given on Sunday, December 1, 2013
referencing scriptures Genesis 2:1-22
Thanksgiving is over and the holiday season is in full swing. Gift giving is one almost everybody’s mind, and the insanity begins. Lists are made of all the family and friends for whom traditionally gifts are made, purchased, wrapped, mailed, placed under the tree, and delivered with smiles. Gifts are received, too, with enthusiasm, with an exchange of gifts, and with a child-like sense of joy.
The tradition of giving gifts for the holidays began from the very beginning of time. God gives us gifts from the moment our lives begin and even upon our death. Yet, do we receive the gifts with the same abandon as we do when handed a beautifully wrapped gift from a family member or a friend? I suspect we do not even consider the gifts God has given us, even from the beginning of time.
Today’s scripture certainly is not included in most Advent reading lists, nor is it typically referred to when talking about the earth’s creation. The most common reading of creation begins with the first chapter of Genesis, but this is the second chapter. The story is not as detailed, but the images create a sense of God’s gifts all wrapped up together, ready to share, ready to meet the basic needs of all living creatures, including Adam.
God’s gifts found on this heavenly planet meets all the basic needs of the creatures from food, to shelter, and even to clothing (or at least the first layer of clothing whether fur, feathers, or skin). And, when God saw that all was good, he also saw an oversight—Adam was alone. All the other creatures had a companion, but Adam had none.
God’s infinite wisdom knew that besides the basic needs of food, shelter and clothing, his human also needed a partner. Adam could not exist alone, he needed companionship, he needed someone to help as caretaker of God’s creation. God’s gift to Adam was Eve, and the basic needs included the next tier of human needs–companionship. As a team, with one simple rule, God’s gift of the Garden of Eden, the earth, was perfect.
9 Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Gen. 2:9
Nothing was missing, the gifts were wrapped and delivered, but even in all the splendor, there was no caretaker. And God created Adam, man.
We are Adam. Do we follow God’s rules? Do we serve as caretakers of God’s gifts? Do we teach our children to value God’s gifts? Do we offer God’s gifts to others who may not yet know God? Do we give as God gives making sure that the basic needs of others are met? Or do we stand alone, naked and afraid?
As difficult as it may seem, many times we experience a deep sense of fear. Even when we do attend church, even when we read the Bible, even when we do have family and friends around us, there are times when we feel naked and afraid.
No, this phrase ‘naked and afraid’ does not refer to the latest reality show, but it does visually demonstrate what we feel when we leave God and all of his gifts, standing alone in this world. We strip down and expose ourselves to all the horrors that can destroy us. We feel so very alone. We become isolated even with our family and friends close by.
God’s gifts mean nothing if we do not accept the fact that He is our Creator. God is our caretaker. He makes sure that our basic needs are met, as long as we honestly define our needs rather than our wants. When we reach that level of understanding in our faith, then we eagerly accept God’s gifts. That one simple move in our lives opens up a flood of gift giving and gift receiving.
This advent season is the perfect time to check your wish list. Does that list include what you need or what you want? Is there something missing on that list that is much better suited for you than the items you have listed? Is there anything on that list that shows how you have fulfilled the role of caretaker? Does your shopping list demonstrate how you are choosing gifts to meet the needs of others or simply the wants of a few?
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” —Gen. 2:15-17
Yes, the beginning of time is not comparable to this 21st century. The discussion of accepting God’s first gifts may seem far-fetched, in a way. Yet, the past few days of insanity over buying Christmas gifts demonstrate that there is a definite need to stop and to re-evaluate the entire practice of gift-giving.
Are we good stewards of God’s world when we join the frenzy to have the latest gadgets listed on the wish lists of family and friends? If we are God’s caretakers, are we taking care of this world? Are we living our faith? Or has the frenzy taken over and we are floundering under the 21st century hype of commercial Christmas?
Probably not one of us can say that we honestly are good caretakers. Doubtfully, most could not even make a Christmas wish list that only included items basic to living in the 21st century. In a sense, as Christians we are standing amid the jungle of consumerism, naked and afraid. We easily forget that with God, we are never alone.
18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” —Gen. 2:18
As the Advent season continues, let us join together as we thank God for the greatest gifts ever given—a world filled to meet our basic needs and a community of family and friends so we are never naked and afraid. Remember, too, that when Adam was created, he was created as a caretaker for God’s gifts. What better time than Advent, to check ourselves on the job we have done. And what better time than Advent than to continue giving God’s gifts to others who are still naked and afraid, trying to live in a society without God in their lives.
Dear Loving and Giving God,
Thank you for the generosity of your heart.
Thank you for meeting all of our basic needs.
Thank you for all the family and friends wrapped around us.
Guide us in our efforts to serve as caretakers.
Guide us as we create our own wish lists.
Guide us as we shop for gifts that share your love.
Bless each one of your children this season,
Bless those feeling naked and afraid in this world.
Bless those serving as caretakers of your gifts. –Amen