One of the things that has become synonymous with Christmas is… adverts. That’s not profound, it’s a bit sad really… but you know Christmas is coming when people try and sell you stuff. Adverts on TV, letterboxes so full of colourful catalogues that they groan under the weight, Christmas present for all, the right Christmas gifts for that person who is just too hard to please, on sale, on special, open late, all under one roof, no hassle, stress free …yeah Right… right. Sometimes it’s helpful because I struggle to know what to give people… I struggle because well … the budget is pretty tight. I struggle because I’m not the Grinch, and I want to express my love and kinship in a way that says how I feel. And as a lot of blokes sitting here are probably thinking, I wonder what socks and underwear actually says about what people think about me.
I found this great youtube clip which in a Christmassy advert kind of way, gives the message that I want to share with you this morning. So I’ll play it with the cool computer graphics, with the homage to “hitch hiker Guide to the galaxy” just in case you miss it thats the sperm whale appearing in mid air. .. and the focus that the greatest present is presence. God gave us the greatest gift the Gift of God’s self. ‘the word became flesh and moved into our neighbourhood.
Time for an ad break…
And that is really well put together, but just like in real life it’s easy for the simple message of Christmas to kind of get lost in the razzle dazzle, tinsel and all the trimmings. The simple message of God’s love for us being shown in giving us the greatest gift of all… that God stepped into our world, to tell us and show us that God loves us.
AS I shared with the kids a little earlier self is the greatest gift you can give someone. It shows you love them, you care, people in need and in poverty and oppression want both material help but more long for people like you and I to stand in solidarity with them. That was bought home again recently with the passing of Nelson Mandela, when John Minto talked of Mandela’s reaction to the protesters stopping the game at Waikato stadium, “It was as if the sun came out”.
One of the ways that people talk about our society today is that we maybe material rich. But we are time poor. It takes two incomes to make ends meet in Auckland and that eats up time, time to invest in relationships that really matter, time to nurture, time to care, time to foster the community round us. And time to contemplate and know the reality of God and God’s love for us. The greatest gift we have is self, to invest into one another… to love one another.
Self was the gift that God chose to give to us. The passage we had read out in John this morning paints the Christmas story in the context of the big picture… it starts the story in eternity and comes to here, it says that God created all that there is, he gave us the gift of self: Giving us life as unique individuals.
But more than that as we chose to live in darkness, to again give us light and life, he stepped into our world, the eternal God came into the temporal realm of humanity. The Word which was with God , and was God in eternity took on flesh and moved into our neighbourhood in Jesus Christ. God gave us the gift of self.
Self-revealing- No one has seen God but the one who comes from the very heart of God has made God as plain as day. The image behind me comes from the famous creation alfresco by Michael Angelo, but the Christmas story tells us God got even closer. Embraced by a mothers care, held as he fled into exile, shoulder tapping people in their everyday life to come and follow, touching and healing lepers, comforting grieving friends, over throwing the tables of un just money lenders, held fast and nailed to a cross, being examined and held by disciples amazed at the miracle of resurrection.
Self-sacrificing- The journey from nativity scene to the crucifixion is a short one. AS my friend Malcom Gordon says ““Our Advent hope is that God will send his beloved one out after his wayward ones. And that no matter how badly that might seem to go for God and for his beloved one, God will somehow win the salvation of many through it.” John says This is love not that we loved God but that God first loved us, and gave his son as an atoning sacrifice for all we had done wrong. “
Self-giving, and never self-imposing. To all who would receive him he gave the right to become the sons and daughters of the most high. It’s an invitation to find life and light, forgiveness and purpose in knowing and being known by God. To find our truth self in relationship with Christ and in selfless caring for others… and eternal life with Christ at his fathers house.
The greatest gift. The gift of God’s self. Christ’s presence with us, our presence with God in eternity… The greatest gift not wrapped in paper, but in cloth and laid in a manger, the greatest gift, god’s presence, not wrapped in paper but in humanity, the word made flesh, the greatest gift of all… life for you and I, but it does need to be unwrapped unpacked and received. This Christmas this new year may you receive this greatest gift and allow it to bring light and life.