Sermon for All Age Eucharist tomorrow. The 8am BCP will be getting the same, but without the participatory bits [in brackets]!
Lord, may the words that I speak be the words you want spoken, may the words that we hear be the words you want heard, may they draw us ever closer to the one true living word, Jesus Christ. Amen.
I wonder who here gave someone a present over Christmas? [ask what did you give and why] We give presents to show we care, to put someone else’s needs before our own.
The wise men brought gifts for Jesus, gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh [volunteers to hold gifts]. Their gifts each had a symbolic value, they each tell us something about Jesus.
[Gold box] Gold tells us that Jesus is a king, because kings wear gold.
[Incense – sniff] Frankincense tells us that Jesus is holy, because in Jewish worship at that time, incense was a symbol of prayer.
[Wooden box] Myrrh tells us that Jesus is going to suffer and die on the cross, because myrrh was used to prepare dead bodies for burial.
So here we have symbols of kingship, holiness and death, all important aspects of Jesus’ mission on earth. But the gifts were also of great value, the best the wise men could afford. And why did they want to give the best gifts they could? Because God had given them the very best gift he could, in Jesus.
And that’s a gift God has given us too. Jesus is God’s gift to each of us, the best gift God could possibly give us: himself. And what gift can we give him in return?
On Christmas morning, some of us read this book [The Perfect Christmas Present by Alexa Tewksbury] which is a story about a shrew called Small who sets out to find the perfect Christmas present for God. He considers several options, but nothing seems good enough. Finally his wise friend the tortoise tells him “It’s you. It’s me. It’s everyone living on the earth… God’s given himself to the world by sending His baby Son [Jesus] to live here. The only present he wants in return… is us.”
I wonder what is the most important present the wise men gave? Gold, frankincense or myrrh? I don’t think so. I think the most important gift they gave Jesus was themselves. Their time and talents and perseverance in following the star. Their worship when they saw Jesus. “They knelt down and paid him homage” – this too is a gift the wise men give to Jesus.
The best gift God could give us is himself, in Jesus. The best gift we can give God is ourselves. But how do we do that? Normally when we give someone a present we wrap it up. Let’s try that [wrap up child].
No, that’s not going to work, is it? So how do we give ourselves to God? By putting him at the centre of our lives. By living the way Jesus taught us. By putting others first and going out of our way to help them. By worshipping God with our whole selves. By praying. By receiving communion or a blessing when we come to church.
It is God’s generosity to us, in giving himself to us completely in the person of Jesus, that makes us want to give ourselves to him, just as their encounter with Jesus brought the wise men to their knees in worship.
It’s the start of a new year and perhaps some of you have already made new year’s resolutions [ask for examples]. If you only make one resolution this year, I urge you to make it this, and keep making and re-making it as often as necessary: Put God first. Put Jesus at the centre. Everything else will follow.