Roger's Postings

Friday, December 18, 2009

Hebrews 10:5-10 The greatest Christmas gift from God 20/12/09

(5) Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; {6} with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. {7} Then I said, 'Here I am--it is written about me in the scroll-- I have come to do your will, O God.'" {8} First he said, "Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them" (although the law required them to be made). {9} Then he said, "Here I am, I have come to do your will." He sets aside the first to establish the second. {10} And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Our reading here reminds us that Christmas is a time of giving. But can we forget this fact? If you are like us, most of the time, you have not yet finished buying you’re your gifts, and you are already counting the costs. So probably, you won't forget Christmas for some months to come. But then there are the TV adds which are still constantly trying to entice us to buy this or that gift: not to mention all the junk mail that comes our way at this time of the year. And for those of you with young children, I am sure you have noticed the rising excitement as they look forward to Christmas and to the gifts they will be receiving. So there is no way that we can forget Christmas is a time of giving and receiving of presents: that is Christmas in these days.

However, unfortunately for many, in the midst of all of this hype, rush and tear we can often forget the reason for this giving and receiving. Too often, it has become simply a nice tradition, perpetuated by big business for profit: Too often, we say to our children, if you are good Santa will bring you a present. Or else we think along the lines, so and so had given me this gift last year so I have to match it this time around. And I could go on with ways that we have filled Christmas with all sorts of rubbish thinking. In all the rush, tear and excitement we have forgotten the real reason for giving: we have forgotten the most important gift of all; and in so doing we have lost so much.

The story goes of one such family who had got so caught up with it all, and who lost out badly one Christmas. Dad was handed a tiny little, flat, plainly wrapped parcel and told that it was very important: he was to place it under the tree and before any other parcel was opened, they should open this one: it is very special, and it was important for their whole future. Well dad took that little insignificant looking parcel and placed it under the tree with all the other gifts; and when it came time for unwrapping the gifts, dad and mum full of thoughts of all the rush and tear; the drinks and nibbles for everyone; not to mention the excitement of the young ones. The kids grabbed the parcels to give them out, and naturally, first, went for all the biggest and best looking presents and started handing them out; and that little present and the instructions got lost under all the wrapping paper and excitement.

As a result it was only much later when mum starting cleaning up the room, that she came across that little, plainly wrapped parcel. She called dad and everyone back together and they took the dull wrapping paper off, and there was a little note which read, 'Go open the front door.' They did, but there was nothing or no-one there. What a strange and stupid gift.

However you see, Uncle John had given up standing there for over two hours; he was going to give them a significant portion of his vast wealth, but when they didn't open the door he went and gave it all to a needy charity.

And you know what? Far too often, every year that same mistake is made, over and over again: there is one gift that is left unwrapped: one guest that is continually ignored. He is left out, or given little attention in all the rush and excitement of Christmas, and that home misses out on so much. And oh, what a tragedy it is for them.

Here, be sure this Christmas, that this same gift will go to nearly every person and every home, wrapped in many a Christmas card or carol: a little note there for all, reminding them and us of a very precious gift; one that seeks to very much be a part of our Christmas, but also to give our hearts and lives that which we really need and want.

No matter who we are, this gift is the greatest and most important one that we could ever receive; and part of its greatness is that it comes in the ordinary, everyday things of life: it is not a gift that is beyond any one us or is too insignificant either. This gift comes wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a stable feed trough. It is God come as an ordinary human being; and came this way so that he could reach each and every person. This baby Jesus, and his everyday life; his suffering and death in particular, is the greatness gift that could ever be given to us. Even today, he comes to us in an ordinary book [the Bible], the simple waters of baptism, and the bread and wine of Holy Communion. He comes in this ordinary way so that he can reach all of us and meet our real needs, no matter what our situation in life may be.

Now there is also another great thing about this gift that comes to us this Christmas. This gift fulfils God's will for us: it gives to us everything that God expects of us. Jesus in his life, lived out what God had commanded from each and every one of us. Yet despite that, or on top of that, he suffered what we suffer and more, he was tempted in every way as we are tempted, and yet did not sin. Then in his death, he took the punishment that should be ours for our failure and our rebellion against God, so that now God may look on us as forgiven people. Then three days after his death he was raised again so that we can be sure that there is life and salvation for us all in our connection with Jesus Christ.

Now in his Scriptures, he tells us what he wants us to know of him and what he has done for us and how he would have us live. In our baptism he assures each one of us specifically that he forgives us and adopts us into his family; and in Holy Communion he reassures us again and again that he died for us so that we can be sure that we have forgiveness of sins, life and salvation: that he willingly gave himself as a gift to us so that we could be forgiven and restored back into a living relationship with himself.

There, we are reminded of the greatest aspect of this gift: it takes away all our sins and makes us acceptable to God. Through Jesus and his death and resurrection, all that is wrong, bad and evil about our lives, is forgiven. So now, when God looks at all of those who believe this – who trust in Jesus Christ - he sees nothing but the perfection of his Son. Through faith in this gift that comes again this Christmas, we are assured of the greatest inheritance we could ever wish for. In receiving this gift and allowing it to be a part of our life, includes us in the family of God which stretches right into all eternity.

And this is just a part of what this Christmas gift means for us. All of this and more is what makes Christmas truly Christmas; and is the reason for all of the other giving that we do at Christmas time. This surely is the greatest gift we could ever wish for, or hope to get. It is more than we could ever think is possible. Yet it is just this gift that God sends and offers to us all - with no exclusions: no one is too good to need this gift - and no one is too bad.

Unfortunately, however, so often this gift is overlooked and ignore - taken for granted. Too often ,we become preoccupied with other things and so give little thought to that which is important. How often don't we read our Christmas cards, and see who it is from and the personal details, but not even glance at the Christmas message that is in the card: we sing the carols but not even think of the words we are singing?

As a result, we fail to see God's love that has come to us in very ordinary and plain ways, and we fail to see it as the precious gift that it is. The gift is there, but it is left wrapped, hidden from our busy minds: ignored in favour of more immediate and tangible pleasures, and the things that have to be done. Even when we do receive this great gift, so often we don't give it the importance it deserves: we try to fit this guest Jesus in when and where it suites us, instead of giving him the pride of place in our hearts and lives; or else we try to use him to allow us to do as we want and please, instead of looking up to and focussing our hearts and lives on him, and then living in a way that brings glory and honour to him and to his kingdom.

So in light of all of this, and particularly keeping in mind the greatness of this gift, let us not this Christmas and beyond ignore and give little thought to this one who is so important. Let us receive this gift, recognising its true value and giving it the place it deserves in our hearts and lives. And in so doing our lives will be filled with a joy and contentment that is truly unbelievable to all, but those who receive and share that gift. Even in the remainder of our lives with all of its hassles and difficulties, we will have a peace and an underlying happiness that is way beyond what is humanly understandable. That gift there, in the baby in the manger, great in his ordinariness, is coming to you again this Christmas. So may you all be truly blessed by this gift and his presence in your hearts and lives this Christmas and beyond. AMEN.

Pastor Roger Atze
Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish

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