The One Gift


This is the message I gave on Christmas Eve (24 December 2001) at Walker Valley UMC.  The Scriptures that I used were Isaiah 9: 2 – 7, Titus 2: 11 – 14, and Luke 2: 1 – 20.

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The three most dreaded phrases of today’s society are probably:

  1. "One size fits all."
  2. "Batteries not included."
  3. "Some assembly required."

Giving gifts at Christmas may be one of the hardest things to do; for though we know what we want to give, sometimes the technology gets in the way. Sometimes, in the process of giving a gift, we forget why the gift was given.

The people of Isaiah’s time were looking for a new king, someone to bring them out of slavery and despair. The Israelites of that time were about to be enslaved by the Assyrians and they desperately wanted a king to lead them to victory. But the promise of the prophecy was not for a king but rather a child. Granted this child would hold all the authority in the world, as the titles that were to be given so indicated. But it was still a child and no child could ever hope to lead a kingdom.

And when the prophecy came true, with the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, it didn’t seem quite right. Though Bethlehem was the city of David and this child was of David’s lineage and thus heir to the throne, what king is born in a stable.

But the kingdom that was to come through Jesus was not the earthly kingdom that so many desired. Rather it was the kingdom of heaven that Jesus sought to bring. It was a kingdom that could only come if the child was born to and among the people, not in some royal nursery. It would not have been possible for Jesus to achieve his kingdom any other way.

We should always note that shepherds were the first of the community to be told of Jesus’ birth. This was a sign that this new kingdom was not to be like other kingdoms. For shepherds were among the lowest in society and so to tell them first was a sign that things were not going to be the same. The child was a king, as the angels proclaimed, but he was king among the people, not above them.

And Paul reminds Titus, in the passage that we read this evening, that Jesus came to this world, not simply to lead us but to show us how to live. How not to just speak of a world of peace and justice but lead lives which would bring about the peace and justice that is needed in this world.

Isaiah spoke of the removal of the yoke that would come with the new king. Paul reminds us that by giving himself on the cross, we were redeemed from all iniquity; that our future was secured by his actions and sacrifice.

At a time when the world is at its darkest, both literally and figuratively, we are reminded that Jesus was born into this world so that we would live. The one gift that comes this evening comes when we come to the table, celebrating not only his birth but also his triumph over sin and death through his resurrection.

On a night when a child was born among a middle class family in a small Middle Eastern town, there was a celebration of the birth of a new King. Perhaps they did not realize at the time what the significance of the gift was that they received that night. But tonight in a small New York village church, as we again celebrate that birth we have come to realize that we were the recipients of the greatest gift of all. As we come to the table, we renew the presence of Christ and the gift of everlasting life in our lives; as we leave tonight we carry with us the light of Christ, no longer a people in darkness but a people who, as Isaiah wrote, now walk in the light.

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