Christmas songs are great, but there’s only so many and I think by the 7th or 8th time you hear Frosty the Snow man, you start wishing that someone would push him into a hot tub. I also have to assume that these next four weeks are incredibly difficult for anyone whose grandma actually was run over by a reindeer.
You know speaking of which I don’t like the song Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer either, it’s a terrible song. I mean think about it, it’s all about everyone treating you like garbage until they realize you have something they need.
This year our Christmas theme is “The Gifts of Christmas.” And I think at Christmas time we typically think of the three gifts that the Wiseman brought the baby Jesus, gifts of great significance; gold, frankincense and myrrh. But in truth, those were all tangible items of wealth, and I often wonder if those first Christmas gifts were also the first Christmas returns. I’m sure Mary and Joseph were better off with the gold than with myrrh as a baby shower gift.
But this Christmas I want to remind you about the gifts that we bring to the Lord.
And I think there isn’t any better example in the scriptures than that of Mary. The Christmas story begins…
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
You know, when we’re talking about the gifts that we can give to God this Christmas, what more beautiful gift can we give then our lives?
Within Mary’s decision to be fully submissive to the call of God was her willingness, if need be, to suffer ridicule and contempt and loneliness. And God certainly didn’t force this choice on Mary; she willingly embraced what God had for her, didn’t she?
God had a plan for Mary’s life and God has a plan for your life as well. And the greatest thing we can do with our lives, is to give them back to God.
Look at what the Apostle Peter says….
1 Peter 4:10-11
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.
What is Peter saying? Well, each of us has been given gifts and abilities by God. God might not be asking to you to carry the Christ child for nine months, but God has placed a purpose inside of you. Peter says, “for example if you’ve noticed you’re good at speaking or teaching, then you should use that gift.”
Peter says, “Maybe you’ve notice you have a talent to serve other people – well then use that gift.”
And I know as a culture, we tend to put Mary up on a pedestal, we paint her picture, carve her statues, write songs about her and her character is in every Christmas play, but remember the angel says “this is a favor.” It was charity, she didn’t earn it, she didn’t win a contest – God singled her out as an act of grace. And Peter says that you and I are no different.
The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 2:10
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Why did God create us according to Paul? For good works. It’s not what saves us, it’s not what forgives us, works don’t make God happy, rather they are our purpose. And with Mary we see that God prepared the task for her… and then…. he prepares her for the task.
And once Mary could see that, all that was left for her to say was, “my life is yours – when do we start?”
Because I think it’s one thing to say “give God your life” but where do you start? Do I run off and join a convent, become a missionary, sell all my worldly possessions and shave my head? What does God want me to do? Where does God want me to go?
Well, where does Mary start? The story says next that…
In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.
Ladies you just find out you’re going to have a baby, so what’s the first thing you do? You set out on a 4 day journey to walk 80-100 miles to your cousins house. And I know we’ve all speculated as to ‘why’ Mary went to stay with Elizabeth, and it’s been offered that she was going to assist Elizabeth by being a mid-wife or perhaps Mary was hiding away from prying eyes, or perhaps… the angel….. gave her the idea.
In v36 the Angel tells Mary
36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.
The angel clearly tells Mary, ‘hey if you want to see God’s work in action, your cousin who has never been able to have a baby, ….she’s going to have a baby!” God gives Mary a life assignment, and where does Mary start? She starts where she lives, with the tools God has given her. She starts to serve …in her own family, doesn’t she?
Mary’s going to give birth to the Messiah! So where does she begin? Maybe she should take a class, or a Bible study, or maybe she should read up about saving the world? No, Mary starts in her own home town, with her own people, with her own family, using the grit and gumption that God had already given her.
She started with the familiar. She started with what was comfortable.
And I think the issue for us is – we look at our own lives and we take stock and then we wonder, ‘well, how can God use me?’
That’s what Mary asked. ‘I’m a virgin… how can God use me?’
Listen, you don’t know what abilities you’ve got that God can use. And since you and I don’t know what abilities God can use for His purposes… we should use all of our abilities for God whenever we can… and you know what? We might be surprised with what God can do with us… once we give in …and give God… our lives.
I think Christmas can be a time when we think about the impact we have, the thing we are devoting our life to and as we watch another year come and go as we question whether we have made a difference on this spinning ball of rock.
A few of us may scramble quickly to give to a charity, or to write an extra large check to the church, a few of us may even head down to the local soup kitchen and help a few helpless faces. But I want to offer that God can use more than just the arm you use to ladle soup or write checks with.
God can use your entire life, and not just any life – but your life – specifically the things that make you who you are. Perhaps you’re good at gardening, or pet care, or you’re exceptionally good at reading out loud – God can use all of those things.
Maybe you’re a problem solver, a relationship restorer, or perhaps you’re an expert at finding leaks – God can use that to. Your entire life God has trained you, he’s molded you and faceted you to prepare you for this moment… don’t miss it.
At Christmas time I think we’re always so ready to retell the wonderful story of what God has given us. But this year we can revisit the things that we can give God.
You can give God your life.