given on Sunday, December 23, 2012, the Fourth Sunday of Advent
Only two more days remain until Christmas. Are you ready? I still have chores to do, not to mention cooking my portion of the Christmas dinner. Then there are the gifts to wrap, and a few to deliver. I even need to finish up the Christmas cards—sure hope I can get them postmarked at least the day before Christmas.
Why in the world does all this matter? The Christian celebration of Christmas has exploded into a thousand plus one expectation. The reason for the season remains wrapped up in one package—the Bible. The gift wrapping so often remains untouched with it just sitting there looking pretty. Are we afraid to open it up? Yet, it is just the first layer of wrapping and inside that package is all the gift of life one ever really needs.
Have you tried opening up God’s gifts?
Have you been afraid of opening them up?
Have you opened them, put them away, and forgotten about them?
Have you honestly accepted them and put them to use?
Have you used them to give to others?
The first gift is God’s grace. Have you accepted that gift? Are you confident in knowing God’s grace is always with you? As easy as it is to say, accepting God’s grace means modeling it, too. Do you accept others with grace, knowing that person is also one of God’s children who receive just as much grace as you do? Do you demonstrate God’s grace in the day-to-day interactions with people?
Unwrapping God’s gift of grace should be simple, but it really is not. Receiving gifts can be uncomfortable. Maybe it is from someone you did not know, and you do not think you should accept it. Consider how many do not know God, maybe this is why they don’t choose to accept His grace.
Maybe accepting a gift from someone is awkward because you do not have anything to give back to him or her. Look around the community. Do you think that is a possibility why some do not step into church and accept God’s grace? Is it possible that accepting God’s grace appears only to be done inside a church?
When giving a gift, the excitement of giving is not connected to getting a gift back. Rather, giving a gift brings joy into the givers heart. Isn’t that what God’s gift giving all about? Doesn’t He give and give without asking anything in return? But what happens when someone accepts God’s gift of grace?
God’s gift of grace, when accepted and re-gifted, turns into a force that cannot fit into any one box. By re-gifting God’s grace, we continue to see other lives transformed. Certainly simply accepting God’s gift does not mean the real life issues simply disappear, but it does mean that more of God’s gifts appear.
Unwrapping that first gift of grace leads to accepting the other gifts that come with it. Remember the fruit basket? The cellophane wrapping the fruit basket allows others to see all that is in it. Unfortunately it can also keep anybody from tasting the wonders wrapped up in it.
God’s gift of the Holy Spirit’s fruit has two ways of enriching one’s life. First, by accepting the gift the shift in the health of the receiving party’s life is quickly transformed. The Holy Spirit’s fruit can be consumed, but it cannot be destroyed. Those nine fruits can take a non-believer whose life is bitter, unhappy, filled with self-pity, and miserable and change that non-believer into a young Christian who becomes excited about life.
The Bible shares story after story of how faithful followers of God managed difficult life situations and did not see the bad side of life, only the good side. The Old Testament stories may not always seem fruitful, but consider if the ancient leaders had not understood the value of the Holy Spirit’s fruits. Would we have the literature of the Bible? Would we have examples of living a God-centered life?
The nine fruits wrapped up in that basket are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Reading through the Bible, we can find stories that demonstrate how these nine fruits have created rich and rewarding lives of the earliest believers right on through Paul’s congregants who accepted God’s grace and were given the additional gifts of the Holy Spirit’s fruit.
Where does that leave us, hear over 2,000 years later? Paul was able to accept a life-transforming experience on the road to Damascus, are we? We can say we have accepted God’s grace and believe in him, but does our everyday living prove that? We can feel like we have accepted the fruits of the Holy Spirit because we feel good about our lives; but do we live our lives as though they are filled with these fruits or do we complain, whine, moan, and act out as though we have no evidence of these fruits?
Unwrapping God’s gift of grace is the first step, but unwrapping the Holy Spirit’s fruit takes opening one more set of gifts—the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Each and every individual around this globe has special gifts. The list is lengthy and often identified in a variety of terms, but these gifts are those “supernatural powers” that God gives each and every person. These powers must be opened in order for us to continue giving God’s gifts to others.
Each day we step out our doors and enter into the community, we use these gifts. These gifts may fit our daily roles and us so well we do not even realize that they are God’s gifts. The gifts of the Holy Spirit shine out as we do the daily chores, as we step into our jobs, as we meet and greet one another, as we enjoy our hobbies, and as we raise our families.
There is no way in which one can use up the gifts as long as the gifts are used. There is no way that one can hide the gifts and enjoy the fruits of the Holy Spirit. There is no way that one can ignore the gifts and still reach out to others with God’s grace.
God’s gifts of the Holy Spirit are the very keys to living a productive Christian life. We must unwrap our gifts and know that we are giving God’s grace to others because we have a purpose in our life that uses these gifts. We know that our gifts make it possible for us to fulfill our purpose in life in all kinds of ways.
Imagine a world where there is no one who is gifted with leadership to guide us in our communities, our jobs, or our various interests:
- Try to picture the world without artists and musicians and authors not using their spiritual gifts to share their understanding of spiritual fruit.
- How could others learn about God if there were no teachers?
- What would happen if there were no workers whose spiritual gift is to complete the last minor details of a project with love in their hearts?
- Would we be able to unwrap the spiritual fruits in this earthly life to demonstrate what a difference God’s grace makes in our lives?
Life would be so difficult if we fail to unwrap all of God’s gifts.
On Christmas Day, ask yourself: Did I unwrap God’s gift? Do I live my life so others may know how much I value God’s gifts? Do I truly believe that Jesus Christ is God’s son? Do I understand that the Holy Spirit’s fruit is opened upon accepting God’s gift of his son? Do I accept the spiritual gifts that God has given me so that I may give gifts to others? Do I want to see the world transformed by God’s grace?
Unwrapping God’s gift is not really done on December 25. Unwrapping God’s gift is ongoing. We must continue reading the Bible to find direction. We must accept the fact that God loved us so much that he did send his only Son, Jesus Christ Emmanuel, the Messiah, so that each one of us will receive the fruits of the Holy Spirit. We must also accept the spiritual gifts we each possess in order to demonstrate God’s grace by serving. In serving, we continue the cycle of giving God’s love to one another in order to transform the world. And, in the end, we receive God’s ultimate gift of life everlasting. Death on this earth is not the end but eternal life is the gift unwrapped and given forever.
Dear Loving God,
Thank you for the gift of grace.
Thank you for loving your children
so much you sent your one and only son
to teach us about the spiritual fruits
received when we believe.
Thank you for gifting each and every one
of your children with special powers
so that we may share your grace with others.
Guide us as we open the gifts under our trees
so that we may give gifts year round;
loving one another
working to transform the world.
Consecrate each of us so we can step out
into a world filled with darkness.
Let your light shine out so brightly
that others will be lifted out of darkness
to open your gifts themselves. –Amen