Thursday, December 03, 2009

Sunday Sermon Notes 11.29.09

"Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?"

That's the famous cry of Charlie Brown, on stage, after his directing debut goes awry. But it's not just the frustration of haggling with the trials of pulling off a Christmas play. It's a question we all ask ourselves at some point during the holiday season, especially when it starts off with a big push to buy stuff. When we start to feel like Christmas has become commercialized, there's a certain part of us that winces. We want the nostalgic Christmas to prevail... But is even that what Christmas is all about?

How to think about what Christmas is all about? Here's a question to consider:
What if Christmas was not just about the gift giving of stuff, but also about you becoming the gift of Christ to others?

There is no escaping the fact that Christmas as we know it centers around the giving and receiving of gifts. And for Christians, this includes at some point inserting the Nativity Story into the traditional activities. But when we pause from being so busy, we ought to remember that Christmas is not about stuff, is not about giving and receiving, it's about God becoming Human. Which means that people, not stuff, are the most important part of our Christmas celebrations. If we are going to keep Christ in the center of Christmas, then we ought to consider how we can become the gift - the best gift - the one gift that "stuff" can't replace.

There is a fascinating letter that Paul sent to his friends, and in one part of it he encourages them to become the kind of person that is a gift to others in their life. Here's what he writes:
For this reason, since the day we heard about you,
we have not stopped praying for you.
We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will
through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,
so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way:
*bearing fruit in every good work,
*growing in the knowledge of God,
*being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience

[Colossians 1v9-11 TNIV]
Paul wants his friends to imagine a life where - now get this.. - EVERY good work bears fruit. Think about that - what an inspiring and beautiful vision of how life could unfold for you and your family and friends and... Every good work you do bears fruit. Amazing. What an incentive to keep on doing the good work you know you ought to do, the good work you want to do, the good work you need to do. Imagine a Christmas where you knew that every good work you did in the Holidays would bear fruit... what a joy and delight you would be to others.

Of course we're not talking about microwave results - more like apple tree results. From the time an apple falls to the ground, its seeds imbed in the dirt, a sprout emerges, and a blossoming apple tree graces the garden - well we're talking years and years. But if that is how life works, and if we want to live with the promise that good fruit WILL come from our good work... what a way to move forward in life, bolstered by the promise of long-term fruit.

Paul also wants his friends to imagine a life where they know God. Not just know about God, or know people who act like they know God. Imagine a life where you know God. How encouraging. Think about your family and friends that you like for how this works: the better you know someone, the better you know what they want (and need) from you and what they want for you. At some point you know them so well you can finish their sentences for them, you know what to get for them before they ask, they join you in finishing a task without a request for help because they just know.... Now imagine that kind of relationship with God. What assurance for your place in this world, what confidence for making decisions about tomorrow and the years to come, peace about who you are and what you can contribute to the community.

Paul then wants his friends to imagine a life where they are strengthened by God's Spirit so that they have all the energy and ability they need to accomplish all the tasks they are given. I know (and you do too...) what it's like to be exhausted from the daily routines of running a household, of having a job, of being a friend, etc. Imagine a life where God's Spirit sustains us, guides us, empowers us to become the kind of person the world needs, that God made us to be.

Linus answers Charlie Browns question by quoting Scripture, by retelling a story about Jesus of Nazareth. Here's a link to the clip.

Here's a quote of what he recites:
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."
"That's what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown."

What will you make Christmas be all about? Will it be about stuff again? Or will you help it become about a gift - about the kind of gift Christ can help you become? Become the gift of peace to your friends and families, to your neighbors and coworkers, and even to your enemies.

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