This year, Echo has been talking about “simplifying” Christmas – not to take the fun away, but to make sure what matters most gets the most attention.
Simple = clear. Simple ≠ excess. Simple ≠ stress. Simple ≠ clutter.
This is about being intentional, doing Christmas on purpose. This Christmas, what we want to do at DCC and in Echo is enter the true Christmas story.
Last Sunday, we finished the series talking about the essence of the Christmas story. John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” I know this is not a Christmas passage: there is no nativity; there are no Christmas carols about this verse. But this verse is about the incarnation. The spirit of Advent is really wrapped up in this short verse. God Loved, so God Gave.
1. God Loved the world. Even the messed up fallen world that is full of selfish people and brokenness. He loved us. He loved us in our mess of imperfection and faults. Even with the selfishness we display this time of year, driven to accumulate MORE, he loves us. He loved little girls obsessed with pillow pets. He loved teenage boys with pornography problems. He loved middle school girls that gossip and create drama. Sometimes talking about God’s love makes people imagine that God is indulgent and just gushes on us, like he is happy no matter what. We think something like: “Because God loves me, it means he is okay with me no matter what dysfunction is in my life.” This isn’t quite right. The reality of God’s love means that he feels compelled to rescue us from our brokenness. God’s love motivates him to heal and bring life like a doctor’s compassion motivates him to move toward sick people to make them well. You wouldn’t think that a doctor that did nothing to heal a sick person was compassionate, no matter how nice and indulgent they were. The same is true for God – he loves us, so he cannot allow us to stay as we are. So he acts on his love, and he sends Jesus.
2. God Gave His Son. God’s response to love he felt for the world was to give His Son. He didn’t send a card, or a necktie, or a video game. He didn’t give a fruitcake or some cookies. He gave something precious. God gave the most precious and valuable gift ever conceived. For so long, people have thought about ways to give to God, to satisfy or appease the higher power. Thinking about the Biblical story, what is God looking for? People have thought that the answer is ritual or material or financial. People have tried to give sacrifices and religious activities. What would it mean to respond in love like God responded in love? When God loved us, he gave His son to a broken world.
What if the gift God wants this Christmas is for us to keep doing likewise? What if we are supposed to give ourselves to a broken world? When God gave His Son He gave himself. This is the mystery and beauty of the Trinity. The Father is the Son and is the Spirit. This is the incarnation – where God gave himself. The best gifts then are going to be those that follow in this pattern. The best gift you can give this Christmas is yourself. This sounds right, and it is the Spirit of Advent. God Loved, and so God Gave. We love God, so we Give. This is the response of everyone when their eyes are opened to just how much God gave us. God gave us his Son, God gave us the Kingdom – and so we GIVE. We give something precious and valuable to us to a world that needs help.
This is what it ultimately means to enter the story of Christmas – to follow God’s example in self-giving. Because God gave Jesus, we have everything we need. When you learn to see the world and your situation through the eyes of God’s economy, you discover what already have. The system of our culture always amplifies what we don’t have, but God’s Kingdom gives us eyes to see the enormous amount we do have. Here is the truth: you don’t need anything you don’t already have. You do not need more perfume, another electronic gadget, another video game, or a better cell phone. Our culture tells us these lies and we believe it. The truth is, none of that stuff will make us happy – AND it is entirely possible to shift your perspective and be happy with what you already have! With the eyes of the Kingdom, you see your abundance, and it makes you content and generous.
The only adequate response to blessing and abundance is to figure out how to give it away. The right response to the gift of God is to GIVE MORE. Look at this passage: Luke 12:32-34- “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
This warning follows the story of the rich fool and teaching from Jesus about being content and trusting in God and not worrying about material things. Jesus is reminding people that are focused on material things and the false security they offer that such worry is senseless. “Your father has been please to give you the Kingdom,” what more could you ever need? The response that Jesus sees as natural might surprise us. Jesus teaches that when you realize how much God has blessed you and you recognize what you have been given, you will respond by “selling your possessions and giving to the poor.” You will overflow with generosity! This is one of the most basic teachings of the Bible and one of the deepest laws of God’s Kingdom: you have been blessed to be a blessing to others!