Rev. George Miller
“Gifts of God”
Jan 6, 2013
Every year we gather and celebrate Christmas the best we know how. We send and receive more then enough cards.
We decorate our trees with more then enough decorations.
We gather to eat more then enough cakes, cookies at more then enough Christmas feasts.
We sing more then enough Carols. Holy songs like “O Come let Us Adore Him”, silly songs like “Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer.”
Then there is the one song we all seem to collectively like and dislike at the same time: “The 12 Days of Christmas.”
Sure, it starts pleasant enough: “On the 1st day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree.”
Then on and on it goes: two turtle doves, three French hens, four calling birds.
Could you imagine being the one who has to clean up all that mess?
It continues: five gold rings, six of this, seven of that, eight of another, and so on.
Do you realize that if we added everything up it comes to a collected total of
12 Lords a leaping
22 ladies dancing
30 pipers piping
40 maids a milking
43 swans a swimming
42 geese a laying
40 gold rings
36 calling birds
30 french hens
22 turtle doves and
12 partridges in 12 pear trees???
Too much stuff. Where is someone supposed to put all that stuff?
Not to mention all that leaping, dancing, and swimming going on. Enough to make one dizzy!
Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and it is also a time of gifts. Of giving, receiving and sharing gifts.
Today is Epiphany. The day the wise men came from the east bearing gifts, following a star until it leads them to where baby Jesus rests.
It was not the religious scholars of Israel or the scribes of the Temple, but pagan foreigners who came from far away bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Sometimes it takes those on the outside to appreciate what God is doing on the inside.
It’s interesting that in Matthew’s gospel the next time we see Jesus being offered a gift is when he is tempted by Satan.
As we are told in Matthew 3, when Jesus grows into an adult he is led into the wilderness for 40 days.
There the devil tempts him. Jesus is told by that he will be given all the kingdoms of the world if he falls down to worship Satan.
Of course, Jesus declines this kind of devilish gift.
Matthew’s Gospel then ends with a different kind of gift giving. The resurrected Christ meets with the disciples and tells them
“All of heaven and earth’s authority has been given to me. So go and make disciples of all people. Teach them to obey what I have taught you and remember: I will be with you always, until the end of time.”
Christ has been given authority by God and in turn Christ gives authority to the disciples.
So in essence, Matthew’s gospel begins with people traveling across the world to bring Jesus gifts and ends with the resurrected Christ commanding his followers to share his gifts with the world…
You may not know this, but Matthew literally means “Gift of God.”
Read it with this viewpoint and you’ll discover the ways in which Matthew’s gospel is about the giving, receiving and sharing of gifts, and not just the kind that come in a pear tree or a treasure chest.
But gifts of life, gifts of mercy, and gifts of “enough.”
Throughout Matthew we witness Jesus giving people the gift of healing and wholeness in spite of their illnesses.
He gives people the gift of new life. He gives them comfort. He gives them forgiveness.
He gives the disciples the ability to cast out demons. He gives them the gift of wisdom in regards to heaven’s secrets.
When it comes to those who are hungry, Jesus gives them bread, he gives them meat, and he gives them drink.
He gives them himself.
And yet…we don’t really hear that much about other people giving back, do we?
Yes, there is the woman with the alabaster jar who anoints is head.
But outside of her and the magi, we don’t really hear about Jesus receiving anything, at least not the good kind of gifts.
In fact, more often then not, what Jesus receives is a perversion of gifts.
What does Judas give Jesus? A kiss that betrays him.
What do the people give Jesus when they have the chance to grant him freedom? Angry voices that yell instead “Crucify him!”
What do the soldiers give Jesus on the last day of his life? A scarlet robe and a crown of twisted thorns.
It’s a shame because God is the Original and Ultimate Gift Giver.
We witness this through the Holy Scriptures. God gives us the gifts of Creation.
God gives us the gifts of covenant and commandments.
God gives us the gift of land, good land flowing with milk and honey.
We even hear how God gives to the animals and birds streams and trees and mountains to thrive and survive.
Less then 2 weeks ago we traveled to Bethlehem to experience the gift God gave us of Immanuel.
How do we respond?
Should it be like Judas or the crowds or the soldiers in the shadow of the cross?
Or should it be like the magi in the glow of the manger?
…It has been the season of gifts. Gifts to our family, gifts to our friends, gifts to our mailman and beautician.
What about our gifts to God?
I’m not talking about our material gifts. I’m not talking about gifts that require reaching into our pocketbook or pulling out our wallet.
What about the gifts the prophet Micah called us to do? To do justice, love mercy and to walk humbly with the Lord?
What about the gift we saw Jesus give again and again? The ability to believe we have enough and to break bread and to feed those who are hungry, those who are feeling broken or without?
What about the gifts we all naturally possess? I’m talking about the spiritual gifts we have been given at birth.
For those who have been given the gift of singing, to sing.
Those who have been given the gift to fix and create, to create and to fix.
Those who have the gift to teach to teach.
Those who have the gift to inspire and cheer, to cheer and inspire.
Those who have the gift to pray, to pray.
Not everyone has an alabaster jar filled with expensive ointment or treasure chests filled with gold, frankincense and myrrh.
But we all do have our own wellspring of gifts, right here (point to head)…and here (point to heart)…and here (hold out hands).
Our gift to God can be the sharing of our gifts with God, for God, for all people, no matter who they are or where they are on life’s journey.
In conclusion, the Christmas season comes to its official conclusion today. But it does not mean the spirit of Christmas has to.
As wise men traveled to Jesus bearing gifts, we can too. And we get to leave bearing greater gifts, ready to share them with all.
What are the gifts you are ready to share with God this year?
Will you trust that your gifts, whatever they may be, are “enough”?
Amen and amen.