Discover Christmas #4
This time of year we’re all searching for the perfect gift aren’t we? We want Christmas to be special for the people we know and love. We want it to be memorable. Often times though we’re like a comic I saw this week in the theological section of the paper. In the Pearls Before Swine comic strip: Pig and Rat are talking and Pig says: “Look, Rat . I’m counting down the days to Christmas with my new homemade calendar. You open a prize box for each day that passes. It’s called and Advil calendar.”
Rat simply says: “Advent.”
Then Pig says: “Now I feel bad for filling the prize boxes with pain reliever.”
To be honest, sometimes during the Advent season I wish I had an Advil Calendar. We get so busy it makes our heads spin. This party, that program. What do I get for him? What does she like? What do I get the grandkids who have everything? Sometimes at the end of the day we just drop and we need that Advil. All of this just to find the perfect gift.
When the truth is, the most Perfect Gift has already been given to us.
I. THE PERFECT GIFT:
A. The small mountain church was crowded with parents and grandparents. Toddlers wandered in the aisles and around the platform. One of the preschool groups was presenting their version of the Christmas pageant. They were using the baby brother of one of the students as the baby Jesus.
As the angels appeared to the shepherds, one little angel lingered behind, near the manger. She was simply fascinated by the baby. As a toddler wandered up to the front of the church, the little angel said to her, “Look! It’s a real baby.” (1)
Sometimes the simple fact of Christmas takes us by surprise. You see, this Prefect Gift which God gave us, this gift of the Christ Child, this gift of Salvation and Redemption which comes wrapped In Swaddling Clothes, is a gift we can actually hold onto. You know the story, it’s found in
Luke 2:1-7 (NRSV)
 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered.
 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.
 All went to their own towns to be registered.
 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.
 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.
 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child.
 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
B. This gift, The Right Gift, The Perfect Gift which God has Chosen for us and sent wrapped in swaddling clothes, is a gift of hope. A gift from heaven reminding us, in part, that “We are NOT Alone.”
And in a world filled with loneliness and despair, fueled by abject poverty, hunger and disease, the terrorist threat of attack and war, we need to hear that “We Are NOT Alone.” God wants us to remember and know that there IS Hope. There is Forgiveness. There is Grace. There is Redemption. And it all comes through this Perfect Gift which God has Chosen for us. This gift which allows and affirms without a shadow of a doubt that we ARE the Children of God.
Our job is not only to accept this gift, but to make sure that this Perfect Gift God has chosen for us doesn’t get buried in all the wrapping paper and trappings of Christmas. Our job is to make sure that this child is born in our hearts and not just in our memories. Because it’s only when Christ is born in our hearts that we can begin to fulfill God’s purpose for us. And that purpose is to bring Good News. To be Disciples who “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
And when we allow the Perfect Gift of the Christ Child to live in our hearts, it changes everything.
II. TWO BABIES:
A. In 1994, two Americans answered an invitation from the Russian Department of Education to teach morals and ethics (based on biblical principles) in the public schools. They were invited to teach at prisons, businesses, the fire and police departments and a large orphanage. About 100 boys and girls who had been abandoned, abused, and left in the care of a government-run program were in the orphanage. This is the story they tell about that experience.
It was nearing Christmas and time for the orphans to hear, for the first time, the traditional story of Christmas. They told them about Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem. Finding no room in the inn, the couple went to a stable, where the baby Jesus was born and placed in a manger. Throughout the story, the children and orphanage staff sat in amazement as they listened. Some sat on the edges of their stools, trying to grasp every word.
When they were finished telling the story, the couple gave the children three small pieces of cardboard to make a crude manger. Each child was given a small paper square, cut from yellow napkins the woman had brought with me because there was no colored paper available in the city.
The children tore the paper and carefully laid strips in the manger for straw. Small squares of flannel, cut from a worn-out nightgown an American lady had thrown away as she left Russia, were used for the baby’s blanket. A doll-like baby was cut from tan felt which had brought from the United States.
