Summary: Because God gave the gift of His Son at Christmas, we should give good gifts and we should also give God-gifts.
Advent Conspiracy: Give More
Rev. Brian Bill
Note: The idea for this series and some content comes from a book by Rick McKinley, Chris Seay, and Greg Holder called, “Advent Conspiracy: Can Christmas Still Change the World?”
I’m thankful to our Advent readers for reminding us that it is more blessed to give than it is to receive. Have you ever received a Christmas present that you didn’t really like? Here are some suggestions of what to say if you get a gift that underwhelms you.
* Hey! Now, there’s a gift!
* Well, well, well…
* This is perfect…for wearing around the basement.
* I really don’t deserve this.
* To think…I got this the year I vowed to give all my gifts to charity.
Our topic today has to do with gift giving. As I’ve paused and pondered the centrality of giving in the Christmas story, this is what stands out to me: Because God gave the gift of His Son at Christmas we should give good gifts and we should also give God gifts. I am so moved by the great giving that takes place at Pontiac Bible Church and am delighted with how so many of you have responded to the Advent Conspiracy by worshipping fully, spending less and giving more. Let me share some things that have happened in just the past week.
* Christmas Baskets. $1,500 was given last Sunday and it looks like we will be able to provide way more than 200 baskets of food this year. Related to this, I received a call on Wednesday from someone who is unemployed and he told me that one thing he really misses is how the employees at his old company would give donations for the needy in our community. God used the message last week to challenge him to figure out a way to give this year and so he’s now helping out with the Christmas Basket project.
* Offering for the Unemployed. We will be taking a special offering on Christmas Eve for those who are unemployed. Amazingly, over $1,000 has already been given.
* Mass Mailing. After hearing the sermon last week, one business man in the community offered to send out a letter to all the households in Pontiac, inviting people to our service next Sunday at the high school and our Christmas Eve service that will be held here. Incidentally, we went through the mailing list and removed PBC people and others that we know are committed to other churches. This letter still went out to over 3,800 households! We may need to find another auditorium.
* Help for a Family. I received another call early in the week from a PBC member who told me that he can’t stop thinking about a family in need. He told me that this family comes to his mind 3-4 times a day and he wanted to know how he could help them. God will lead him to do something.
What strikes me about all these stories is that these are just the ones I know about. It gives me spiritual goose bumps to think about all that is happening in this county as we seek to reclaim Christmas from our consumer-oriented culture. I love how many of you are pushing back against overspending and overconsumption this Advent season. As we rebel against some of this craziness by spending less, it simply seems right to give more, doesn’t it?
Let me be clear. We are not saying that Christmas gift-giving in families is bad. Actually, giving gifts is a great way to celebrate the birth of Jesus because in giving we remember that God has given the gift of His Son to us. What we are saying is this. Giving gifts to each other is good but let’s make sure we are also giving God-gifts to those in need.
Let’s look at three ways to understand the greatness of God’s gift giving.
How God Gave
1. The gift of Jesus is profound. Because the nativity narrative has become so familiar to many of us it’s easy to forget how profound Christmas really is. We received a Christmas card from Keith and Jeannette Shubert, our missionaries in Singapore, that contained a simple, yet startling phrase that has helped me recapture the awe: “May your Christmas be blessed with radiance and wonder!” That’s good, isn’t it?
We were talking in staff meeting this week about how easy it is for us to throw around words without taking the time to explain what they mean. Last week Pastor Jeff did a good job helping each of us understand that Immanuel means “God with us.” In Immanuel, God is with us when we’re lonely or afraid or hurting or worried, and especially when we’re stuck in our sins.