Advent 4

“And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10).

Giving and Christmas go hand in hand. At Christmas, we give gifts to our family and friends. At Christmas, we give gifts to our favorite charities and organizations. At Christmas, we give gifts to our teachers and our employees and our trash collectors. Christmas truly is the most giving time of the year!

The spirit of giving is certainly alive and well here at St. John’s! Over the past several weeks, you have given an overwhelming abundance of Christmas gifts to the clients of United Cerebral Palsy here in Springfield! You have filled our hat and mitten trees to overflowing with items to be shared with the children across our community! You have filled the Christmas trees in both the sanctuary and Parish Life Center with ornaments representing gifts of goats and Bibles and chickens and clean water given through the ELCA Good Gifts Program to individuals and families in need around the world! You have filled the office counter with Christmas cookies and candy for the church staff! THANK YOU for the countless ways you give, both at Christmas and throughout the entire year!

We give at Christmas because, at Christmas, God first gave to us. “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). In giving us the gift of Jesus, God gives us the gift of eternal life, the greatest gift we could ever possibly receive. From the very beginning God’s gift of Jesus prompted the giving of gifts by others as the magi travelled to Bethlehem offering the newborn king gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Even the tradition of Santa Claus stems from the witness of St. Nicholas, that 4th-century Christian bishop from modern day Turkey who was known for giving gifts to the poor. We give to one another because, in Jesus, God first gives to us. Our gift giving is an act of grace flowing forth from the ultimate grace given us in Jesus.

So, as you share in the tradition of gift-giving over the coming days, remember the meaning behind the tradition. May each gift be a visible reminder of the true gift of Christmas—the gift of God’s grace born in the manger of Bethlehem. And, may that gift of God’s grace overflow in our lives as we generously share our gifts with one another and with the world, not just at Christmas, but throughout the entire year. Happy gift giving!

Changed by God’s GRACE+

Tucker GoodComment