Offer Christmas Hope – Sermon for Sunday, December 18


 

Need I remind you that we only have one more week to shop before Christmas? We are now entering into desperation time for gift buying. The longer we wait, the more difficult it is to choose the best gifts for our family and friends.

Well, I’m here to offer a little advice on what you definitely should NOT get for those special people in your life no matter how desperate you may be. So here are some gifts you’ll want to avoid.

Do not buy that diet cookbook for that special person in your life. Chances are they will take it the wrong way.

Speaking of diet books, also, stay away from this item even though it is a very practical gift.

I know this next item is in the bin that is marked half off, but don’t get this either.

Most people do not have the same affinity toward Dr. Quinn, the Medicine Woman as you once did. Besides my wife, did I offend anybody by including this as a bad gift?

Speaking of series, you might be tempted to buy a bunch of “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books. 

I didn’t realize that there is a Chicken Soup for the Nascar Soul.

Something for everybody, I guess.

This next gift might seem like the perfect gift for that person who is a multi-tasker, but I would recommend against it.

I know that having a dream griddle alarm clock might be nice for working spouses with children, but this product has not been endorsed by the fire department.

I think this next gift is sending the wrong message. My First Tattoo Gun. I just think that’s too early for a toddler to receive something like this.

I know that some gifts might seem practical like this next one, but it is just really weird.

There are better ways to have a nice goatee.

The movie “A Christmas Story” has taught us to never give this outfit to a child as a Christmas present.

Bunny suits are not cool and they never were cool.

If you are buying a gift for a mother who has a little baby, you might be tempted to buy this sweater for her, but please don’t do it.

I have not personally seen anyone wearing one of these sweaters and I hope I never do.

Speaking of sweaters, this gift is meant for an entire family! 

Actually, ugly Christmas sweaters are really in now, so this could be a good gift to buy.  Which leads me to the final gift idea.

I hesitate to include this possible Christmas gift as a bad choice because personally, I think that this is actually a really, really awesome gift.

I mean, who wouldn’t want a bacon wallet? This would actually be a nice Christmas present. Who doesn’t like bacon?

Finding that perfect Christmas gift is not always easy but when you do, it makes all the difference in the world.

Since it can be really difficult to find just the right gift and it can be so easy to waste our money on weird and strange Christmas gifts that people don’t really need, what if we reclaim the true meaning of Christmas. What if this year, we remember that Christmas isn’t about our birthday, it’s about Jesus’ birthday?

If Christmas is about Jesus’ birthday, then that means we don’t need to get caught up in the materialistic trappings of the holiday. Reclaiming Christmas means that we give our very best gifts to Jesus, instead.

I can’t think of anything more satisfying or fulfilling than knowing that this Christmas, our church has the opportunity through our special Christmas missions offering to help build a Habitat for Humanity home in nearby Amesville. That would be an incredible gift for our church to give to Jesus for his birthday this year.

I have a feeling that offering hope to a local family in need of housing will give us a lot more satisfaction than any bacon wallet or Dream Griddle Alarm Clock could ever do! Are you looking for the perfect Christmas present this year? Look no further. Reclaim Christmas! Give Jesus a birthday present that will make a difference for this family.

How do we know that this is what Jesus wants for Christmas? We know that Jesus would like something like this because this is why Jesus came to our world in the first place. Jesus came not just so that we can go to heaven when we die. Jesus came so that this world would be made new again. How ironic that our gift to Jesus this Christmas will be a home for a needy family when his own family at his birth was told that there was no room in the inn!

God sent Jesus into the world because he loves this world, especially people who are struggling and unable to find affordable housing and the basic necessities of life. That’s why one of the most recognizable verses in the entire bible is John 3:16.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whosoever should believe in him should not perish but have everlasting life. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

Jesus spent his whole ministry in living out this mission. He healed people. He fed people. He served people. But he didn’t do this all by himself. He called people to follow him and together, they offered God’s healing love to everyone around them.

I love the story of when Jesus was teaching a great crowd of people, over five thousand. The people were in the middle of nowhere and they were going to need something to eat. The disciples wanted Jesus to send them away, but Jesus told them to feed them. They had no idea how Jesus expected them to feed so many people.

