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The Gift and Christmas
A wealthy man and his son loved to collect rare works of art. They had everything in their collection, from Picasso to Raphael. They would often sit together and admire the great works of art.
When the Vietnam conflict broke out, the son went to war. He was very courageous and died in battle while rescuing another soldier. The father was notified and grieved deeply for his only son.
About a month later, just before Christmas, there was a knock at the door. A young man stood at the door with a large package in his hands.
He said, "Sir, you don't know me, but I am the soldier for whom your son gave his life. He saved many lives that day, and he was carrying me to safety when a bullet struck him in the heart and he died instantly. He often talked about you, and your love for art." The young man held out this package. "I know this isn't much. I'm not really a great artist, but I think your son would have wanted you to have this."
The father opened the package. It was a portrait of his son, painted by the young man. He stared in awe at the way the soldier had captured the personality of his son in the painting. The father was so drawn to the eyes that his own eyes welled up with tears. He thanked the young man and offered to pay him for the picture. "Oh, no sir, I could never repay what your son did for me. It's a gift."
The father hung the portrait over his mantle. Every time visitors came to his home he took them to see the portrait of his son before he showed them any of the other great works he had collected.
The man died a few months later. There was to be a great auction of his paintings many influential people gathered, excited over seeing the great paintings and having an opportunity to purchase one for their collection.
On the platform sat the painting of the son as the auctioneer pounded his gavel and said, "We will start the bidding with this picture of the son. Who will bid for this picture?"
There was silence.
Then a voice in the back of the room shouted, "We want to see the famous paintings. Skip this one."
But the auctioneer persisted. "Will somebody bid for this painting. Who will start the bidding? $100, $200?"
Another voice angrily: "We didn't come to see this painting. We came to see the Van Goghs, the Rembrandts. Get on with the real bids!"
But still the auctioneer continued. "The son! The son! Who'll take the son?"
Finally, a voice came from the very back of the room. It was the longtime gardener of the man and his son. "I'll give $10 for the painting." Being a poor man, it was all he could afford.
"We have $10, who will bid $20?"
"Give it to him for $10. Let's see the masters."
"$10 is the bid, won't someone bid $20?"
The crowd was becoming angry. They didn't want the picture of the son.
They wanted the more worthy investments for their collections.
The auctioneer pounded the gavel, "Going once, twice, SOLD for $10!"
A man sitting on the second row shouted, "Now let's get on with the collection!"
The auctioneer laid down his gavel, "I'm sorry, the auction is over."
"What about the paintings?"
"I am sorry. When I was called to conduct this auction, I was told of a secret stipulation in the will. I was not allowed to reveal that stipulation until this time. Only the painting of the son would be auctioned. Whoever bought that painting would inherit the entire estate, including the paintings."
"The man who bought the son gets everything!"
During this time of giving and receiving, oftentimes we all get caught up in what we are going to buy and what we are going to receive. We all wait either for Christmas Eve or for Christmas morning in anticipation to open the gifts that we wrapped to surprise them and for us to be surprised with the gifts from our loves ones. Stores are crowded with so many people that you can barely get your shopping done.
We get pulled along and only think of the gifts, the cooking, and the cards that we are going to send out. And today we often forget about the true reason for the time of Christmas. Is it we do not want to share this time with anything else or is it that we have truly forgotten why we celebrate Christmas in the first place?
As we have read in newspapers and have seen in our schools and businesses that we no longer can use the word Christmas because we may offend those who do not celebrate Christmas. And, we sit idly by as Christmas is turned into a monster that is devoted to pleasure and just time off work. How is it that we have forgotten that the reason for the season was that our Lord came to this earth not to live but to die for us?
We Christians sit by and allow everyone else to dictate how we are going to celebrate this time of year. And we forget that it was God who gave us His living breath and we only exist to glorify Him.
