Advent Conspiracy #3 – Give More

Advent Conspiracy #3 – Give More

9am Worship. Advent Conspiracy #3 - Give More.

Posted by Turramurra Uniting Church on Saturday, 15 December 2018

Sunday 16th December 9am Worship

Sermon Series: Advent Conspiracy

Title: Give More

Bible Reading: Luke 2:8-20

Preacher: Phil Swain

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Sermon

It’s the season for watching Christmas movies or reading your children or grandchildren Christmas Books.  Anyone got any suggestions of good ones?

What about “How the Grinch stole Christmas.”  Have you seen it? Do you know the story?  In a nutshell, there is the Grinch who, due to a bad childhood memory, hates Christmas – he hates the noise, the celebration, the feast, the singing … the Grinch hates everything about Christmas.  So, one Christmas Eve after everyone is asleep, he decides to steal Christmas away … he steals all the presents, the food, the decorations even the Christmas trees and takes them all up to the highest point of the nearby mountains to dump them off.

As he is up on the mountain he listens for the sounds of crying and disappointment to come up from the valley below – but instead of crying he hears the sound of merriment and joy.  Somehow they were still happy.  If I pick up the story there, this is the narrator speaking at that point…

What he saw was a shocking surprise!
Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small,
Was singing! Without any presents at all!
He HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming!  IT CAME!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!

And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so?
It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
“It came without packages, boxes or bags!”
And he puzzled three hours, `till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
“Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

To me, that is the whole purpose of this Advent Conspiracy series – to puzzle over the idea that Christmas doesn’t come from a store – that maybe Christmas is a little bit more.

Last week we were encouraged us to think about spending less at Christmas – to not get caught up in the idea that the amount of money we spend on a gift somehow shows our love for the person.   I hope it didn’t come across as trying to put a dampener on Christmas – that Christmas should be only sausages in bread and cheap presents.  It is ok to celebrate Christmas with gifts and a feast and spending money … as long as we realise that Christmas doesn’t come from a store … that Christmas is a little bit more.

Today’s theme is on giving more – which seems a little ironic since last week I preached on spending less, now I am encouraging you to give more.  But if I could be more specific, today I want to preach on giving more of ourselves at Christmas.  One of the most amazing aspects of Christmas for me is the idea of the incarnation – that God out of his love for us, gave himself at Christmas.  Jesus came to us, and stayed with us at Christmas.

So it’s no wonder that we’re drawn to the idea that Christmas should be a time to be with the people that we love and that we show our love in the most memorable ways possible.  That is why we want to give great gifts, to show how much the other person means to us, to say thank you, to say I love you in the gift.   The trap is that the commercialised world wants to say that we need to do this by buying that new Xbox, or that $3000 diamond necklace, or that new hi-tech gadget.

I want to say that the most precious gift that we can give cannot be found in a shop.  Let’s go back to our bible reading for a moment.  We all know this bible reading:

  • While shepherds washed their socks, Angels arrive
  • Good news to all – a saviour has been born
  • Rush off to Bethlehem and see this child

Now I have read kids story books of the first Christmas which adds extra dialogue in there.  One I remember, the shepherds arrive at the stable and wonder what gifts they can give to the Christ-child – so one gives a staff, and another a newborn baby lamb, etc.  I remember reading this and thinking, “Why do you have to give anything at all?  Does Jesus request a gift?” The same with the little drummer boy.  ” I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum”  Wouldn’t Jesus just be happy that they are there?  Go back to the biblical text.  The shepherds did not bring gifts … they just brought themselves and saw the Christ-child.

We spoke earlier about Christmas movies … one of Marion’s favourite Christmas movies (actually I think it is her all-time favourite movie) is “Love Actually”.  Every Christmas we sit down together and watch it.  One of the many story lines in the movie is of a young boy (Sam) who has fallen in love with the coolest girl in the school (Joanna) and comes up with this amazing plan that if he learns the drums, gets into the Christmas band, and then plays when she sings her solo at the Christmas concert then she will fall in love with him and they will live happily ever after. Have we got time to show a 3 minute clip from “Love Actually”?

All I want for Christmas – Clip

Great clip but I just want to go back to the words that she was singing.  Did you catch those?

