Going Deeper 12/31/18

Please listen again to God speaking to you through these words of St. Paul: Colossians 3… As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.  Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body.  And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  Thus far our text.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
A very common post-Christmas question asked of children—and sometimes of adults—is this: What did you get for Christmas?  That is the first question I am going to ask you to answer this morning: What did you get for Christmas?  And the second question flows from the first: What did you give for Christmas?   
So, first off: What did you get for Christmas?  I’m actually asking that as a rhetorical question, because I know what you got for Christmas.  The gift I have in mind was not ornately wrapped and placed under a tree. You received the same gift I received, the same gift the world received: the gift of God’s Son, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger, a gift which one day would be unwrapped and placed not under a tree, but on a tree.
I hope and pray you contemplated and celebrated this gift of grace this Christmas, that you did not get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season-- the decorating, shopping, wrapping, opening, traveling, cooking, eating, drinking, partying of the season that you simply didn’t have the time or energy to come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ the newborn King.
If you didn’t have the time or energy, I have good news, the very same good news which has echoed throughout two millennia; first spoken by an angel to shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night… "Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger."  This is the gift of truly amazing grace, the gift of God’s Son, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger, a gift which one day would be unwrapped and placed not under a tree, but on a tree.
This is a gift of unconditional love.  And remember… In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:10)  This means that even if we did not take the time or find the energy to contemplate the true meaning of Christmas, the gift is still here for us.  Even if we’ve never taken the time or found the energy, or have never even thought to seek the gift, or if, in the brokenness of our life we have found ourselves lost and wandering in the darkness of sin, remember…  where meek souls will receive Him still the dear Christ enters in.
When this gift of grace, the gift of the son of Mary, the Son of God, who lived an extraordinary life of humble service and love, was arrested, beaten, mocked, scorned, falsely accused and finally unwrapped, and His torn and beaten body nailed to a lifeless tree, this was our gift.
This was the ultimate expression of the infinite love our Abba/Father, willing to sacrifice His own Son.  This was the ultimate expression of the infinite love of our Brother, Jesus, willing to take upon Himself the punishment and to die the death we deserve for our sin, willing to suffer and die for us.  This was, this is, our Christmas gift.  The gift of amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. 
That is what you got, I got, we all got for Christmas.  
So now, “As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved…” what do we give for Christmas?  How about this?  Let’s all—each of us and all of us—wrap up a very special present to give to God?  How does this sound?  In the power of the Holy Spirit of God, let’s wrap, let clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.  That would be a wonderful gift to give to God!  And while we are at it, let’s ask that same Spirit to help us Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven us, so we also must forgive.  How marvelous a gift?!
God’s grace has been described as a gift which keeps on giving.  Even when we fall short in our gift-giving to God in response to His underserved gifts to us, His forgiveness continues to be there for us.  So, let’s all continue to seek to offer ourselves to God, as we wrap ourselves, as we clothe ourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  Love is the ultimate gift wrap!  What the world needs now, is love, sweet love.
And there is another thing the world needs now, a gift this conflicted world has always needed, a gift each of us and all of us have always needed, a gift which follows from the gift of love, and that is the gift of peace.  May the Holy Spirit inspire and enable us to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts, to which indeed we were called in the one body.  And be thankful.  
Oh yes, let us be thankful.  Let us be filled with undying gratitude for the gift of God, the gifts of God.  As we prepare to begin a new year of our Lord, it would be excellent for us to make a very special resolution: a resolution to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly; to teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in our hearts, let us gather together regularly to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. 
And whatever we do, in word or deed, let us seek to do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  Giving thanks for the Gift first wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger, the Gift who would one day be unwrapped and placed on a tree, the Gift who gave all for you and for me.
Merry Christmas, and a happy New Year!
Amen.

 

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