There are so many examples from the Scriptures that show us time and time again what happens to those who forget about the One who gives us our gifts in this life. Two come to mind when I think of saying: “I can do this on my own. Everything that I have is because I did it; it was my blood sweat and tears that has given me my life!”
The first example comes from the book of Daniel. King Nebuchadnezzar was given the people of Israel because of their disobedience. He said to himself “Is not this great Babylon that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?"
“While the word was still in the king's mouth, a voice fell from heaven: 'King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you!'
So God struck Nebuchadnezzar down and made him as an ox by forcing him to eat grass and live on all fours until he remembered who it was that he should glorify.
The second example comes from the Gospel of Matthew. We read that Herod wanted to know about the birth of Christ because he did not want another king to have part in his kingdom. He then orders the death of all the children to satisfy his lust for power.
Both of these men were given the gift of leadership. Both believed that it was theirs alone to have. They believed that their authority was achieved on their own.
But nonetheless these men received their reward and from their mistakes we receive our gift.
Nebuchadnezzar finally realized who it was that gave him his kingdom and began to give the glory to God. He realized that it was a gift to have his kingdom. If it was not God’s will for him to have it he surely would not have attained it.
And recalling Herod, he died because of his actions, but because of his actions the scriptures were fulfilled. Jesus and his family were forced to go to Egypt and when they returned Jesus grew and began his saving work on earth. Because of God’s infinite wisdom, the gifts He gives sometime do not make sense at the time we receive them. God gave us the gift of His Son to show us the way.
Letting Christ be born as we are born was a gift to us.
Letting Christ live as we lived was a gift to us.
Jesus living in this world, as corrupt as it is, and still living a sinless life was a gift to show us that, yes, even though life is hard and even though we struggle we can live lives pure before the Lord.
And Jesus, suffering and dying, and God, giving Him the strength to endure it, is a gift to us. The way that Christ lived was Grace for us.
The Grace that is found in the scriptures is a gift for us to have record of some of what the Father has done for us. His love was so infinite that He have us His own Son.
All the gifts we have today are a gift from God. Even through we often try to live lives without Him, he loves us still and waits for us to come to His loving embrace.
God’s grace is to the meek and the poor. Just as in the story that began this sermon, the gardener gave all he could for the painting of the son. And through his love for the father and the son he inherited all of the estate of the father.
Still, today we are called to remember what it is that our Father is asking. He is asking us to rise up and shake the dust and cobwebs from our lives and begin to live the life that Jesus died to give us. When Jesus died He gave the gift of eternal life to the entire world as a gift for us. His blood bought and paid for our lives in full.
All He waits for is for you to accept the Son, so you to can be given the keys to the front doors of the kingdom and for you to sign your name to the deed to the mansion that awaits you in heaven,
Christ was born as a gift to the world, a baby in the manger awaiting not only the Magi to bring their offerings of gold, frankincense and myrrh but waiting for us to bring and lay at the foot of the savior of the universe our whole being.
My brothers and sisters in the Lord, call to remember what Joshua said when he was asked whom he will serve: “As for me and my house we shall serve the Lord.”
God’s gifts are as abundant as the sands of the sea. He is with us until the end of all days. His Holy Spirit gives us the strength we need to endure all the trails and tests that this world puts us through.
How many times have we come to church, sat in our pews and asked to accept the Son, Christ our lord into our hearts and all we give is our silence?
As we sit in the crowd of the world and stand by while others shout for the Van Gogh’s of violence and Rembrandts of godlessness, we just need to wait for the opportunity to give the bid for the son.
Look at all the gifts that the Lord has given you this Christmas while you are sitting around the Christmas tree waiting to open your presents remember the reason why we celebrate the exchange of gifts.
The reason is one: God gave His son 2,000 years ago to die on the cross. Much like the auctioneer, His message today is same as it was when He came the first time: "The son, the son, who'll take the son?"
Because, you see, whoever takes the Son gets everything.
FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD HE GAVE HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON, WHO SO EVER BELIEVETH, SHALL HAVE ETERNAL LIFE...