SERMON FOR EVENSONG – THE GIFT

Given by Jeff Lowndes at Gordon Chapel on 10 Dec 17 Evensong.

THE GIFT – A Meditation for Evensong Dec 17

+ May the Lord open our minds to understand his Holy Word.

You were given a gift when you arrived for Evensong tonight – do not open it until, later in this meditation, I ask you to do so.

Advent – Christmas – Lent – Easter. We cannot have the crib without the cross – one leads to the other – preparation, event, conclusion – and yet no finale` – the story has not ended – yet! So, this is a good time to bring together our major Christian festivals and reflect on what they mean to us in the coming weeks.

But first – Would you agree that the greatest gift ever given was Jesus Christ. He brought the promise of unconditional love, unending hope and eternal life to every person who believes in Him: Are you excited about sharing this gift with others? That gift came at a price. Will you share the gift and that price?

Here’s an incredible statement in Scripture from Peter (1 Peter.18-19 NIV): He said, “You know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold, that you were redeemed…but with the precious blood of Christ”. Jesus paid a high price, so that you and I could have the gift of eternal life. God can make gold and silver as plentiful as the dust of the earth. But when it came to meeting our eternal need, God had to pay the costliest price imaginable…He had to sacrifice His only Son”!

There’s more – I love what Paul said (2 Corinthians 9:15). After talking about the joy and blessing of giving, Paul was overwhelmed at the thought of all that God has given us. So instead of trying to put it all in words he just ended with, “Thank God for his Son – a gift too wonderful for words!”

The Bible tells us that we are the body of Christ on earth! Our arms are the arms of Jesus as we reach out to others in love. Our voice is the voice of Jesus as we share a word of encouragement and hope with others. Our hands are the hands of Jesus that bring healing and comfort to those in need. We Christians should continue to be God’s gift to the world. So, let us look at – The Gift!

Now – Be at Peace – let us quietly meditate.   Take time to think as I talk.   Perhaps close your eyes, or look at the candles, but relax, let the cares of the day leave you, and pass them over to God.

Think of someone you’d like to give a gift to – a friend, a family member, a loved one, even a stranger. Someone from the past or the present.

Now picture them – really see them in your mind and hold on to that image – think about their personality, character, emotions, hopes and dreams. What do you want for them in their life – what do they want – how are they going about it. Will your gift to them make a difference?

You really want to give something to this person – something special and meaningful! You may know them well – or not at all – so what will it be? You think hard about what they really want, and especially – about what they might need. Then you spend a lot of time and effort to find just the right thing for them.

So now your gift is ready – you chose it – prepared it, and wrapped it – you spent a lot of time and care to ensure that it will be just right. Now – you are handing it very carefully to that special person. In your mind – pass the gift over to the person.

You are full of anticipation – what else are you now feeling – happy to be able to give this gift, perhaps concerned it may not be right – perhaps nervous as you await their reaction. Keep the picture of the person in your mind – don’t let it go.

You’ve handed your gift to that special person. It’s now in their hands. Open the gift. What is the recipient of your gift doing – tearing at the wrapping in eager anticipation – or routinely accepting it, putting it to one side to look at later.

What do you see in their face – in their body language. Surprise, appreciation, gratitude. Perhaps a promise to take care of and cherish this very special token of your relationship. Is there an understanding of your love and care in giving that gift – do they appreciate the value of it – not so much the monetary value of the gift – but especially, the value of your giving it.

What do they do with it now – set it to one side to look at something else – or clasp it to themselves lovingly. Or – do you get the feeling that they do not really want it – that they want to reject it! That perhaps they are being polite. But your instinct is that they are disappointed and were looking for something different, something more – it’s not what they expected. You give them time to think. Is there any change in them?

How do you feel now – are you happy and glad that you made the effort to give that very special gift to that person? Do you feel that they now appreciate the thought, the care and even the cost to you, of choosing that gift – and that they will take care of it? Or, are you disappointed and hurt by their reaction, do you wish now that you hadn’t bothered and will give up trying in future !    If so then thank God that you are not God!

A long time ago God, our heavenly Father, gave a gift to his children. He knew his children well and so he chose that gift with care – with love. Nothing was spared to ensure that the gift was really needed. And then – suddenly – the gift arrived in a very special way.

The people had been warned repeatedly over many years, and by many people, that the gift would come – indeed, they were anticipating it, preparing for it, looking for it – waiting, hoping, waiting, always waiting – always with hope.

And, when that gift arrived – in that special place at that special time – a time and place spoken of by the prophets – how did they react. What did they do with God’s gift to them – was the gift welcomed and appreciated – or rejected. We know the answer don’t we.

What do you think Gods reaction to this rejection might be – his feeling about their treatment of his gift? Was he sad, hurt, angry – or was he calm, understanding and forgiving. Did he give up on those who rejected his gift – his children. No – he knows them too well, and loves them too much, to leave them to struggle along on their own.

And so – that gift which was rejected so long ago was not lost – it was not withdrawn – that gift is still on offer to us – to accept or reject. But – we do not know for how long that gift will be on offer for us – we know not the day or the hour!

That gift is still available to us – dare we hesitate – dare we reject it again, turn our backs and close the door to the Kingdom!

Meditation on the Gift that you have received tonight.    The gift that you received from me tonight, is a mirror on which is attached a small wooden cross that I made in my workshop – so it is rough, misshapen, perhaps brutal like the original.

Please use this gift to spark ideas, to meditate, and as in the film title, to bring you ‘back to the future,    do let me have your thoughts.   By the way – you can peel the backing off the mirror and attach it to something!

Here are a few ideas for you:-

What would the crib mean for without the cross – would it be meaningless?

Looking at your gift – which do you see first – the cross – or yourself.

Do you have to go through the cross to get your real self, to find Christ.

If God is in us and we in him, then is this gift showing you God, and is that image looking back to you through his eyes – what is he seeing in you.

When you look at the cross, then through it to the mirror – are you seeing your brothers and sisters in Christ behind and around you – will you now have the courage to speak to them of the cross that binds us together?

Now – what will you do. Will you receive Christ, the greatest gift that God could give  you, be thankful and accept God’s love – or will you turn away.  What is God’s reaction to your choice – will he be overjoyed – or will it give him pain.

The choice is yours and mine – that’s another gift from God. Amen.

Let us pray:-

Lord, as we look at the Advent Candles, may their story and the brightness of their flames, call us to seek out beauty in all its forms, may this be a time for celebrating your promises and for sharing the good news. May the light of the candles shine upon the gifts that you have given us and illuminate in our hearts the greatest gift – our Lord Jesus Christ – help us to share that gift. Amen.