Summary: My final sermon in a series on Philippians; due to the timing of when it was preached it has strong Christmas overtones.
AM Sermon preached at Syria Christian Church December 5, 2004
“George Bailey, Scrooge, The Grinch and Paul… and a Secret They Share…”
Imagine it. March Madness at its climax. It’s Saturday night. Only two teams remain in the tournament. Your school is there. You’re on the team or your best friend is on the team or you’ve got a son, daughter or grandchild on the team. The final seconds tick away and it’s happened. You’ve won or they’ve won the championship game. You and everyone around are high-fiving it. Applauding, screaming, shouting, laughing, talking excitedly. It’s an awesome moment. Your emotions are soaring, your adrinilene is off the charts.
Now picture yourself, the next day at an afternoon pep rally. A welcoming home for the victorious team. Video clips of the final seconds are shown. The response again is one of excitement and joy. Cheers. Fists pumping. People holding up the number one and calling out “we love you guys!”
Now it’s Monday. You enter the gym and the coach has rigged up a VCR and TV. The game is on, but crowds are gone. Other than a few occasional supportive comments and a few joking remarks about bad plays. Little is really said.
Now it’s the first Monday of May. You go to the gym. It’s the same thing. The VCR and TV. The championship game. In fact every Monday since the game was won it’s been the same thing. And with each passing week. The enthusiasm has lessened. Cheering has turned into moaning. Close watching to napping. While I doubt any of us has or will ever had to go through that particular scenario---most of us do know how repetition often leads to a loss of enthusiasm or boredom. And this is true for many when it comes to Christmas. But not for me ---and I hope not for you either!
I’ve been through more than four decades of Christmas seasons---and out of those---more than 30 have come and passed since I accepted the gift of salvation. But rather than lose its appeal to me, I am finding that my anticipation of the Christmas season is renewed year after year. I mean really love this time of year. I love the lights, the decorations, the music, the smell of Christmas trees, the wonderful array of Christmas candies and cookies, the movies. But what I love most about this time of year is the fact that without fail, every year God touches me in some special way… every Christmas season God does or uses something to make me more aware what He has done for us in Christ Jesus---and with every passing Christmas season I find myself more in tune with a secret shared by George Bailey, Scrooge, The Grinch and Paul. And that secret is contentment.
Today, we’re wrapping up our study of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, looking at the final verses of chapter four. In these final verses are some timely words for us as we approach Christmas. For you see, probably now more than any other time of the year, we are being inundated with advertisements and commercials bent of making us discontent. And here in our scripture passage Paul gives us some much needed insight on how to have experience the kind of joy reflected in the characters of George Bailey, Scrooge and The Grinch after they experienced their changes of heart… Let’s read the concluding remarks in Paul’s letter…
10 I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.
11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.
12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.
15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only;
16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need.
17 Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account.
18 I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.