Dec. 28, 2014

Is. 61.10-62.3; Galatians 3:23-25; 4:4-7; JN. 1.1-18

Every Christmas, it seems, we struggle to find just the perfect gift for the people we love. I guess that's why I'm always baffled by the song, "On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree" know the rest--a strange assortment of gifts.

I guess that's why on a whim, I bought a pear tree to hold our Christmas decorations this year. It seemed like a good idea at the time...but the vertical branches wouldn't hold very many ornaments at all and the lights on the tree just puddled together around the base of the branches, but I figured it was more practical than a dead spruce tree. But practical is not the all in all.

That song, the "Partridge in the pear tree" was voted in a newspaper survey as the most irritating of all the secular Christmas songs just barely beating out, "Do you hear what I hear?" When you think about it, how would you feel if you were given "a partridge in a pear tree"? You might question the person's sanity or their goodwill! What can you actually do with "ten lords a leapin'"? Or with "Six geese a laying, seven swans a swimming, eight maids a milking..."? Maybe impractical gifts have a value all their own. So, I guess the vacuum cleaner that I didn't give my wife this Christmas was a good decision after all.

But maybe that's the point. The best gifts don't have to have a practical value. Halford Luccock who writes for the Christian Century magazine said, "The best gifts of love are those that show a lovely lack of common sense." Maybe God was thinking the same on that Christmas all those years ago and today as we recall the story of a very impractical gift, we can appreciate God's intent in giving it.

It was a very impractical gift, all things considered...a baby who was brought into this world in a cattle stall as the "desire of nations"? This was the Messiah that God gifted to us? Not the Messiah we would have chosen. Not one stamped in the mold of King David, like we would use to stabilize the world. In such an unstable world, most of us would opt for a warrior Messiah, one clad in armor, wielding a powerful weapon. But this was not the Messiah we got. This was not the Messiah who would trample enemies under foot. This was not the Messiah whose voice called people to battle. This was not the Messiah who brought dominion and domination. We are much more impressed by shock and awe than with the simplicity of creation and love. Perhaps we could learn something from God's impractical gift to us in this Messiah Child.

St Paul said it best, I think, in the Epistle to the Galatians today when he wrote, "God sent his that we might receive adoption as (God's) children. And because...children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" longer a slave but a child, and...also an heir, through God." And that explains why every time I have lost my way blinded by my own sin, or when I have felt broken in spirit and soul, or when I have felt isolated and alone and outcast in some spiritual desert, then I realize ever so clearly that God has given to you and me the perfect gift for this or any season. As John's gospel said today, "He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God". That sounds like the perfect gift to me. Merry Christmas!

The Reverend W A Ray St Thomas Church
Diamondhead, MS 12/28/14