Summary: Gifts are a major part of the Christmas celebration, our theme this year looks at "The Gift" that made Christmas what it is. Part one looks at the promise of that gift.
The Gift of Christmas 1
When you think of Christmas what comes to your mind? Before you answer let me tell you a story I heard many years ago. It happened in a grade four Sunday School Class and the teacher was asking the class a question, I don’t know what the context was or why she was asking it, but she was. The question was this “What is grey, has a bushy tail, collects nuts and climbs trees.” Before anyone else could answer a little boy stuck up and his hand and blurted out “I know the answer is Jesus but it sure sounds like a squirrel to me.”
So we will give you this one. When I asked the question “When you think of Christmas what comes to mind?” I know without reservation that the answer that we all thought of immediately was “Jesus” goes without saying and I will in no way question your spirituality or commitment by thinking otherwise. So I will rephrase it. “When you think of Christmas what is the second thing that comes to mind?”
Maybe you are a house decorator and you think about all the decoration that you are going to put up for Christmas, all of the things that say Christmas to you, lights and tinsel, trees and penguins. And don’t get my wife started on how dumb penguins are for a Christmas decoration, trust me on that one, you don’t want to go down that road.
And some people do a great job, decorating and others, well less than spectacular. Have I mentioned that my sister is insane? Certifiably insane, she starts decorating her house in late October and on Halloween she dresses up like Mrs. Claus, plays Christmas music and hands out candy canes to the kids. I am not making this up. But to prove there is balance in the universe if it was up to me I wouldn’t put up a single decoration. Not that I’m opposed to decorations it just that I am motivationally challenged when it comes to things like that, that means I’m lazy.
For others it’s about the baking, you have already started baking and before you are finished you will have baked enough food to feed a small third world village. And others are thinking about all those cookies and squares and how good they will be, and how much weight you will gain but it wouldn’t be right to hurt the cooks feelings, would it?
For some of you it brings to mind family and this is the time of the year that you all get together for a big dinner, family pictures and time together. And maybe for others there are laws that keep that from happening.
But regardless of what the main thing is that comes to your mind when I say Christmas, the one thing that we are all thinking about, somewhere on the list, besides Jesus that goes without saying, are gifts. Either about the gifts we will receive or the gifts we will give. The talk of the season is about gifts.
Where we will buy them, how we will wrap them, how we will get them delivered, gifts, gifts gifts. And people see gift giving in different ways. Here is an example. (video clip from Big Bang Christmas)
Some people see gift giving like Penny, just as an opportunity to give and express your feelings for others. Others, whether you want to admit it or not, are like Sheldon, and although you may never have expressed your theory of reciprocity quite as eloquently as he did, you feel the same way, you don’t receive gifts you receive obligations.
If you are in the least bit familiar with the Christmas story then you know that gifts were an important part of that event. There were tangible gifts, in the form of the gold, frankincense and myrrh that were brought by the wise men as well as the gifts that couldn’t be held and shaken or wrapped but were no less real. Like the gift that the wise men had presented of themselves, they had travelled literally hundreds of miles over hostile terrain in order to worship the Christ child, there were the shepherds who left their flocks in the hills in order to come and offer their adoration for the one who was born to be the great shepherd.
We know from the story that there was no room in the inn, but someone had to offer the family space in a stable, presumably they didn’t just move in uninvited. If you looked out in your backyard and there was a family living in your shed you’d call the police. The fact that they had a place out of the weather, was a gift.
But the very essence of Christmas isn’t about gifts plural; it’s about a gift singular. Because that night in Bethlehem 2000 years ago the greatest gift of all was given to the world. The gift of Jesus the Son of God. And before that gift was given it was promised. In the Old Testament it was promised to the people of Israel and in the Christmas story the gift was promised to Mary and then to her fiancé Joseph.