. But praying before a meal is not a biblical command. Praying before you eat is not required by God and it’s not a sin if you don’t. But most us feel obligated to do it. It’s a religious practice, a duty we have been taught. Most of the time when you pray for a meal, you don’t even think about what you are praying. You are simply observing a religious duty.