Saint Andrew United Methodist Church

1528 Church Road

Toms River NJ 08755

Real Gifts

Posted by on Monday, December 18, 2017 @ 8:58 AM

There’s a quote by American writer and artist Brian Andreas that goes like this:

“If you hold on to the handle, she said, it's easier to maintain the illusion of control. But it's more fun if you just let the wind carry you.”

Isn’t it true! We spend a lot of time and energy holding onto the handles of our lives desperately trying to steer things. We fret and worry and plan and prepare and sometimes things go our way…   but often they don’t. And the big scary reality behind it all is that we don’t have a heck of a lot of control over anything. ‘Control’ is mostly an illusion we are too scared to let go of.

The way we do Christmas reflects this preoccupation with the illusion of control. We like to get everything just right: the right gifts, the right party, the right tree and decorations, the right feelings, sentiments, memories, and nostalgia. Now, there’s nothing wrong with wanting a Christmas filled with all the joy and pleasantness we can manage. But, the cost is usually high: lots of money, lots of stress, lots of time, lots of anxiety. We expend ourselves in an attempt to control Christmas like we try and control the rest of our lives only to find out that the cost is high and the results, all in all, are so-so.

And in the midst of it all there is another Christmas happening…   one that often gets neglected in the hustle and bustle of creating OUR perfect Christmas…   the Christmas that was announced that night over the fields of Bethlehem: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” No, this is not just a plea to “keep Christ in Christmas”. Jesus, Messiah, came into the world as really, truly, God in the flesh. Jesus, Savior, came into the world as really truly, a light that shines in the darkness. In his coming the world was promised: ”peace on earth and goodwill towards all people”.

The circumstances of his birth and his life reflect our own…   and the lives of all people: a life mostly out of our control. He didn’t get any advantages. He was born in a stable-yard. He didn’t have wealth or power or fame. He wasn’t regarded as special. And, when he shook things up with his mission and ministry, the powers of the world (the Romans and Jewish Leaders) had him executed.

So, maybe, 'control' as we understand it, isn’t the goal of a life well lived or the necessary ingredient in the best Christmas ever. Maybe there is something in the coming of Christ that beckons us to look past the little handles of our little lives that are mostly out of control most of the time? Maybe there’s something God-sized to see instead…   to see and to enter into? The Christmas that changed the world was the one where God came down, in Jesus, and gave himself fully in faith, hope, and love so that the world would be saved. He gave up control and instead, by the wind of the Holy Spirit, found a freedom to live and give God’s promise, healing a broken world everywhere he went all the days he walked upon it.

Maybe if we, similarly, let the wind of the Holy Spirit carry us in the same direction, we will find the real gifts of Christmas don’t come by controlling what we get but by freely giving ourselves away…   just as Jesus did.

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place whileQuirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

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