The Gift That Keeps On Giving

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Luke 21:25-36

Isaiah 40

Listen to The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Elf on shelf

 

Tis the season for giving. From Thanksgiving to Christmas we begin to plan all the gifts we want to give those we love.  We try to find the season’s hottest, must have gift, to show that we truly care, and are also trendy and cool.  We all know that fads come and fads go. But did you know that there is a gift that keeps on giving?

Fads come and fads go. We know this if we are parents. We buy our kids what they want and after a couple of months they are tired with it and the process starts all over again. Fads come and fads go especially during the Christmas season. I actually looked up Christmas Toy fads over the past couple of decades and here is what I found.  In 1934 the hot toy was the Shirley Temple Doll. It was priced anywhere from $2.89 to $5.79. You can buy a Shirley Temple Doll on Ebay these days for $1,545.50. In 1960 the hot toy was Chatty Cathy. Apparently it was one of the first talking dolls.  In 1960 you could buy one for $19.90. Today you can find a Chatty Cathy on ebay for $195. 1964 the hot toy was G.I Joe. $4 then $210 now. 1977 it was Star Wars action figures. Priced at $2.79 then and $1,200 now. In 1983, the year I was born, Cabbage patch kids were in. $25 then. $7.99 to $499 now. Skipping forward to 1996 there was the infamous Tickle Me Elmo. He laughed when you tickled him. But the fights that broke out between parents vying for a laughing Elmo for their child were no laughing matter.

Traditions are a bit more enduring than the latest toy fad. But even they can pass away. From as early as I can remember to my second year in college, my family would travel to Oneonta, New York, to visit my grandmother. My grandmother’s estate was named Snowden, named after a mountain in Wales, where the Roberts clan is from. Twice a year we would go up to my grandmother’s house, on Christmas, and my birthday. Our Christmas traditions included wrestling with the older cousin’s in the basement, stuffing my youngest cousin John in various boxes and tight places when we played hide and seek, endless rounds of the card game hearts, and of course my grandmother’s pancakes. When my grandmother died those traditions faded away.

When I entered into adulthood I learned about Christmas traditions that I had no idea existed when I was a child. At my first church in Indiana I was surprised to find a little elf appear on a church shelf my first Christmas there.  I asked my office assistant what was up with the little elf on the shelf. Where had it come from? She said it was the elf on the shelf. It was a Christmas Tradition to put him in different places in the house, or in this case, the church, to surprise people. I really don’t like surprises so I wasn’t a huge fan of the elf on the shelf. Though recently I watched an animated video and discovered that elves actually love swing dancing, as I do. So I am warming up to the idea of the Elf on the Shelf. As long as you let me know what shelf he will be appearing on beforehand.  Even so, elves will fade away, as will the shelves they sit on. But there is a gift that keeps on giving.

Growing up, I didn’t pay a lot of attention in church, so if we celebrated Advent, I wasn’t aware of its meaning. Today is the first Sunday of Advent. The word advent simply means “coming”. During this season of the church year we wait with anticipation for Christmas, the coming of the Christ Child in the manger. But it is also the time where the church reminds itself of the timeless truth, that Christ has died, Christ is Risen, and Christ will come again. During Advent we wait for Christmas. During Advent we are reminded that we as Christians, are in a period of Holy Expectation for the second coming of Christ. He came first in a manger. He will come again in glory.

I wasn’t really aware of any wide spread Advent traditions growing up. But recently I learned of advent calendars. Advent calendars have been around for a while. But now they are being marketed as a desirable gift for this season. Target is actually selling a cheese advent calendar. For $20 you can now celebrate each Sunday in Advent with a fine cheese.  Unfortunately, Advent cheese calendars will pass away, especially if you do not refrigerate them.  But there is a gift that keeps on giving.

“Truly, I say to you this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” The Gift that keeps on giving is Jesus. His words, his very self. For the scripture tell us that the meaning of life is Jesus. He is the Word of God, the Logos, the reason for this season and every season. In the beginning was the Word. And the word was with God and the word was God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:1-4).  The gift that keeps on giving is the word. And today there is good news.

The Good news. When we receive the gift that keeps on giving we will be given the strength to keep on giving.

I was reminded of this good news talking with a participant in our Grief Share ministry. Grief Share is a faith based ministry that seeks to minister the love of Christ to those who have lost loved ones. Though I haven’t lost anyone close to me since my grandmother, I attended the first round of Grief Share to learn, and I found it to be transformative. I would recommend it to you if you are dealing with grief or know someone who is. Especially during the holiday season there are many in dire need of this ministry. Once during Grief share I talked with a participant who hadn’t been able to pray since that person’s loved one had died. After watching the lesson on grief and prayer that person was able to go home and pray for the first time in months. Hearing this good news I was reminded of Jesus’ words today, “Heaven and Earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” There is a gift that keeps on giving. His word. His word lived out in our hearts. His word lived out in our lives. His Word that echoes throughout the generations and down through creation.  His word that brought light into darkness. His word that will raise the dead on the last day.

In life, sometimes you win some and sometimes you lose some. And there are times in life where the darkness seems to be all around and it feels like loss has the final word. But as we give thanks in all circumstances we begin to see grace tearing the veil. We see pinpricks of light. And those pinpricks can become a lighthouse in the night. They can become a magnifying glass, concentrating the light, lighting a fire, inspiring revival, like a mighty rushing wind, like tongues of fire. And the fire gives us strength for the harvest. We will reap a harvest if we do not give up. For the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

A voice says, “Cry!” and I said, “What shall I cry?” All flesh is grass and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the LORD blows it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades but the word of our God will stand forever.” (Isaiah 40:6-8).

Though the oceans rise and cast cities into the sea, the word of the Lord stands forever. Though the sun run out of hydrogen fuel ,expand into a red giant, and boil the earth the Word of the Lord stands forever. Though the Universe expand unto infinity and every star flicker out in the night the word of the Lord endures forever. Even if everything in this life everything be taken from us, may we cry out those ancient words of Job, “ I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.” ( Job 19:26-27). Our hope is our Lord will return sooner rather than later. However long it takes we say that ancient prayer, even so Lord Jesus come. Even so we say come Holy Spirit come. Even so, we cry out Abba, Father, for we are not slaves to fear but we are sons and daughters of God. Even so, Lord Jesus, we say come. For only you are the gift that keeps on giving. And when we receive your word we shall have the strength to keep on giving.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

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