December 25, 2018

Gifts Given with a Purpose

Christmas Day

Sermon Text:  1 Peter 4:10, Colossians 3:17

We all know what the main thrust of Christmas is for us as Christians.  It is about the birth of our Savior, the one who came to pay for all our sins and bring us into the family of God. That can/will never change. Jesus will always be at the center of the Christmas season. But if you had to pick another word that encapsulates what the holiday is all about, which would you choose?  Maybe you’d say family. Or hectic. Or festive. But be honest. Couldn’t we all use the word gifts?  We spend time finding, buying, wrapping/unwrapping, and wishing for them.  The fact that many days this month I came home for lunch and there was at least one package from Amazon sitting on the doorstep just drives home the point.  This is the season for gifts.

So, what did you get this year?  Maybe you are going to grandma’s this afternoon to open more gifts, but likely all of us have opened a good number of them by now.  So again, what did you get?  I actually want to hear your responses.  And while you’re thinking, let’s break this up.  We’ll go with 3 categories.  1) What is the best gift you got, the one you will enjoy the most?  2) What is the oddest gift you received?  3) What was the most unexpected gift that was given to you?

#1 – The best gift. Don’t get in trouble by ranking one kid’s gift over another, or pick a gift from a friend when your husband clearly spent lots of time finding a gift for you.  But the question stands.  What is the best gift you received? #2 – The oddest gift.  Odd doesn’t necessarily mean bad. Once I got ski googles from my baptismal sponsor but I didn’t ski at the time. Well, they were great when I had to shovel and it was lousy.  It wasn’t bad.  It was just an odd choice for a non-skier. So, what odd gift did you receive? #3 – The unexpected gift.  Maybe your spouse got you a trip to someplace you’ve always wanted to go, or maybe someone you hardly know got you something amazing.  What was the most unexpected gift you received?

Where are we going with this?  We have firmly established that all of us have received gifts, right?  The follow up question is this: how are you going to use those gifts to serve?  We are focusing on 2 verses this morning.  The first is 1 Peter 4:10. “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace.”  Now, understand that Peter is talking about spiritual gifts, things like compassion, patience, kindness – the gifts God gave us when he called us to faith. Now tie the two together. How will we use the physical gifts we’ve been given to put our spiritual gifts in to practice?  How can we use our Christmas gifts to show compassion, to exemplify patience, to model kindness?

It’s odd to think this way, because our mindset is, “It’s my gift, given to me, and I can use it however I want.”  If you were an unbeliever, I’d let that fly.  But you are not an unbeliever.  Because of Christmas and because of Easter and because of your baptism, you are a child of God.  And what expectations come with that?  Look at our second verse - Colossians 3:17. “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” How we live our lives, and how we use the gifts that have been given to us should be an expression of appreciation to God, the one who gave us all our gifts - spiritual and physical. Put more simply, how will we use our gifts to glorify God and serve him and others? Go back to our gift lift. How we can show our faith and use each gift to serve God and others?

You can do this for every gift you get this year. In fact, I gently challenge you to do that. If you have kids, when you get home, grab something from under the tree and have a discussion. Ask them, “How can we use ________  to serve God and others?”  I think you will be pleasantly surprised at their responses.  If you are older, look at your haul of gifts and ask yourself the same question.  Again, I know this goes against normal human thinking. I hope I get a fishing pole this year, so I could easily think, “With this gift I can go fishing, relax, and get away.”  But shouldn’t I, look at it from this perspective? “This allows me to spend more time with the son God gave me who will be heading off to college next Fall.” Or “I could strengthen a Christian relationship with someone I take fishing.”  Or, “I can collect stories that may help me pass on biblical truths to someone who also fishes, helping the spiritual issue hit home a little more.” I know it sounds odd to tie fishing poles and faith matters together. But I received a gift, a gift from God through another person. As a Christian, I’m called to use something as simple as a fishing pole to serve God and others. And as a believer, I have every reason to do this, and in the process, give glory to God. If you do this, with family or alone, once the ball starts rolling, it will be hard to stop it.

One more thing – the why in all this. Why should I focus on using my gifts to serve others?  Why should I focus on giving glory to God?  Even though you know why, I’m still going to say it. You do this because you know the one gift that tops all others – the gift of a Savior.  And what gifts come with that huge gift? Complete forgiveness of all sins. A confident faith that knows and believes God’s Word. A welcome into God’s family through baptism. The peace of a clean conscience because of Jesus’ work.  The assurance that in all things God will work for your good.  The joy of Communion and the strength it gives in your daily walk with God.  And the hope that when the time is right, heaven will indeed be your home.  All these are gifts from God, gifts that give us every reason/motivation to use what we have in thankful service to him and others.

So, if your child says what kids usually say this time of year, that Christmas is all about gifts, now you can agree with her.  You can say, “Yes, it is all about gifts – the best of those being the gift of Jesus.  Now, how are we going to use the other gifts we’ve been given to thank him and give him glory?  How are we going to use those gifts to serve the one who so perfectly serves us?”  Young and old, may God help us all ponder those questions from here on out, and may we in faith come up with answer after answer, opportunity after opportunity.  Amen.