Faith Church

Experiencing Christmas – The Best Gift… for Jesus | Sermon from 12/23/2012

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Here’s what it said, The nose blows! Just squeeze or press it and green shower gel oozes out of the right nostril. Gross and funny at the same time! $17.29. Who thinks these things up? I don’t think this would qualify as the best gift of the year, maybe one of the most memorable gifts, but certainly not the best. I’m always afraid to share items like this because all of you listen and apply these sermons so well and I really do not want to find this in my shower… ever! 

But can you remember the best gift you ever got? Do you have this kind of childhood memory? (video clip) Maybe it was the year you got the easy bake oven or that Red Rider BB Gun. Maybe it was the year you got the new bike or the new car. Maybe the best gift you ever got wasn’t anything they could wrap up or put a bow on, but was the gift of family or friends being together. One of the best Christmas’s for our family was when my Mom was battling cancer but she was able to travel and be with us for the holidays. Her presence was the only present we really needed that year. When we are kids we spend a lot of time thinking about the best gifts to get and as adults we spend a lot of time thinking about the best gifts to give and yet what gets forgotten during this entire is season is that Christmas is not our birthday, what we are celebrating is Jesus’ birthday, so what is the best gift we can give to Jesus? 

I actually hope we will give this question some serious thought. What is the best gift we can give to Jesus? How can we turn this holiday around so that the focus isn’t on the gifts we give to one another but the gifts we can give to Jesus? Now these gifts won’t be anything we find at the mall or from gifts.com and it won’t be anything we can put in a box or wrap up with a bow, but Jesus did give us a gift list. Jesus was pretty clear about the gifts he wanted us to give to him and we find part of that list in Matthew 25:35-36. 

Now here’s the thing, these things never happened to Jesus. There was never a time when people took care of him and helped meet his basic needs, so they asked him, Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you or thirsty and give you something to drink. When did we ever see you in need and help you in any way, and Jesus replied, Matthew 25:40. So we give to Jesus the gifts he wants when we give to anyone around us who is in need. We give to Jesus when we feed the hungry. We give to Jesus when we help clothe the naked, provide clean water for those who are thirsty and when we visit the sick and those in need. Now for Jesus, this gift list was not a wish list, Jesus actually expects his followers to give these kinds of gifts to him. 

That Jesus really wants us to do these things was made clear to the disciples when Jesus told them one day to actually feed those who were hungry. As you know, Jesus’ teaching and preaching drew huge crowds, sometimes numbering into the thousands, and no matter what Jesus did or where he went, the crowds followed him. At one point in time Jesus was looking for some solitude, in fact, he wanted some time alone to grieve the death of John the Baptist. John was not only a teacher and preacher who prepared people for the message of Jesus, but John was a distant cousin to Jesus. John the Baptist was the son of Elizabeth and Zechariah and we heard last week that Elizabeth was the cousin to Mary. Not only were they related, but both boys were born about 6 months apart. John the Baptist was an outspoken prophet and he spoke out about the injustice and immorality he saw around him which cost him his head, literally. Jesus had just gotten the news that John had been beheaded in prison and he wanted to get away to be alone, but the crowds followed him. 

When Jesus saw that the crowds didn’t go away, it says he had compassion on them and so took time to heal the sick. By the end of the day the disciples are pleading with Jesus to send the crowds away because it is getting late and the people needed to go into the towns to buy food for dinner. Jesus response to the disciples is one of the clearest teachings for us as God’s people – Matthew 14:16. Now this wasn’t a mission statement Jesus gave for the disciples to think about, Jesus wanted them to actually feed the thousands of people who were right there in front of them. When the disciples heard this they are stunned. To buy enough food to feed the thousands of people who are there would have taken at least three months worth of wages and they are sure that there is no way they can work out the logistics of buying that much food and getting it to the people before nightfall. It just can’t be done. Now, it’s not recorded in the gospels, but you can just hear the disciples say, but Jesus, we don’t have enough money. But Jesus, we can’t get that much food here that quickly. But Jesus, there are just 12 of us and there are thousands of them. But Jesus… 

Today we are still saying that, but Jesus… But Jesus, I am just one person, what can I do to help solve the problem of world hunger? But Jesus, we are just one church, what can we do to bring about clean water to a poor nation? But Jesus, the need for healing and hope and peace in our nation today is beyond our ability to address. But Jesus… We are still saying that and it’s time we stopped making excuses and started asking Jesus how to do it. 

When the disciples pushed back on Jesus request to feed the people, he responded with one simple and yet powerful question, what do you have? What do you have to give me that I can use to feed these people? They replied 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. Jesus said, then bring them to me, and when they did he blesses them and then those 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish fed the entire crowd. The lesson for the disciples is that when they offered to Jesus what they had – he used it to solve the problems they faced. The lesson for us today is that when we offer Jesus what we have – he can use our gifts to solve the problems we face. When we offer to Jesus what we have, God will use it to feed those who are hungry, whether it is food for those whose stomachs are empty or hope and peace and love for those whose hearts and lives are empty. God will use what we have to feed the people. When we offer to Jesus what we have and who we are, God will use it to give the world what it needs. And that is all Jesus wants for his birthday. 

So what gift will you give to Jesus? What resources do you have that God can use to change our world? At the Church of the Resurrection in KC there was a 10 year old girl named Gracie Schram 

who heard that question a few years ago and what she had to give was a beautiful voice, so she recorded a CD and sold them to the people she knew and her goal was to raise $1,000 to help build a fish pond in Africa for a village. To date, Gracie has raised over $30,000. She has helped build 2 fish ponds in Africa and an orphanage in Haiti that now is home to 12 boys. 