They told him that they only had five loaves and a couple of fish. By pointing this out, they were trying to make it obvious to Jesus that this wouldn’t be enough food to feed so many. Maybe that amount of food could feed ten or so people but not a hundred people, let alone five thousand people.

Jesus told them, “That will work, just fine.” He then was able to multiply that little bit of food and everyone was able to eat and they even had some leftovers! Jesus was teaching the disciples that God can do great things when we offer to God what we already have. Jesus invites you and me to continue to live out his mission of bringing transformation to our world.

I remember conducting a funeral at my previous church. We asked the family for a meal count and our food team prepared enough food for that number that was given to us.

The person who had died had a close association with the high school football team so the whole football team came to that funeral service. We had the right count for the meal, even counting in all the football players. What we forgot to do was to factor in the appetites of those football players!

I started to panic because I didn’t think we would have enough food to feed everybody after the service. After the service, I quickly ran down the hallway to the church kitchen and I told them of my concern.  I’ll never forget this. The person in charge of our food ministry calmly looked me in the eyes and said, “Robert, don’t worry about it. It always works out.”

To this day, I still have no idea how we didn’t run out of food. I watched those guys going through the line and I thought to myself, “there’s no way we’re going to have enough.”

We ended up having so much food that even the staff of the funeral home came in to eat and we still had some food leftover. That was our feeding of the five thousand story. God still works miracles today and he invites us to help those miracles become a reality.

This is the story of Christmas. Christmas isn’t just a story about a baby being born in a manger. Christmas is the story of God sending us Jesus so that together, we can provide shelter for those who, like Jesus have been told that there is no room for them.

Mike Slaughter, Pastor of Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church near Dayton writes,

“The resources of heaven do not fall from the sky; they are released through God’s people. God creates miracles through the resources that you and I hold in our hands. Moses’ staff, David’s five smooth stones, the widow’s oil, six water jars at a wedding reception, another widow’s two small coins, and a boy’s lunch comprising five pieces of bread and two small fish – these are the resources that miracles are made of.”

Sometimes people struggle in their faith because they don’t understand how an all powerful and loving God can allow evil to exist in the world. They wonder why God doesn’t do something about it.

The answer to this question is that we are the “something” that God is doing about the pain and suffering in our world. God sent Jesus to be born in this world so that together, God can take our resources and combine them with his power so our world can be made new again.

Whenever the church offers to God the resources we have, God brings about another miracle. We are the evidence that God is real and that miracles happen.

Each year, my brother and I meet in Pittsburgh to go to a Pirates baseball game at PNC Park. My brother has a friend in Pittsburgh and he always has us stay at his house while we’re there.

His name is Patrick and just like his name, he is pure Irish Catholic through and through. His home has all kinds of Irish paraphernalia. Patrick is a living evidence that God still works miracles.

Several years ago, Patrick started a food ministry for the poor in Pittsburgh. They serve an average of 8,000 meals to people in need every year. The name of his ministry is “First Food and Friends.” Their mission is to provide good food, dignity and a sense of kinship to all we serve in a friendly, family-style environment.

Patrick does most of the cooking and he loves to get to know the people that are being served. He has helped people find employment and get on their feet financially. More importantly, he lets people know that the reason he is doing this ministry is because of God’s love for all people.

I asked Patrick how he is able to feed so many people on a shoestring budget. And he said that it’s really not that hard. He said,

“I’ve become friends with a lot of businesses in downtown Pittsburgh. They know about my food ministry downtown. I just stop by, give them some of my donuts and pastries and they make a donation.” He said, “There’s a wealthy businessman who is probably going to make a donation of $50,000.”    

It’s impossible to spend time with Patrick and not be reminded that God continues to work miracles. God and Patrick make a great team of bringing transformation in the city of Pittsburgh.

Christmas is a time of choosing just the right gifts to give to people. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t by that Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman DVD set or that goatee shaver. Somebody might be really blessed by those gifts.

What I’m saying is, this year, let’s reclaim Christmas. Let’s offer to Jesus our very best gifts. You and I can be part of another miracle where our church plays a big part in making it possible for a family to have a new home.

This year, let’s reclaim the true meaning of Christmas and let’s offer Christmas hope!

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