Giving a gift to God


Sermon for Sunday, November 20th, 2022

Christ the King


Jeremiah 23:1-6
Psalm 46
Colossians 1:11-20
Luke 23:33-43

I have to admit that I am already very excited about Christmas coming. Now I know that the Christmas season, Christmastide, doesn’t even begin until Christmas Eve; I know that next week is the beginning of the season of Advent which is its own special time about waiting for Jesus, but still I know that Christmas is coming, and you know that Christmas is coming, and I am starting to get excited about it. 

Maybe it is because this year, as most of you know, there is a new baby in our family. Part of my joy and part of my excitement this year is knowing that I get to share Christmas with someone who has never experienced it before, and doesn’t really know what it’s all about. Now our son is only 5 months old and even though I obviously think he is brilliant, at this age he isn’t going to understand the full meaning of Christmas, I know that. But he can experience joy, and probably better than most of us he can experience wonder, and mystery, and beauty. Sometimes as we get older, we spend so much time trying to figure things out that we no longer experience the beauty and the mystery that is all around us everyday. But when you are young you still understand mystery and magic. We older folks are the ones who need to be reminded of joy and wonder. So as much as I have to teach my son about the meaning of Christmas, he has much to teach me as well. 

For my part, I want him to know that the story of Christmas isn’t just a “once upon a time,” legend about people living in a far off land in an age long, long ago. I want him to know that what Christmas is really about is the God that created the whole universe, becoming a human being, a little child just like him, so that he could live with us as a part of our lives. The real king of all the earth was born in a humble and lowly stable, among cows and donkeys and sheep, so that he could gather his sheep, his lambs his children together, and live with them. And I want him to know that that same child that was born in the manger, suffer and died on the cross, and rose again from the grave, so that even death would not separate him from his children. I want him to know that God’s kingdom is in this world, but not of it. It is bigger and greater than all the kings and kingdoms of this world, but if you look closely, if you pay attention, you just might get a little glimpse of it. I want him to know that God is all around us, even if we can’t always see him. God wants to be with his children. God wants to gather his children together. God loves his children. He picks them up when they fall down. He forgives them when they make mistakes. He teaches them the right way to live and the paths they should follow, and then goes and finds them when they get lost. That is the story that we are telling here throughout the year. Christmas, Easter, Advent, Pentecost…all year long we tell this story, but this year, this Christmas I am especially excited to tell it to someone that has never heard it before. I want him to know that.

And the amazing thing is that as I share the story of Jesus and of Christmas with my son, his part, is that he shares the experience of it: the joy, and the mystery and the excitement and the wonder with me. I am reminded of what an amazing experience this is for someone who is new to it. I get to experience that joy again. I have joy in sharing the story of Jesus; new Christians have joy in experiencing the story of Jesus…and then there is God. God has joy in all this too. Afterall, the Christmas story is about God wanting to live with his children, to gather them together and share his life and his love with them. Nothing brings God more joy than having to set another place at the table; adding another person to his family. When another person comes in and wants to share in God’s life and love, that brings God joy. So when we share the story of Jesus with people that don’t know it, we aren’t just giving that person the joy of knowing about the God we worship here, we are giving God joy too. It isn’t just a gift to another person. It is a gift to God. 

But giving someone a gift, whether that someone is God or another person, giving someone a gift means making a sacrifice. Parents make sacrifices to give their children gifts. We talk all the time here about the sacrifice that Jesus made to give us a gift. God made a sacrifice to invite us into his kingdom and for us to share the good news of that, the gift of that story, we have to make sacrifices too. Sharing the story of Jesus with people who don’t know about him (and the world is still filled with people who don’t know about him) it can be simple, but it isn’t always easy. Sometimes it is very hard. It involves making sacrifices. We want to have a nice place for people to gather together to meet and worship, and that takes lots of money. We want to have good music. We need people to sing, and read the scriptures, and greet visitors, and teach, and cleanup. It takes a lot of time and talent, and treasure (money) to share the story of Jesus in this place. It takes people making sacrifices. That is why we are all called, as people who know the story of Jesus, as Children of a Heavenly king, to sacrifice from what God has given us, so that other people, even maybe people that aren’t even born yet, may come to someday know Jesus, and the love that God has for them. 

And when we make that sacrifice, when we give from what God has given us, so that God can continue to gather his children together here in this place, we aren’t just giving them the greatest gift of all, we are giving God joy too. It is a gift to God too. The money that we give to the church, it isn’t just to pay bills. It is to pay the bills, so that future generations can come to know Jesus here in this place, and that is something that brings God great joy. That is what we believe our God is all about: gathering and protecting his sheep; calling all his children together. 

Everybody has a role here in helping to share the story and the experience of Jesus. Everybody has a place in worship. Everybody, from the youngest to the oldest, from the little ones who we might wish would fall asleep during mass, to some of the older folks, who maybe can’t help but fall asleep during mass, and everyone in between. Whether we can only give 50 cents, or whether we are making a gift of $50,000, we all have something to offer, and that offering isn’t just to the church, it is a gift to God. So give what you can. I don’t care how old you are. Give what you can. I am asking you now, if you haven’t already given us a pledge card for the coming year, to take a moment and consider what you can sacrifice, what you can give, what you can do to help us tell God’s story and invite new folks into his family. Write it down and I am going to ask you after the sermon to come up drop it in the basket and offer it to God. Telling God’s story in this place takes all of us. We all have a role. Young and Old, and everything in between. Today we are asking some of our younger parishioners to take active roles in leading worship, but the truth is, in God’s eyes, every service here is being led by his children. We all have things we can learn. We all have things we can teach. And we all have a story, a true story, full of grace, hope, joy and love to share. That is something to get excited about.