The orphans were busy assembling their mangers as the couple walked around to see if they needed any help. All went well until they got to one table where little Misha sat. He looked to be about six years old and had finished his project. As they looked at the little boy’s manger, they were startled to see not one, but two babies in the manger.
Quickly, they called for the translator and asked the boy why there were two babies in the manger. Crossing his arms in front of him and looking at his completed manger scene, the Misha began to repeat the story very seriously.
For such a young boy, who’d only heard the Christmas story once, he related the happenings accurately until he came to the part where Mary put the baby Jesus in the manger. Then Misha started to ad-lib. He made up his own ending to the story. This is what he said,
“And when Maria laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told him I have no mamma and I have no papa, so I don’t have any place to stay. Then Jesus told me I could stay with him. But I told him I couldn’t, because I didn’t have a gift to give him like everybody else did.
“But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so I thought about what I had that maybe I could use for a gift. I thought maybe if I kept him warm, that would be a good gift.
So I asked Jesus, “If I keep you warm, will that be a good enough gift?” And Jesus told me, “If you keep me warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave me.” So I got into the manger, and then Jesus looked at me and he told me I could stay with him, for always.”
As little Misha finished his story, his eyes brimmed full of tears that splashed down his little cheeks. Putting his hand over his face, his head dropped to the table and his shoulders shook as he sobbed and sobbed. That afternoon, that little orphan, with no mamma, no papa and no real home, found someone who would never abandon nor abuse him, someone who would stay with him and love him, for always and always. (2)
That’s why Jesus came. It’s not about us. It’s not about finding the Perfect Gift for everybody in our family. It’s not about getting the Perfect Gift. It’s about the Perfect Gift which has already been given, the Perfect Gift which started this whole celebration.
The Perfect Gift which, when opened, once again fills us with Hope, Joy, Peace and Love. The Perfect Gift which allows us, begs us, enables us to see the whole world in a different light. The Perfect gift which came wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.
B. Not only is this gift the Perfect Gift, it is the Most Important Gift. Watch This
Years ago a young man was riding a bus from Chicago to Miami. He’d a stop-over in Atlanta. While he was sitting at the lunch counter, a woman came out of the ladies’ rest room carrying a tiny baby. She walked up to this man and asked, “Would you hold my baby for me, I left my purse in the rest room.” He did. But as the woman neared the front door of the bus station, she darted out into the crowded street and was immediately lost in the crowd.
This guy couldn’t believe his eyes. He rushed to the door to call the woman, but couldn’t see her anywhere. Now what should he do? Put the baby down and run?
When calmness finally settled in he went to the Traveler’s Aid booth and together with the local police, they soon found the real mother. You see, the woman who’d left him holding the baby wasn’t the baby’s real mother. She’d taken the child. Maybe it was to satisfy some motherly urge to hold a child or something else. No one really knows. But we do know that this man, breathed a sigh of relief when the real mother was found. After all, what was he going to do with a baby?
In a way, we’re all in the same sort of situation as this young man. Every Christmas God Himself walks up to us and asks, “Would you hold my baby for me, please?” And then thrusts the Christ Child into our arms. (3)
And we’re left with the question, “What are we going to do with this baby?” If we look at Scripture we find all kinds of titles and names for this baby we hold in our arms. Emmanuel, “God with us;” Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Christ the King, Jesus the Christ, Son of God, Son of Man, Savior.
But the question is still very important because this child whose birth we celebrate is the Most Important Gift we will ever receive. And it is the Perfect Gift.
So, “What ARE you going to do with this baby?”
Where will He live after Christmas? Will there still be room in your heart? What will you do with this Most Important, Perfect Gift from God?
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. Parables, Etc. (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), December 2000
2. Dan & Barb Stephens, Fort Collins, Colorado
3. King Duncan, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com