The Best Gift

When I was working this sermon up I originally typed this: “Christmas is a time of giving and receiving” and while that is true in the main most of our Christmas work goes into preparation during Advent.  The parties, the shopping, the baking cookies all happens in Advent.  All the go is Advent and all the show comes on Dec 24 and Dec 25, more or less.  We leave some flexibility for schedules in there – pastors don’t tend to do a whole lot of family get togethers on Christmas Eve, for example.  And in today’s society with families dispersed across a wider area than any time in history we have to adjust on occasion.  But you get the idea.

[audio http://www.buzzsprout.com/33052/334474-the-best-gift.mp3]

So ‘tis the season.  The season of giving and the season of receiving.  We give lots of gifts and presumably we receive a few.

What is the worst Christmas gift you’ve ever given?  Riffing a bit off of last week and the occasional difficulty of deciding what gift to buy, what is the worst gift you can remember giving?  It isn’t an easy question to answer because others might have a different opinion.  And quite possibly we don’t want to remember the worst gift ever given.  I certainly don’t.

How about the best gift you’ve ever received?  I can remember lots of gifts but narrowing it down to just one as the best is problematic.

If you’re going to give a gift you have to go shopping.  Shopping has changed a bit in the last twenty years, hasn’t it?  The last 40 years?  Forty years ago we used to go to the local store. Sometimes we’d drive down the highway to a nearby town because they had different local stores. Twenty years ago we used to go to the local store or maybe a big box store.  And now, we can go to a local store, a big box store or somewhere online.

With all these choices, how do we decide what we want to give as a gift?  Sometimes it is crystal clear and other times, not so much.

I think one thing that makes a good gift is a certain level of intention that indicates actual thought went into the purchasing of a gift.  This requires a lot of work.  This requires paying attention and maybe even writing down notes.  That requires paying attention, writing it down and REMEMBERING where you wrote it down.  Like I said, being intentional about giving gifts requires a lot of work.

Along the same lines, the best gifts are personal.  They have some quality that indicates actual knowledge of the person you’re giving the gift too.

The best gifts also enhance the relationship and make it stronger.  Some of the gifts in the worst gift list kind of prove this in reverse.  A bad gift has a tendency to break down a relationship but good gifts make the relationship better.

Good gifts also require a bit of sacrifice.  This is related to the level of intention in some ways but good gifts require a sacrifice of money, time or effort.  Personally, I’m not huge on the financial sacrifice as a qualifier but it can be.  By that I mean the value of a gift isn’t directly connected to the cost of the gift.  As we think about the worst gift we’ve ever given we can probably prove that point.  Certainly a cheap gift can qualify as the worst but I’m pretty sure you can give an expensive worst gift as well.  More importantly, the time and effort involved in making or obtaining the gift have a lot more bearing on how good the gift is.

The best gifts often have a powerful name attached to them.  When I was a kid G.I. Joe’s were a big deal.  Something tells me that G.I. Ralph’s would not have sold so well.  Going back to when my kids were little I’m pretty sure that Tickle Me Elmo doesn’t work as well if you call it Irritating Plush Toy with an Annoying Laugh.  Same product, different name and everything changes.

Are these a pretty decent summation of what makes the best gift?  Intentionality, personal touch, enhances relationship, sacrifice and a powerful name.  For those of us who aren’t quite finished yet, it’s a pretty good list to keep in mind as we finish up our Christmas shopping.  And for you overachievers that have finished your shopping, it’s a pretty good list to remember for next year.

As we look toward Christmas celebrations, whatever day they may happen on, what gifts are you hoping for?  What would be the best gift?

Of course the best gift is God’s gift to us in Jesus Christ.  If that wasn’t the first thing that came to mind, please plan on staying after worship for detention/catechism refresher.  I’m kidding of course but in today’s society and culture it is pretty easy to forget God’s year after year, decade after decade gift in Jesus Christ and jump straight to the good stuff.  Right?

Well okay, what makes Christ such a good gift?  Most followers of Christ would agree that Christ is a good gift from God, many would even say the best gift from God but how many of us can really say why that is true?

Hmmmm… I’m guilty of it too.

For one thing, there is certainly an intentionality to the gift of Christ.  It is no random, stop at Walgreens and grab something off the nearest shelf kind of gift.  It is no accident that God comes to us in the person of Jesus Christ.  Incarnation doesn’t happen as a random act of kindness!

And incarnation is nothing else if it isn’t personal.  God coming in the person of Jesus Christ and experiencing our highs and lows is pretty much personal.

It is also not so much of a surprise that there was sacrifice involved in the gift of Jesus Christ.  No money changes hands in this transaction but the effort and time that went into the gift is pretty impressive.  The incarnation is a miracle to say the least and any gift that lasts for a couple of thousand years is a pretty good gift.

Plus there is the idea of Christ sacrificing his life for our forgiveness but that is getting ahead of ourselves.  That’s a story for a couple of months from now.

Enhanced relationship?  Well, it isn’t difficult to imagine how Christ enhances our relationship with God.  Not to mention Christ is what makes our relationship with God possible.  At least the positive side of a relationship with God.  If we take Christ out of the relationship then we’re left as sinners with an angry and unforgiving God.  No thanks, I’ll pass on that idea.

Though part of the reason we get that idea is the power of God and Christ’s name.  They must be powerful as often as they get taken in vain, right?  Their names are powerful enough to have their own commandment.  Bonus points time?  Which commandment is it?  (2)  If you were schedule for detention from the first quiz but got this one right you are excused.

There’s gifts and there’s gifts.  The best gifts have intentionality, a personal touch, enhances a relationship, require some sacrifice and a have a powerful name.

Now then, what’s the best Christmas gift you’ve ever received?

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