Anybody do their Christmas shopping early this year? 240 days before Christmas. Never too early to start.
It was just before Christmas and the magistrate was in a happy mood. He asked the prisoner who was in the dock, ‘What are you charged with?’
The prisoner replied, ‘Doing my Christmas shopping too early.’
‘That’s no crime’, said the magistrate. ‘Just how early were you doing this shopping?’
‘Before the shop opened’, answered the prisoner.
Well, I shopped early for all of you and it was a tough assignment. I mean, what do you get a church for Christmas? But after giving it some thought and sifting through all the sales I finally settled on three gifts from me to you.
- My first gift to you my congregation is one that is hard to wrap but I managed to stuff it down in this little box. Paul often offered this gift to his congregations. Here it is. (present the box). Doesn’t look like much. But my first gift to you is PEACE. I want each of you to have this. It is an elusive gift. Few people today seem to have it. It wasn’t on the Walmart shelves. I had to look elsewhere for it. Its value is immeasurable. —-*Liz Taylor’s recent auction of her jewels brought in $115 million dollars. (By the way, I didn’t see any of you there. You don’t like jewelry)? But the gift in this little box is beyond the value of trinkets and glitter. This gift can make your life worthwhile and give your life meaning and value. It’s priceless.
If you possess this gift you will adjust better to all of life’s challenges. When life is up you can rely on this gift to help you appreciate your good fortune. When life is down you can turn to this gift for sustenance and stability.
With this gift, you will sleep better at night. (and what would Michael Jackson have paid for that)? With this gift, the anxiousness that tightens your chest at night will lessen. *I read in a magazine yesterday that nearly half of all Americans lie awake at night worrying. This gift will greatly help with this burden. With this gift, your priorities will be adjusted and the less important things of life will flutter to the floor.
*In one of my former churches I used to visit Mrs. Beulah every Thursday. She was 99. She had this gift. If I walked into her home feeling rushed and worried about matters, it left me when I pulled up a chair and sat beside her. Life for Mrs. Beulah was now condensed to the essentials. She was at peace with the world and with herself.
The little things meant everything to her: A new bouquet of roses on the table beside her bed—a picture of her family taken decades earlier—a simple meal, a friend to talk to—the well-worn Bible that she read before she turned off the light each night. With this gift—PEACE—she had mastered the meaning of life.
So, I want to give you PEACE this morning. I want to . . . but I am afraid I can’t. It’s not mine to give. Only Jesus can give this gift. Let me read his words from John 14:27:———
So if you want this gift, you’ll have to see Jesus after the service. But be assured He will be happy to give it to you.
The second gift I want to give you as a congregation appears nowhere on the periodic table of chemical elements. There are 118 elements in the chart. I’ve searched from the number 1 element Hydrogen to the 45th element Rhodium to the 81st element Thallium to the final element # 118 Ununoctium. (Say that five times) My second gift is nowhere on this list. And yet this is so essential to a happy life and a closer walk with God. And so I want to give you this gift—JOY.
With this gift, you can face any of life’s hardships and persecutions. Without this gift, you will find yourself dreading each day. The sunshine won’t cheer you and the singing of morning birds will only depress you. You must have this gift to enjoy life and to soar above the negativity of this world.
*I read a Dear Abbey column the other day. It was all about a teen-ager who had to move to a new school last in her high school years. She said, “Dear Abbey, I am a miserable child. I hated leaving my boyfriend and all the pals I’d had since first grade. I’m in my junior year and should be thinking about the prom and SAT scores. Instead, I’m crying my eyes out. This new school is awful. The kids are creeps. They treat an outsider like a leper. I’ am miserable in this rotten place. I hate you, Mom and Dad, for doing this to me. I will never forgive you as long as I live.” Signed—Boston heartache.
The Dear Abby response was pretty brutal. It’s your crummy attitude that is the problem. Lighten up a little. . . .
What does she lack? This little gift. Joy transcends the gritty issues of life. I love James’ approach to life. He said, Count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” James had this gift.
And Paul sums it up best when he says in Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy. Paul had this gift too.
And so I want each of you, my congregation, to have this gift. However, this is not my gift to give. Only God can give this gift. I have no choice but withdraw it. I do so with profound regrets. However, if you see the Lord after the service, He will be pleased to bestow it upon you freely.
The final gift I would like to offer you this morning is etched permanently in one of the greatest texts in all the Bible. “But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13).
So I offer this gift of LOVE to you this morning with sincere wishes that you take it and find in it the secret to life.—(present gift).
When you possess this gift the world brightens for you. You begin to see the good in people. You hasten to cheer people on rather than cripple them or add to their misery. You love yourself, you love your neighbor, you love your wife or husband, your children, your dog. You love because you have this gift—love. If you have this gift you become a lot easier to live with. You become patient and kind. You prefer not to brag. You are not arrogant. You are not jealous.
This one gift can revolutionize a home, a marriage, a church and a nation.
This gift was demonstrated by Jesus so we would know what it looks like, feels, like acts. Like. So there would be no confusion.
When Jesus saw a woman taken in adultery about to be stoned, He offered her LOVE.
- When Jesus met a scholar by night he offered him this gift.
- When Jesus hung dying on the cross and the world mocked him and spit upon him and laughed at him he offered the world this gift. “Father forgive them, for they just don’t know what they are doing.” That’s love in action.
I want to give you this dynamic gift this morning. But I have a problem I can’t do it. It is not my gift to give. I wish I could. But I can’t. All I can do is ask you to see Jesus after the service. It is His gift to give.
I came with three gifts to give to you as my congregation. I came with Peace, Joy, and Love. I regret to say I can, in reality, give you none of these. But I rejoice in this one fact. I know where to send you. I can send you to Jesus. He has them and will gladly bestow upon you this Christmas if you will but turn to Him in faith.