Preached at United Reformed Church of Clifton on Christmas Day, December 25, 2020
Christmas is a time of gift giving. It is not only fun to get gifts but it is also fun to give them. God is a gift giver.
In preparation for this sermon, I looked up the words “give” and “gift” in the Bible to see what kind of gifts God give us. While not a complete, here is a list of 10 things God gives us.
- Food: The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. (Ps 145:15)
- Sleep: It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives sleep to his beloved. (Ps 127:2)
- Rest: Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. (Matt 11: 28)
- A Home: He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children! (Ps 113:9)
- Peace: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. John (14:27)
- The Desires of Your Heart: Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)
- Answered Prayer: But truly God has listened; he has given heed to the words of my prayer. (Ps 66:19)
- Love: See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. (I John 3:)
- Eternal Life: And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. (I John 5:11)
- His only Son: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. (John 3:16)
And that is why we are here this morning—to celebrate the gift of God’s only Son. The Apostle Paul tells us that the gift of His Son is the source of all of God’s other good gifts: “He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? (Romans 8:32)”
This morning I want to ask you a question: What do you give a God who has everything? The wisemen brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to honor the Christ child.
I also did a little research about these gifts that I’d like to share with you. These gifts are prophesied in Isaiah 60: 6
A multitude of camels shall cover you,
the young camels of Midian and Ephah;
all those from Sheba shall come.
They shall bring gold and frankincense,
and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.
So this is just one more example of how the Old Testament foreshadowed Jesus and was fulfilled in the New Testament.
By the way this is also the verse where we get the idea that the wisemen came to Bethlehem on camels. Matthew doesn’t say anything about the magi riding camels. But when the church fathers saw this verse from Isaiah, they thought that camels had to be a part of the story and that’s how the camels became a part of the Christmas story.
These gifts have symbolic meanings. Gold because Jesus is a king. Frankincense was used in the daily temple prayers and so it symbolizes Jesus position of a priestly intercessor, who takes our prayers and offers them to God. Myrrh was used in the sacrifices offered in the temple. It was also used to prepare the body after death. So it speaks of Christ’s sacrifice and death for our sins.
But to return to the original question: What do you give a God who has everything? And the answer is, “You give him your all.” In Romans 12: 1 the apostle Paul says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
The sacrifice Paul has in mind here is the whole burnt offering. There were two kinds of sacrifices in the Old Testament. The first was the fellowship sacrifice. This sacrifice was shared between God, the priest and the people. God’s part of the sacrifice was burned on the altar, but the priest and person who brought the sacrifice took the rest of the meat and had a feast with it. That’s why it was called a fellowship sacrifice, because it created a fellowship, a sense of mutual belonging, between God, the priests and the people.
The second kind of sacrifice was the whole burnt offering. This sacrifice was totally dedicated to God; the entire sacrifice was burned on the altar as a gift to God.
With the coming of Jesus, the sacrificial system was replaced. Now instead of sacrificing a bull or a goat, we are asked to make ourselves a living sacrifice. In other words, we surrender complete control of our body and our life to God. That’s the gift we give him.
What do you give to a God who has everything? Christina Rossetti in her poem, In the Bleak Mid-Winter, gives us the best answer to that question
What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a Shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.