I don’t want a lot for Christmas

There’s just one thing I need

I don’t care about the presents

Underneath the Christmas tree

I just want you for my own

More than you could ever know

Make my wish come true

All I want for Christmas is… You

Take the tacky romantic stuff out of the song and I think it sums up the relational gift giving that Christmas should be about.  For most people, when it comes to gifts, they don’t care as much about the gift as they care about the person who is giving it.

Therefore our goal when it comes to giving gifts at Christmas should be that they are personal, that the gift includes a part of us.  After all isn’t that the story of Christmas.  God the Father knew what the world desperately needed – we needed to be saved from the mess that we were in, we needed forgiveness, grace, mercy.  Now God could have sent us what we needed from afar (airmailed it in) but instead God made the decision to come close to us.  Jesus, the son of God, who in very essence was God, came to us as our saviour.  Now that is personal and our goal in gift giving should also be personal.

Our goal when we are buying a gift is that the gift should actually bring us closer to the person we are giving it too.  Note that this means that we may need to be intentional about our gifts and it may take more time.

Time is probably the greatest personal gift that we can give.  It is easy to give a soccer ball to a kid, but imagine the impact when you promise to go down to the park and kick it with them.  Imagine giving a tea set to your little niece or grandchild with the instructions in the card that you want to be the first person to attend her tea party.

I read a great idea when researching this.  An adult son gave his father a jar of coffee to his dad for Christmas.  The father thinks “Nice – a jar of good coffee” … but then the son adds, “Dad – the deal with that coffee is that only you and I can drink the coffee in the jar and only when we are together.  Dad, over the time it takes to drink through this jar, I want to hear your voice in my life again.   I want to hear your stories, your insights, your guidance.  I want us to grow closer again.”  What do you think that does to the father?  One is a gift of coffee, but then it becomes personal, significant, something to treasure.

There is a story out of Africa about a boy in his early teens who gave his mother a special shell for Christmas.  As he lived inland, the boy had to walk several days to get the shell.  His mother said that he shouldn’t have walked that far.  “But mother,” the boy replied, “don’t you understand, the long walk was part of the gift.”

I heard another story from the US about a pastor and his family last Christmas.  It was Christmas morning and during one point of the present opening, the pastor was mucking around with his kids up one end of the room as his wife, whose family lived out of state, was opening a present sent by her mother.  As he mucked around he noticed his wife was crying.  The crying turned into gentle sobbing.  He wasn’t sure want to do.  Christmas is supposed to be a joyous time.

After some time the wife showed them the present.  It was a small pillow made of from the ties that her father used to wear.  Her father had died earlier in the year and her mother wanted to give something that the daughter could remember him by.  The pastor’s wife was so moved, not only by the gift, but as she said, “When I held the pillow, I could still smell my father.  It was more than a pillow, my mother gave me a small part of my father to me.”

When I hear about gifts like the ones in these stories, they move me.  I really resonate with them because they remind me of the generosity of God, of the way that God gives to us at Christmas.  God gave of himself to us at Christmas.  We should also give more of ourselves to others at Christmas.

I encourage you this Christmas – when it comes to giving gifts, take some time to think about how you can give of yourself.  Take some time to write a letter. Take some time to take the kids to the park. Take some time to bake really good biscuits and give them to your neighbour.

Take some time to make love visible through relational giving. If you need more ideas, google it – there are plenty of other ideas for giving relationally.  But please note that this isn’t about creating a bunch of new rules to be legalistic about for Christmas.  Don’t create a whole separate set of pressure, worry and guilt by feeling like you have to spend less and give relationally.  All I am asking is for you to think about it.

One last thing – I have talked about the idea of giving of ourselves to our loved ones this Christmas, but there is one other person whom we should also give relationally too.  I mentioned before that in our bible reading, the shepherds response to the good news of Christmas was to go and see Jesus.  What did they give to Jesus … themselves.  I believe that Jesus is asking the same of us this Christmas.  That in the midst of the celebration and the gift giving and the good that we also take some time to give of ourselves to Jesus, to also come to the manger and spend time with the saviour.  The song I put up before … what would it means for us to imagine Jesus saying these words to us this Christmas?

I don’t want a lot for Christmas

There’s just one thing I need

I don’t care about the presents

Underneath the Christmas tree

I just want you for my own

More than you could ever know

Make my wish come true

All I want for Christmas is… You