Rev. David Holwick ZL
First Baptist Church
Ledgewood, New Jersey
December 9, 2001
I. Gift-giving as a classic custom of Christmas.
A. Abercrombie & Fitch catalog with outlandish gifts.
1) President Bush - do your duty to revitalize the economy.
B. Gift-giving in the past.
1) Mary McMurtrie - grew up in a house at the head of a hollow
She can't remember getting any toys.
Each year she got socks and one piece of clothes.
Her mom made the clothes, sometimes copying the pictures
She made them too big so they'd last longer.
On Christmas morning they got peppermints and crackers
under the tree, which was decorated with popcorn and
homemade paper chains.
2) Jennie Decker got shoes and clothes.
One year she got a doll.
Her family also put popcorn strings on the tree.
3) Sam Mino - his biggest gift was an Erector set.
He still has the motor.
He received more clothes than toys.
4) Kathie Stark's best gift was from her boyfriend Bob.
She was a sophomore in high school.
It was the only gift she got that year.
He got her a blue bowling ball. With a bag!
5) David Osborne got a sled, a remote-control car, a unicycle,
a baseball bat, a Daisy BB gun and a Big Wheel.
One relative did give him sheets for his bed once.
Is it any wonder why the current generation is the
way it is?
C. Christmas has always been associated with gift-giving.
1) Wise men brought gifts.
b) Appropriate for a king.
2) St. Nicholas of Smyrna = Santa Claus.
3) Brought to a fever-pitch by American consumerism.
a) Didn't really take off until 1860's. (Macy's promotion)
b) Sometimes it almost seems a burden. So many people...
II. Jesus is the best Christmas gift-giver. Ephesians 4:8
A. Psalm 68:18 and the triumphant Messiah.
1) In the Psalm he receives gifts from conquered people.
2) In Ephesians he GIVES gifts to men.
B. From his birth to ascension, in reverse order.
1) Paul begins with his triumph at the Ascension into heaven.
2) He then mentions Jesus' descent to the "lower regions."
a) Past commentators saw this as hell.
1> Reflected in Apostles' Creed.
2> Not clearly taught anywhere in Bible.
b) Modern scholars say it is earth itself.
1> We are lower than heaven. A lot lower!
c) He came down to be one of us.
1> The Master of the Universe stooped to our level,
that we might be saved.
2> This is the essence of Christmas.
III. Christ gives grace. Ephesians 4:7
A. "Grace" is the essence of a gift - it is free and undeserved.
1) Acronym - "God's Riches At Christ's Expense."
2) Billy Graham's description:
Man does not come to know God through works -
he comes to know God by faith through grace.
You cannot work your way toward heaven,
you cannot moralize your way,
you cannot reform your way,
and you cannot buy your way.
It comes as a gift of God through Christ. #8044
B. God's grace means he wants to give us good things.
2) Daily bread.
3) Warm fellowship.
IV. Christ gives people. Ephesians 4:11
A. Paul says Jesus gives the church its leaders.
1) Their purpose is to build up the body of Christ, us.
2) Other passages in the Bible stress what the leaders do:
help, encouragement, healing, hospitality...
Romans 12:4-8 and 1 Peter 4:10-12
3) The spirituality and maturity of each member matters.
4) And each of us has something to contribute to the whole.
B. God blesses us so we can be a blessing to others.
1) Extend the grace he has given us.
2) God may use us in a way we can't predict.
Lalia Winsett has a cousin who is a Baptist minister.
When they were growing up, they only saw each other a
couple of times a year.
Now they see each other even less.
A few years ago, when she hadn't seen him for some time,
she suddenly began thinking about him and his family.
She just couldn't get them off my mind.
And for some reason, she felt compelled to send him a
check for $100.
She thought about it for a few days and made more than
one aborted trip to the post office.
She finally mailed it with a letter saying she hoped she
wasn't offending him, but she believed the Lord wanted
her to do this.
A couple of weeks later she received a reply.
Her cousin said it never ceased to amaze him how God
worked in his life.
And now God had once again shown him, through her, that
he would always meet his needs.
Her cousin said the only concern he had was that she had
sent too much.
All he had needed was $97.56.
3) Point them to Jesus.
Pat Riddle, a Lutheran pastor in North Carolina, tells
about an interesting event that occurred to him and
his wife on their honeymoon in Savannah, Georgia.
They decided they felt like Chinese food for supper.
They noticed a little Chinese restaurant across the way
from their room.
It didn't look five-star and it seemed to be a little
tattered at the edges, but they decided to go.
Once inside, they were treated to a marvelous meal.
As they went to the door to pay their check, the lady
behind the cash register noticed they were newlyweds.
