Tag Archives: I Corinthians 12

The Gifts of Christmas: Open and use

given on January 4, 2015


Have you finished putting away all the decorations and gifts, washed the new clothes, played with the toys, and read all the books? Surely not.

The calendar indicates a new year, and just a few days into the year, I bet many New Year Resolutions have already been discarded. In fact, how many of you have really even written down resolutions?

Think about how Christmas today tends to signal the end rather than the beginning. Because we live on a 12 month calendar that begins in January and ends in December, the tendency is to end not begin. Yet consider that gifts that the Wise Men/Magi brought the Baby Jesus. Did that visit demonstrate an ending or a beginning?

A year ago, the Epiphany Sunday’s sermon was also about the gifts the Wise Men brought to the Baby Jesus: gold, frankincense and myrrh. The symbolic meaning linked the gifts to the prophecies and the nature of the baby. Gold represents royalty. Frankincense, culturally, established the connection to God as it was used to lift prayers to God. And, finally, the myrrh signified the humanness of Jesus since it was used in burial.

These three gifts hold symbolic significance in the story of Christmas, but do these gifts get opened? Knowing that the beautiful packages under the tree are filled with all types of wonders is one thing, but when they are opened are they used?

God’s gift of his son was the end of an era. The Law of the Old Testament no longer was working. The Old Stories were known, recited, but unused, as God had intended that they be used. Even the prophecies were not effective. A new era began that first Christmas with God’s gift of his son. The hosts of angels announced it to the shepherds and the Wise Men showed they knew by the gifts they brought to the baby.

Did these gifts sit unopened and unused? Did people believe the news the shepherds shared? What happened after that first weekend, that first week, or even the first year? Did God’s gift get opened and used or not?

Unlike gifts we wrap and put under the trees for our family and friends, the gift of a baby could not provide an immediate change. The very nature of humanity is that the baby has to grow and to learn before joining the adult world and contributing to society. The Baby Jesus needed almost 30 years to be ‘opened and used.’

Have you opened and used God’s gift to you? Have you considered even opening the gifts God gave you personally and use them? Have you kept your gifts secret and not share them with the ones you love? Have you found ways to use God’s gifts daily or have you discovered that they are worn out and need fixing or replacing?

Gift giving is a cultural or social practice. Yet, God’s gifts are born within us. Sometimes it is difficult to see the gifts and know how to open them, but all gifts have value when opened and used. God’s gift of his son was opened and in the three years of his ministry, an era closed and a new era opened. As cruel as society was to Jesus, the gift was opened and used and even destroyed; but the result was phenomenal.

The Christian faith has grown and grown throughout the centuries and into the millenniums. The people who opened God’s gift and used it did not have an easy life. Many were martyred. Many were imprisoned. Many were censured. Yet, God’s gift continues—as long as it is used.

The new era continues, as long as God’s gift continues to live by the gift giving we continue now. God gives each one of us special gifts to use and it is up to us to open and to use them. When we do, with the purpose of continuing to share God’s gift with others, the era continues to move forward.

Remember the lesson on spiritual gifts that Paul shared with the Corinthians? In I Corinthians 12, Paul talks about the gifts each person has and even goes on to explain how it works to share God’s love and how each person working with others continues sharing God’s love.

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.

A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice[b]; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge.[c] The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. 10 He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages,[d] while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said. 11 It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.

These are the gifts, have we opened and used them? Are we so worn out that we quit using them? Are we guiding the next generation in how to use their gifts? Have we kept the gifts carefully wrapped up and unopened over the years?

Our responsibility, as a new year begins, is to make sure all the gifts are opened and used. Maybe we are tired, but we can teach others our skills so they can carry them forward. We can share what we know with others and then let them find new ways to use the gifts, too. During the next few weeks, we will review some of the very basics of Christianity. We are a generation ready to let the next generation open their gifts.

Let the fun begin! We know the generations have opened and used their gifts from God so all the millenniums’ generations can receive the greatest gift of all—God’s love. Paul knew how important it is for all to work together:

27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. 28 Here are some of the parts God has appointed for the church:

first are apostles,
second are prophets,
third are teachers,
then those who do miracles,
those who have the gift of healing,
those who can help others,
those who have the gift of leadership,
those who speak in unknown languages.

29 Are we all apostles? Are we all prophets? Are we all teachers? Do we all have the power to do miracles? 30 Do we all have the gift of healing? Do we all have the ability to speak in unknown languages? Do we all have the ability to interpret unknown languages? Of course not! 31 So you should earnestly desire the most helpful gifts.

God sent his gift to us so that we might know God’s love now and forever. He also gave each of us special gifts to use. Have we opened the gifts and used them? Have we worn them out and need to replace them or to fix them? Or, is it time to see the new gifts around us, open them and use them.

