December 2015

The Real Gift

A missionary was sent to Africa to be a teacher in a Bible school. This young man had been raised on the Pacific Coast of the United States and loved the ocean. He had hoped to be stationed in an area in Africa next to the ocean, but unfortunately he was stationed 85 miles inland. However, he determined to make the best of his assignment in providing training for the natives so that they could be effective evangelists to their own people. Many times in his teaching, he would draw upon the ocean to illustrate his lesson and often talked about his great love for the ocean. In the course of his teaching, he mentioned that the Christian life is one of giving. He shared with the natives about Christmas; the concept of giving gifts, and the special gift God gave when He sent His Son to earth in the form of a babe in a manger. However, he wasn’t sure if they really understood the concept of Christmas and the true meaning of giving. In December, there was a break in the school year as the students were dismissed for a two-week period. One day during this break there was a knock on his door. The missionary went to the door and saw one of his students standing with a huge smile on his face. Upon closer look, he noticed that the young man had scratches on his arms, legs, and face. His clothes looked like he had been on a long trek through difficult terrain. The young man was tired, but had a great big smile. In his hands he was holding a basketful of sea shells. Obviously, they were not from around this area. Then it dawned on the missionary- this young man had walked to the ocean to bring the sea shells back for him. The young student said beaming, “Here is a gift from the ocean.” The missionary was overcome with emotion, then asked, “You have walked almost 170 miles to do this?” The young student’s face showed delight. As he stood tall, he said, “Long walk is part of the gift!”

We live in a day where dollars and cents are supposed to reveal the value of a gift. But does it really? Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself.” That student understood the Christian message. Paul wrote, “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (5) Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, (6) who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, (7) but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, & being made in the likeness of men” (Phil 4:4-7). This is the Christmas message!

Long ago, there was a wise king in Persia. He loved his people & wanted to know how they lived. Thus, he often dressed in the clothes of a workman or beggar, and went to their homes. No one whom he visited thought he was their king. One time he visited a poor man who lived in a cellar. He ate the coarse bread the poor man ate. He spoke cheerful, kind words to him. Then he left. Later he visited the poor man again and disclosed himself as his king! How surprised the poor man was! The king thought the man would surely ask for some gift or favor, but he didn't. Instead the poor man said, “You left your palace & your glory to visit me in this dreary place. You ate my food and brought gladness to my heart! To others you have given your rich gifts. To me you have given yourself!” 

That is exactly what deity did; the Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God. How can we, the sons of God, give ourselves this Christmas season? How about:
-    Visit an elderly member of your church unexpectedly
-    Buy the holiday bell ringer a cup of coffee or treat, and then take a few minutes and talk with them
-    Babysit for a young family so they can have a night out
-    Volunteer in the nursery or Children Church so others can attend the worship service
-    Give a smile to everyone you meet

Remember, your participation is an important part of the gift!

                                                                                                                            -Pastor Mike Kotrla