She asked if she could give them a present.
When they nodded, she reached under the counter, pulled
out a little porcelain Chinese house and handed it to
She said, "Always keep Christ in your home and marriage.
This house will remind you of keeping him in your lives.
That is my gift to you."
a) Does your Christmas have anything to do with Jesus?
1> This season, will you do something that honors him?
b) Society has done a good job of erasing & replacing him.
1> Only we can put him back in.
2> Do it consciously and prayerfully.
V. Christmas gift-giving can be a mission.
A. With your kids, emphasize giving more than getting.
1) Don't get them everything their greedy little hearts desire.
2) Train them in generosity.
B. Give to someone not on your "list."
1) Give your most extravagant gifts outside your own family.
2) Give to someone who could never repay you.
C. Give secretly.
1) Each year we try to pick someone we can give secretly to.
a) Like Jesus said, don't let your left hand know what
your right is doing.
2) And we try to give them more than we give each other.
D. Make your gifts meaningful more than money-ful.
Jim Comstock and his wife had just finished the 150-mile trip
home from their daughter's college.
It was the first time in their lives that she would be gone
for any length of time.
It was an emotionally draining experience.
Later in bed, Jim thought of the time he had started college.
His father had driven him in their old farm truck.
In the back was the trunk he had bought with money earned by
pitching hay that summer.
His mother had to stay behind to keep the cattle from getting
into the crops.
Jim, the fourth in a line of brothers, was the first to go
away to college.
He remembered how his father and he stopped by a stream and
ate the sandwiches his mother had prepared.
Jim's daughter's day was different, of course.
They stopped at a classy roadside place and ordered fried
It wasn't until they were passing through the next town that
they discovered their daughter had forgotten to bring her
portable radio and record player.
Jim remembered back to the farewell his father had given him.
He shook hands with his father in the truck.
For a long, haunting moment his dad looked straight ahead,
not saying a word, but Jim knew he was going to make a
"I can't tell you nothing," his dad finally said.
"I never went to college, and none of your brothers went to
I can't say don't do this and do that, because everything is
different and I don't know what is going to come up.
I can't help you much with money either, but I think things
will work out."
He gave Jim a brand-new checkbook.
"If things get pushing, write a small check.
But when you write one, send me a letter and let me know
There are some things we can always sell."
"You know what you want to be, and they'll tell you what to
take," his father continued.
"When you get a job, be sure it's honest and work hard."
Then his dad reached down beside his seat and brought out the
old, dingy Bible that he had read so often.
It was the one he used when he wanted to look something up
in a friendly argument with one of the neighbors.
Jim knew his dad would miss it.
Jim also knew, though, that he must take it.
His dad didn't tell him to read it every morning.
He just said, "This can help you if you will let it."
When he finished school, he took the Bible back to his father,
but his dad said he wanted him to keep it.
"You will have a kid in school some day," he told him.
"Let the first one take that Bible along."
Now, too late, Jim remembered.
It would have been so nice to have given it to his daughter
when she got out of the car.
But he didn't.
Things were different.
He was prosperous and his father wasn't. He had gone places.
Jim could give her everything.
His father could give him only a battered, old Bible.
Jim had been able to give his daughter what she needed.
Or had he?
He didn't really believe now that he gave her half as much as
his father gave him.
So the next morning he wrapped up the book and sent it to her.
He wrote a note:
"This can help you," he penned, "if you will let it."
E. With every gift, send a prayer.
1) God can give to them better than you can. 2 Cor 9:15
SOURCES FOR ILLUSTRATIONS USED IN THIS SERMON:
# 2223 "A Chinese Restaurant's Witness," from sermon "He Is Who He Says
He Is," fourth Sunday in April, 1992, Dynamic Preaching,
# 5557 "She Sent A Little Too Much," by Lalia Winsett, Internet Chicken
Soup of the Day, July 3, 2000. Taken from Chicken Soup for
the Christian Soul, copyright 1997, by Jack Canfield, Mark
Victor Hansen, Patty Aubery and Nancy Mitchell.
# 8044 "Billy Graham on Grace," by Billy Graham. From Fredericksburg
Bible Illustrator supplement collection, 5/1991.101.
#19432 "He Could Only Give A Bible," by Jim Comstock, Internet Chicken
Soup of the Day, June 17, 2001. Taken from Chicken Soup for
the Christian Family Soul by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor
Hansen, Patty Aubery and Nancy Mitchell Autio.
These and 20,000 others are part of a database that can be downloaded,
absolutely free, at http://www.holwick.com/database.html
Copyright © 2017 by Rev. David Holwick
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