As we begin using a new year, let us resolve to use all the gifts we have and we see around us to continue sharing the ultimate gift—God’s love. The time is now! The need is now! Let us have fun opening the gifts and putting them to use. The era continues and God’s love grows.

Please join me in a closing prayer:

Dear Loving and Giving Father,

Thank you for the gift of your love

with the birth of your son.

Thank you for announcing the news of his birth

with the host of angels.

Thank you for guiding the Wise Men to the stall

with gifts telling the secrets of who the baby is.

As we begin a new year, we resolve to open and use

gifts that you give us upon our birth.

Guide us through the year as we learn how to use,

to share, and to give so others receive your love.

Our gift to you is the sharing of your love

as we work to transform our community with your gifts.






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God’s Gifts: Accepting and using spiritual gifts

given on Sunday, December 14, 2012:  Gifts even in midst of a national tragedy.

        Jesus loves me!  This I know,

         for the Bible tells me so.

         Little ones to him belong;

         they are weak, but he is strong.  [UMC 191]


Those words became a litany running through my head as soon as I stumbled into the news that the Sandy Hook Elementary School was the sight of an unthinkable mass shooting.

Elementary children, kindergartners, first, second, third, and fourth graders.  Why?

Teachers, principals, secretaries, paraprofessionals, and maintenance personnel all hovering around children doing all they could to protect them.  In loco parentis. (The legal definition means that in the absence of parents, the teacher/administrator, etc. serves as the parent).  When parents drop their children off at the school door, these professionals become the parents while the children are in their care.  Why?

The litany rings through my head again:

Jesus loves me!  This I know,

         for the Bible tells me so.

         Little ones to him belong;

         they are weak, but he is strong.

Jesus, the teacher, is God’s gift to us.  Even though it has been 2,000 years plus since the man Jesus began walking this earth, we are still his students.  While Jesus lived as a man teaching us, he was also serving in loco parentis.

God loves his children so much that he sent Jesus to be present with us and to teach us how to live.  Each and every one of us, whether family, friend, or stranger, are enrolled in life’s classroom.  Not one of God’s children is ignored.  Not one of us is overlooked or deemed dispensable.  Not one of us goes without receiving God’s gift of grace.

Turning on the TV these last 48 hours has thrown us into the chaos of today’s world.  It is filled with evil, and the shooting yesterday once again causes the world to scream out ‘Why?’   No answer can make sense of this tragedy, but the litany continues:

         Jesus loves me!  This I know,

         for the Bible tells me so.

         Little ones to him belong;

         they are weak, but he is strong.

Jesus is our teacher, the textbook is the Bible, and the Holy Spirit provides the fruits that enrich our lives.  As students we also have the ability to learn.  Not one child born into this earthly world is ignored.  Each one receives special gifts to use while living on this globe.

During the horrific moments at Sandy Hook Elementary School, as well as any of the horrific moments recorded in time or experienced by any one of us, spiritual gifts leap into action.

Remember that God has given us a spiritual basket of fruits that In, Following Jesus, Carolyn Slaughter defines as “a cluster of character qualities that are progressively produced in us through a life constantly yielded to the Holy Spirit.  [p.55]”  Those nine fruits are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Slaughter continues to explain that the spiritual gifts are “a supernatural power within you to serve others. … more than a human talent or a skill that you have learned; it is the work of the Holy Spirit in your life, empowering you in a specific way to serve well…  It is how the Spirit chooses to be revealed through you…as a teacher, a helper, an administrator, or any of the other spiritual gifts.  [p.64]”

Undeniably Slaughter’s examples were mirrored in the tragedy in yesterday’s shooting because those teachers, helpers, administrators and all the others responding to the 911 call had to rely on those spiritual gifts to continue working for the well-being of the children.  At that moment, the world witnessed God’s spiritual gifts in action.

The list of spiritual gifts is long, 20 according to Slaughter, but think of how many different talents and skills it takes to run this world.  All of God’s children have spiritual gifts and all are needed to keep this world in operating condition.  Yesterday’s events also provided a worldwide broadcast of how well individual gifts fit together to meet the needs of the moment.

Reviewing the list of spiritual gifts may seem like a classroom drill, but it also causes us to stop for a moment and consider just what it takes for a global community to work fluidly:

