given on Sunday, December 25, 2011: Christmas Day!
“A gift of faith,” you might ask. Today, of all the days in the year, gifts are those packages all wrapped up under the tree. The boxes and bags in such bright colorful wrappings, the ribbons curling and dipping around, bows on boxes suddenly stuck to someone’s head. What a feast for the eyes!
Gifts come in all shapes and forms, so how does faith become a gift? God gave us the gift of life. God gave us the earth with all its unique features from the oceans to the mountaintops. He filled the earth with trees, grass, flowers and all types of living flora, and then he added the creatures—the reindeer, the cattle, the sheep, even the tiniest of insects, and the fish in the waters.
And then, he created us. We come in all shapes and colors. We speak different languages, we live in different houses, we work, we travel, we rest and we play. We are His children and our playground is so large. In fact, with the gift of free thought, God gave us everything, even the curiosity that sends us out looking at the universe beyond our earthly home.
Remember the gospel John’s first words:
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Everything was God and for thousands of years the people of this world lived, doing good and doing bad. One of the most vivid Sunday school lessons I remember was the story of Noah. Forgive me if the pieces don’t really go together, but in my mind this is how I pieced together my understanding of God’s love.
We read how Noah was told to go to build the ark. God’s hope for us was that the world would live in harmony and we would keep the world like the Garden of Eden. Unfortunately, free will lead to many destructive situations and the world was not full of peace and harmony. The people were not living according to the Ten Commandments. God decided that the wayward people needed to be removed from this worldly garden.
Yet, hope and faith in Noah lead to the decision to ask this man of faith to build the ark and fill it so that after the earth was flooded, life could begin again. The rainbow signaled the end of the flood and the second beginning of the world. The rainbow, as seen in all the wrappings under our Christmas trees today as well as in our skies on those days the rain and sun play together, is a symbol of God’s faith in us.
As the generations continued, unfortunately God’s faith in us was weakened. But the promise signaled by the rainbow was upheld. In fact, God loved us so much that he decided to send his own son to demonstrate the absolute truth about loving one another. I am sure you recognize John 3:16:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
God had faith in us. His faith was so immeasurable that it is beyond anything we can possibly imagine. His faith in us is a gift that was packaged up in the form of a tiny infant who was born under Roman rule, in a crowded town that had no room for his earthly parents.
Have we seen His gift waiting for us under our Christmas trees? Have we unwrapped that gift? Have we accepted that gift of God’s son? The gift is there—it never gets old, never wears out, and never goes out of style. The gift of God’s love comes in all shapes and colors. The gift arrives without warning or can be carefully timed to arrive on just the right occasion. The gift seems to expand as it is used and given to others. The gift is truly one that “keeps on giving.”
Are we able to accept God’s gift of faith in us? Are we able to accept God’s gift of his son? Are we able to open up that little seed of faith and nurture it to grow into the strong, life-force that enriches our own earthly journey?
Today may be the annual tradition of Christmas, but remember that in each and every package wrapped up under the trees, what really is in that package is a gift of love. Our gifts from one to another are physical ways we demonstrate the love that God has given to us. We practice giving in ways to remind us of the gifts he has given us.
As we depart today, let us renew our faith in God as well as in ourselves. We are God’s children, and we have grown in our faith. Let us open up the gift of God’s love by accepting it and passing it on to others. No gift should be left in a closest all year long, take it out daily and use it. Let others see that this is one gift that never wears out, never goes out of date, and never dies out. God’s faith is us should be accepted and shared. Let our faith in God be the light and the Word for others needing a gift of faith.
Dear loving God,
Today we worship together,
Lift our prayers to you,
Sing our joyful hymns,
And accept your gift of Jesus Christ.
Today, as we join with family and friends
For a day of joyous celebration,
Be with us, protect us, and guide us.
Tomorrow we return for the day renewed,
Ready to step back into the busy world,
Guide us to open our gift of faith daily.
Guide us to share our gift of faith openly.
Guide us to give our gift of faith to others
So they may find their lives transformed.