Jesus is only Kind of the Reason for the Season

I’m not sure why I didn’t post this in December when I wrote and delivered it to a classroom full of college students, but I didn’t.  This is the transcript of the last talk I gave as the college pastor at Peachtree Presbyterian Church, from December 19, 2009.  Hope you enjoy it!

Who’s read the book “The 5 Love Languages” before?  The idea is that people give and receive love in different ways, which can really fall into 5 different categories:

Words of Affirmation,

Quality Time,

Physical Touch,

Acts of Service, &

Giving or Receiving Gifts

Some people give love differently than they receive it, some people naturally give or receive love in more than one of these categories, some people are just not very loving people, kind of like the Grinch, and I’d imagine that most of you have someone in mind who you’ll be seeing over the next few weeks who could use the melodic chorus of the Whos from Who-ville.

Well, this morning, we’re going to be talking about one of these love languages in particular, and it happens to be the language that is the most foreign to me … anyone have a guess as to what is might be?

I am not a gift giver … I’m not much of a gift receiver, but I am definitely less of a gift giver.  I’ve tried … it really pains me how difficult it is for me to shop for other people, but I can never come up with a good, informed idea of what people want or need, which makes me feel like maybe I don’t know them as well as I ought to, or something like that, but the problem persists right through my immediate family, who I’ve know since birth, and best friends, so I have to settle on the hypothesis that my mind just doesn’t work that way.

Quality Time, words of Affirmation, Physical touch … I’m good at those things, but Gift Giving has always been foreign to me.

So, it probably could go without saying that Christmas is a particularly stressful time for me.  It’s a whole season dedicated to giving.  There’s no season of quality time, or season of physical touch … just a season of giving.

Why?

I’m sure y’all have heard theories as to the origin of gift giving on Christmas, and Santa Claus and so on and so forth.  And what I have generally heard is that we give gifts to remember the story of the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh that were given to the Christ child by the Magi.  Apparently this is the origin of the Christian tradition.

And while that may be true to our history, I am beginning to believe that the way we explain that tradition, that of giving good gifts to others, misses a wonderfully profound opportunity to live out our calling of showing the world who God is.

The Magi didn’t just give because they felt like dropping a lot of coin on a random infant … they gave as a response to a particular infant … they gave gifts because they themselves, along with the rest of humanity, had received a gift in this particular infant being born.

And to tie this all back in to the “love language” stuff, we’re going to look at this really short verse from one of my favorite books in the Bible, 1st John.  Keep in mind that giving gifts is a way of showing love, and receiving gifts is a means to feeling loved as I read 1st John 4:19 – “We love because he first loved us.”

We love because He first loved us.

The magi gave because He first gave to them

and

We [give] because He first [gave to] us.

I was meeting with a mentor of mine Friday morning who was recently named as the president of Columbia Theological Seminary, and talking to him about this message, and he told me that in the liturgical calendar … this historic calendar for the church year and its teachings, there are three significant holidays that correspond to the three parts of the trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Pentecost is the celebration of the Holy Spirit, and that leaves two major, church holidays … what are they and which parts of the trinity correspond to each?

Easter & Christmas … and Easter is about Jesus.

Christmas … the holiday around which we hear people say “Jesus is the reason for the season” isn’t even primarily about Jesus, the Son.  It is about the generosity of the Father who gave his Son … as a free gift.  Christmas is about the divine love language of gift giving.

What’s the most well known verse in the Bible?

John 3:16 – “For God so LOVED the world that HE GAVE his only Son”

Our god is a god, who out of love for us, gives us only good gifts … the best of these is the gift of self … in Jesus and in the Holy Spirit.

I want to take a little bit of time to unpack this idea of Jesus as God’s gift to the world, to humanity, to you, and to me.

What do you think makes Jesus such a good gift?  Why is Jesus more significant than, say, a nice pair of hiking socks?  What was so compelling about this gift from God that the magi would have travelled long distances to respond by giving good gifts of their own?  Do we know?

And if we don’t know, will learning the significance of the Jesus-gift compel us to respond in the same way … by giving good gifts to God and to others?

And without trying to persuade you of the brokenness of the world or our inability to attain righteousness and restore our relationship with God on our own, I’ll try to give insight to the gift of Jesus in a short statement:

God gave a desperately needy, grossly undeserving population the gift of God’s self … not expensive jewelry, or a really nice car, or flowers, or anything else that we might look at and be reminded of God … God gave us God … even when we wanted anything but a god

… because God so loved the world that He was willing to risk everything to win us back from the seduction of other kingdoms that will only lead us to death … that we may have life as the beloved of God.

God gave … and in turn we give … not because we are obligated, but because love gives … and when you have been given love, there’s no option … you’ve got it.

Now, how will you give it away?

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~ by Will Norman on March 3, 2010.

One Response to “Jesus is only Kind of the Reason for the Season”

  1. I’ve never been a very good gift giver either. I think the best gifts are ones that connect to a story. I had this friend in College who our tradition was to make Christmas cookies together (even if it was July!). For her wedding, I gave her a set of cookies cutters and she loved it because of the story. When I went to the Redeemed fundraiser last year, I picked up a couple of the dedication notes. I decided to hand write a note to a couple of people with words of affirmation (I know — different love language) about our stories we’ve shared. I got a response from those and one person called it the best gift she has ever received. Don’t worry, I’ve struck out far more with my sisters 🙂

    As far as the magi, they were star gazers who saw a particular alignment that a King of the Jews was born. I don’t know why this would be significant to them. I doubt that they had any grasp on the significance of this particular king or the gift that had been given to mankind. They even had to ask Herod where the child was to be born so they had no knowledge of the prophesies. They were probably trying to pay homage or gain favor from a foreign monarch.

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