“A Christmas Gift Card”
A Christmas Gift Card
Christmas Day 2016
What should a Christmas sermon be? Over the years, I’ve answered that question in a variety of ways (25 of them!), and I’ve heard a lot of Christmas Sermons before I was a pastor. But I must say I haven’t always been satisfied with the sermons these various answers produced. There was the time I heard a sermon this time of year where the pastor got up and said the Bible was in error. You won’t be hearing THAT today.
A thought we pastors have this time of year is that a Christmas sermon should itself be a gift. But then, again, that’s not quite right either. As good as the good news proclaimed this morning must be, the sermon should not give you the impression that this is it, that this sermon is the whole gift of Christmas, that this is all you’re going to get this year.
What, then, should the sermon be? Well, it occurred to me that a Christmas sermon should be a gift card! No, not the cards we get from scrip or a hundred dollar gift card from the Mahogany which this pastor like receiving, but the actual little card that comes on a gift and tells you who’s giving and who’s to receive the gift. That’s it! A “gift card.” But gift cards do more than that, don’t they? At our house, I like to put little clues on those cards to give a hint what it is and why it was given.
That’s what this sermon is going to be. Here it is: Here Is a Christmas Gift Card for You. Merry Christmas!
I know you think you get the same thing from God every year, but I want you to know that a lot of thought has gone into the gift that you are again receiving, that it’s not nearly as tired and trite and thoughtless as you might be tempted to think. On the contrary. The selection of this gift for you began when there was no “when” yet, in a time before time:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (v 1)”
Yes, your gift is a word, but it’s no cliché. It’s the Word before all words. It’s a Word that stood face-to-face with God, a Word that saw eye-to-eye with God, a Word Himself God.
“How can a word be a gift?” you ask.
“What gift,” I ask you in return, “is not a word? What gift is not an expression, a solid, three-dimensional something given to you out of love or admiration or hope or joy? Why do all the advertisers say, ‘Give the gift that says . . . ,’ if gifts are not, more than anything else, words? Right? The Giver of every good and perfect gift knows how to choose, how to choose for you.”
Please pay close attention so you’ll know what it is you’re receiving in this gift. If you had within your grasp the thing, the talent, the power through which all things came into being, the Aladdin’s lamp of all Aladdin’s lamps, the goldenest goose in the universe, a magic wand of wonder, if you could simply speak into being anything you could imagine as being, what would you make, what would you give to the person you love the most? What would then be for you the perfect gift?
In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (vv 4–5)
I’m not trying to confuse with riddles. Well, maybe a little. How can a word be life and light? How can one gift be all three?
Have just a little more patience, and you’ll see!
The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. (vv 9–11)
You’ll have noticed by now that this present we are given does not come with a “gift receipt.” Sadly, there have been those to whom this same gift has been given who then refused to accept it. But there’s no possibility of return here, even less of exchange. This gift is for all, just as it is for you, specially chosen for you. To paraphrase a very wise man: It’s not that many who’ve opened the gift have then been disappointed in it; rather, being disappointed that this was all they should be receiving, they left it unopened. (G. K. Chesterton)
Unopened. Unrecognized. Unknown. Unwelcomed. Unloved. Unimaginable tragedy! Please, please, finish hearing this card and then take the time to open this gift carefully. Take the time to get to know all that this gift contains, all that it brings to you. Please don’t set it aside with a quick and heartless “It’s just what I’ve always wanted.” Please don’t tuck it away in some corner of the closet still in its wrappings. Please open it now, and see what it can do.
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. . . . For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (vv 12–14, 16–18)
Am I showing tactless poor taste if I include reviews of the gift you’ve yet to open? I hope it won’t diminish either your anticipation or your joy if I tell you here that those who’ve received this gift have found in it no less than a new life for themselves, a new birth, if you will.
My gift card has a lot on it, and I fear I’ve already said too much, already given it away. I hope, though, that, filled with the true and Holy Spirit of Christmas, you aren’t thinking, “I knew it. It’s what I get every year!” Rather, I hope your fingers are twitching with excitement as you say to yourself, “Yes! It’s the only gift I ever want, and it’s my gift again this year!”
So enough. Set the card aside and open the gift again, but know it as never before! Receive gift upon gift from the fullness of God Himself. Grace and truth, life and light, all that and more is yours in the gift your Father has prepared and given, before time, for all time, for this year and every moment! And this gift has a name, and His name is Jesus Christ. He who has been since the beginning, who died on the cross for you and rose from the dead, is with you now and forever. Hear again and hear truly the gift of this Word in promise and proclamation, in hymn and carol. For you! This day! A Savior! Jesus Christ. Know Him and in Him know your Father, for He alone is the way to know the Father. The gift God gives you is Himself, that we would know His love, forgiveness, and salvation.
What was on your wish list this year? No, not the one you shared with family and friends, not the one you posted on Amazon or Facebook. The one hidden deep within your heart, the one you dared not show a soul, the one you barely dared peek at yourself. What was on that list? Hope? It’s here. The joy you lost so many years ago? It’s here. Freedom from care and worry and doubt and drudgery and hopelessness and emptiness? It’s here. New birth? The chance to start over from the beginning? A life that will have meaning and purpose? A new life that will know no end? It’s here. It’s all here in this Word that comes from the Father, filled with grace and truth. It’s here in the Word that is this Christmas feast already prepared and waiting for you to come, take, eat, and drink. It’s in the Word that fills the hearts of the brothers and sisters who surround you here and in the hearts of the loved ones who will gather around tree and table, by firelight and candlelight, singing and praying, laughing and playing, to celebrate this gift with you today and in the days to come. It’s here in the Word that the darkness can never master. It’s here in the Word that never fails. Enjoy this gift forever! (Literally.)