A young boy at that same church, Jeffrey Owen Hanson, 

gave his artistic talent to Jesus, and God has used him in amazing ways to help thousands of people around the world. Jeffrey was born with a genetic condition called Neurofibromatosis, which is a tumor on the optic nerve which caused Jeffrey to begin to lose his vision. When he was about 12 years old he not only started radiation and chemotherapy but he also started to paint. Jeffrey’s vision did not permit him to create any concrete images, but his bold color combinations caught people’s attention. Jeffrey sold note cards from a table at the end of his driveway and the first year he painted and sold over 5,000 cards. He raised over $15,000 for the children’s tumor foundation, an organization which helps fund research for Neurofibromatosis and other optic tumors.

Since that time, Jeff has moved into larger works of art using acrylics on canvas.

Today Jeff donates paintings to several of his favorite charity auctions and many of his paintings have raised as much as $15,000 each! To date, Jeff has painted over 800 original works of art and has donated money to hospitals, AIDS foundations and orphanages around the world. Jeff is now 18 and has already given over half a million dollars to charity!

 But it all started when he offered his gift to Jesus and allowed God to bless him and use him. 

Now if you think making this kind of difference is just for those who are young, here is another amazing story. 

Dr. Bob Sayson was a successful doctor in Oregon when he heard the call of God to sell his practice and open a community health clinic to help those who could not afford to see a doctor. 5 years ago he started the Good News Community Health Care Center which addresses the physical, mental, and spiritual needs of people in a way that promotes healthy individuals and a healthy community. This is not a free health care clinic, people pay $15 or $25 per visit and if they can’t pay then Dr. Sayson asks them to volunteer at a charity for at least one hour. Dr. Sayson understands that giving to God and the community is part of the healing process and our becoming whole. The Good News Center offers physical and emotional help but they also care for the spiritual well being of people by asking if they can pray with people before they leave. 

Each one of these people answered this simple question, what gift will you give to Jesus? When we stop making excusing, when we stop saying, but Jesus I don’t have anything to offer and start giving to God what we have and what he has given us, we will begin to make a difference in our world. It’s not too late to give a gift to Jesus on his birthday. You can make a donation to the Christmas Dinner, you can bake us a pie or 2 and bring it to the church tomorrow. You can sign up to serve meals in the dining room or come at the end of the day and help clean up. 

Another way you can give through the Christmas Dinner is to help feed those who are hungry in Haiti. Cindy Lingle has made 2 mission trips to Haiti and she invited the pastor from the church to come and talk with us a few weeks ago. He shared with us about the orphanage they have started and how when they began they just had babies and so the cost of feeding them wasn’t that much, but babies grow, and so has the food bill. Today it cost about $2,000 a month to feed the children of the orphanage and we want to help them do that. So this year, all the money we collect on Christmas Day will be a gift to Jesus, and it’s a gift he said he wants, it will go to help feed hungry children in Haiti. If you want to give specifically to this mission you can use a pew envelope and simply mark it Haiti and we will add it to that gift. 

The Christmas Dinner is just one way we can give a gift to Jesus on his birthday, but please don’t make Christmas the only day we give to Jesus. We need to find ways to give to Jesus in every season of the year. Give your time and talent and money to God every week and month throughout the year by simply being part of God’s work in and through the church. Right now I know all of our hearts go out to the people of Newtown CT, and we want to do something to help them, but the truth is there’s not much we can do for them, but there are children right here who need you. Our children’s ministry needs your time and your gifts. We need prayer partners for families and missionaries. Shut-ins need cards and visits. Resources are needed throughout the church and every gift we give to Jesus changes the heart and life of someone somewhere. So again, what is the best gift you can give to Jesus? 

Our next steps this week simply asks that question. What gift can you give to Jesus? You don’t need to go to the mall, you don’t need to shop on line and you don’t need any wrapping paper, boxes, gift bags or bows, all you need is to make the decision today to give Jesus whatever gift you can. As we close this morning we want to invite you to think about what gift you can give to Jesus. What resource can you offer to God that he can use to address the needs and problems of our community and world? We are going to give you some time to reflect and maybe answer that question, and then during our last song or after worship we invite you to simply place your gift in the box so that we can give these gifts to Jesus because Christmas is his birthday, not ours. You don’t need to sign your name, God will know who it is from, but we do invite you to fill out the bottom of the sheet to remind you what you are giving to Jesus. We would encourage you to be as specific as possible and to make it sacrificial and personal.

Now just one final note, the gift you may need to give to Jesus today is the gift of your heart and life. You may need to make the decision today to simply place your faith and trust in Jesus Christ as your savior and allow his mercy and grace to forgive you of sin and open up to you the life of faith. Our hearts and lives are also a gift that Jesus wants from all of us, in fact, we need to give Jesus our hearts and lives before we can give him any other gift. So if you need to give Jesus your heart today, if you need to put aside your fear or your doubts or your pride and ask Jesus to be your savior and lord, then we would invite you to give that gift as well. Make that the gift you give to Jesus today. 

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8:15 am: Traditional Worship Service with Nursery
10:45 am: Contemporary Worship Service with Nursery and Children’s Church

512 Hughes Street Bellefonte, PA 16823

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