  • Exhortation (encouragement)—ability to encourage people and assist them in moving toward spiritual maturity and personal wholeness; uses skills of comfort and confrontation, encouragement and instruction.
  • Giving—give of material wealth freely and with joy; uses physical resources in response to assessed needs.
  • Leadership—ability to see ‘the big picture’ and assemble component parts; uses ability to motivate, coordinate, and direct efforts.
  • Teaching—ability to understand and clearly communicate God’s truths to others in ways that leads them to apply God’s truth to their lives.
  • Prophecy—ability to proclaim God’s truth in a way that’s relevant to current situations and to envision how God would will things to change.
  • Mercy—ability to perceive suffering of others and to minister to them with empathy and without condemnation.
  • Serving—demonstrates God’s love through the ability to identify the needs of others and selflessly working to meet them.
  • Wisdom—ability to understand and apply biblical and spiritual knowledge to practical, everyday problems.
  • Knowledge—ability to understand, organize, and effectively use information … esp. for the advancement of God’s purposes.
  • Faith—ability to recognize what God wants to accomplish and confidence God will see it done.
  • Healing—ability to effectively call on God for curing illness and restoration of health in a supernatural way.
  • Discernment of spirits—ability to recognize what is of God and what is not of God.
  • Helps—ability to work alongside others and see the value of accomplishing practical and often behind-the-scenes tasks that promote God’s kingdom.
  • Speaking in tongues—ability to supernaturally speak in a language, known or unknown to others, with no prior knowledge of that language.
  • Interpretation of tongues—ability to understand and communicate the words of those speaking in tongues.
  • Pastoring (Shepherding)—ability to guide and care for a group of Christians.
  • Miracles—ability to effectively call on God to do supernatural acts that glorify God.
  • Administration—ability to organize information, events, or material.
  • Apostleship—ability to see overall picture and respond by starting new churches, pioneering new ministries, or ministering transculturally (missionaries).
  • Evangelism—ability to share the gospel with those who don’t know God.

Yes, this is a long list, but it is one individual’s—Carolyn Slaughter’s—list created and defined based on the scriptures from Romans 12:4-8, I Corinthians 12:4-11, 27-31, and Ephesians 4:11-13.  Other people have made other lists that are similar; for instance, Howard Gardner has crated his list of intelligences.

Jesus loves me!  This I know,

         for the Bible tells me so.

         Little ones to him belong;

         they are weak, but he is strong.

The litany continues.  Jesus, the son of God, loves us.  God loves us unconditionally.  Can you imagine the tears he shed yesterday?  At the same time, he provided all the spiritual gifts needed to manage the emergency as it was underway as well as after the gunshots stopped.

Christmas is typically considered a time of great joy, yet in Newton, Connecticut, joy is accompanied by unbelievable pain.  It takes the enormity of God’s love, distributed by his children through an enormous range of spiritual gifts, to take a community—even a nation—through the process of healing.

Verse two of the litany:

Jesus loves me!  This I know,

                           as he loved so long ago,

                           taking children on his knee,

                           saying, “Let them come to me.”

God so loved the world that he gave his only son.  God as the Holy Spirit gives us spiritual fruit that enriches our lives dramatically.  God also gives us the spiritual gifts that allow us to interact with others to take the children on our knees or to preserve this earth or to love one another in as many different ways as we can to transform this world.

While the joy of living can sometimes be sucked out of our souls, we also know that the pain is temporary, even if it is never forgotten.  We accept God’s grace, we accept the garden he has provided us, and we experience the joy of our earthly lives while anticipating the unlimited joy of our heavenly life.

Verse three of the litany:

Jesus loves me still today,

                           walking with me on my way,

                           wanting as a friend to give

                           light and love to all who live.

This is Christmas.  We are responsible to accept all of God’s gifts and then do all that we can to give light and love to all who live.  If our Christmas celebration can turn on just one more light for God, then the tragedies in this world can lead to transformations in so many lives around this world.

So remember the chorus:

Yes, Jesus loves me! 

                           Yes, Jesus loves me!

                           Yes, Jesus loves me!

                           The Bible tells me so.

We walk through the days of Advent anticipating the coming of Christ, but the Bible tells us that God sent his son over 2,000 years ago, the gifts of our spiritual fruits and of our spiritual gifts are to keep Jesus alive in our world today.  If we don’t, how can the tragedies of this world become transformed?  If we don’t, how can the little children reach Jesus’ knees?  Please join me in prayer:

Dear Loving Father, giver of gifts,

         Today we ask you to bring 20 little children into your lap.  We ask you to include those caring educators who also risked everything to protect these tiny souls.

         Today, in the midst of Advent, we know there are others who have lost the joy in their lives.  Hold them in your arms, let them cry, and then wipe their eyes so they may see your love.

         Today help us to open our own spiritual gifts so we, too, may serve as your earthly servants.  Teach us how to use the gifts in order to love one another and to preserve this worldwide garden.  May our gifts reach out to others who have yet to accept your gifts so the Holy Spirit’s fruits may enrich their lives and they, too, become the children of God.

         Hear our words of our prayers and the hymns as we thank you for the gifts you have given us.  May we work in your name so that others may see your love:

                           Jesus loves me!  This I know,

                           for the Bible tells me so. …

                           Jesus loves me!  This I know,

                           as he loved so long ago.  …

                           Jesus loves me still today;

                           walking with me on my way,

                           wanting as a friend to give

                           light and love to all who live.         –Amen

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