Christmas 1C                                      December 26, 2021,                      St. John, New Orleans

Gift giving can be downright awkward. 

Like when you get a gift from someone unexpectedly, 

or, worse, when you received something from someone you should have expected, yet you forgot about getting them one. 

Or, how about that dear friend who is always so generous, 

yet you could never afford to match their generosity in a reciprocal manner? 

It's just plain awkward at times.

In parts of the former British Empire, December 26th, (or December 27th if it falls on a Sunday like this year) is called Boxing Day. 

Since medieval times, after their Christmas celebrations were over, 

the well-to-do would box up their leftovers from Christmas dinner, 

along with some cash and perhaps a few hand me downs which were new the previous Christmas, 

and go around to take them to their servants, employees, vendors, and other service people's homes. 

They did this on the 26th because many of them had been working on the 25th, 

serving these very same gift-givers in their own, luxurious, homes. 

To this day it is an official paid holiday in the UK 

and employees expect to receive some sort of gift or bonus associated with it. 

It's all become perfunctory and soulless from what I've read. 

It's definitely more of a social contract than having anything to do with celebrating Christmas.

But that is what we are here for today: 

this is the first Sunday of Christmas.

Or, the second day of Christmas of the “two turtle doves” fame from the song. 

We are here to pay homage to the newborn king, The savior Jesus. 

And as we hear Simeon and Anna give thanks for his birth and arrival on earth, we give God our thanks and praise.

Paul gives us some ideas on how we might do that in his letter to the Colossians. 

As we begin in verse 12 of chapter 3, he lists several behaviors indicative of those who honor God. 

Compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 

Additionally, those who love God seek to forgive and love one another as Christ would. 

And verse 17 sums it up by saying,

“and whatever you do, in Word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the father through him.” 

all of our good works can only be appreciated by God within the framework of our relationship to Jesus. 

And this is because Jesus was the only son of God, and he gave him up for us. 

Therefore, our praise for him must include appreciation for his forgiveness and love. 

And we show that appreciation when we emulate the forgiveness and love of Jesus in our own lives.

God didn't give leftovers, seconds, or hand me downs. 

God went all out to give you and me the most precious gift post gift possible in his son Jesus. 

And he did this so that we would be sure of his love for us. 

God left nothing to chance where our salvation is concerned. 

And this is surely a blessed assurance for us as we sit here today and think of his loving generosity.

As we ponder his generosity it would be natural to think of ways we can honor and acknowledge that gift. 

We obviously can't repay it in like kind equally, as that would mean dying on the cross ourselves just as he did. 

But we may strive to give in the same heart as God, 

complete love, and devotion for him, 

and with an extravagantly generous heart. 

It's generosity that includes every facet of our being. 

From our prayers and worship 

to our service and good works 

to our tithes and offerings. 

In fact, God promises that those who place him first in their lives, he will look after, protect, and bless. 

Not necessarily with wealth and health, but with a fervent heart and a glad heart.

And if we are to be truly generous as He is generous, our generosity begins with forgiveness

You and I are called to forgive one another 

whenever our brother or sister has repented of their sin against us.

And even when they are unaware they have even offended us

For, “love covers over a multitude of sins.”

And this is all done in the hopes that our generous, forgiving hearts, 

Will allow them to not only receive forgiveness for their sin,

But that it may help them learn to love in peace and harmony with their neighbor.

Anna and Simeon knew that ultimate peace could only come to them through the Messiah

And when they saw Jesus they knew that God had finally granted them this gift.

And knowing that, they declared their faith in him and commended themselves into his eternal care.

Next week we start a new year of ministry at Saint John. 

And last week we voted on a ministry plan for 2022 that is more ambitious than in 2021. 

And your engagement with that ministry plan is a first step toward responding to God's love for you in sending Jesus to be your Savior. 

If you don't give on a consistent basis to the ministry we share at Saint John, 

consider an amount you feel you can commit to 

on a regular, pre-set timeframe 

and which God would bless, knowing your heart for him. 

And then, in order to keep yourself accountable, 

email the church office or myself with that amount 

so that we can help you keep track of that pledge. 

If you are already giving regularly, consider how you might increase your contribution in other ways. 

Perhaps it is by serving in leadership positions or serving on a committee or a worship team. 

Maybe you are good at something that we do not currently do that you can help us start doing. 

The point is, each of us has have so many gifts and abilities 

and have been blessed with so much,

that the opportunities to return to the Lord a portion of the gift he's given us are truly endless. 

May you find joy during the days of Christmas 

as you receive and reflect on God's gifts to you. 

And may you bless God and others as you give of yourself in return and in thankfulness. 

In the name of Jesus. Amen