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On the last day of classes for Hope College’s fall 2017 semester, Trygve preaches on the birth of Christ as the gift we truly need.

I. Gift List

It’s the time of year we make lists.  At least in my house.  This is the season when the Grandparents call to ask “What’s on the kids’ Christmas lists?  What’s on yours?”  We’ll spend some time making lists.  

This is what is on Ella’s list this year.  She’s 5.  She wants a spa for her doll!  For her doll!  Lord have mercy!  What’s she going to want when she’s a teenager!  

This is Trygve’s list.  He’s 8.  Madden 13, Nintendo Switch. Iphone (What!)  Fit bit!  The dude’s 8!  Apple watch!  (I’m not even allowed to have one of those!)  Who are these kids’ parents?

But making the list is fun.  It  is fun to see what they really want. What’s on your list?  What do you want this year? Or an even more interesting question is what do you need?  What we really want speaks to our desires – what we often celebrate – what we long for.  That is what Advent is all about: it’s about longing for our deepest and best desire.  But it’s difficult to put on a list.  

What if I told you that you can have what you most want in life?  Or at the very least, you can have what you most need for your life?  That is some kind of claim – some kind of promise.  It would be a kind of exciting news – something that would get your attention.   Today, I am making that claim – or at least I am telling you that claim has been made – and that what you most want and need in life has already been given to you!  

II.  Scripture

This is what we can learn by overhearing what happened to some shepherds one night.  Listen to the book that we love!  Luke 2:8-20;

“In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
   and on earth peace among those whom he favors!’

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” (Luke 2:8-20)

III.  The Gift

It’s an old story.  Familiar.  Maybe so familiar that its significance has dulled.  What we just heard is the announcement of a gift given that is what you and I and the world most need.  It is a gift of good news… of great joy… for all the people!  It is a remarkable gift.  

The gift is not a toy or a shirt to grow out of.  The gift does not require batteries nor assembly.  The gift is a person whose presence offers us a new reality to live in.   

Those who hear about the gift first are some shepherds.  They are living in the fields.  Homeless.  They are probably late adolescent boys, with no social standing or significance.  Then suddenly an angel appears and starts talking.  They are afraid.  When heaven shows up to you face to face, it’s the proper reaction.  But the angel – who is emanating glory – starts to speak and his words are the revelation humanity has been longing to hear ever since the garden and our journey went east of Eden.  

“Do not be afraid; for see I am giving you good news of great joy 
for all the people: 
to you is born this day in the city of David a savior, 
who is the Messiah, the Lord!”

“Do not be afraid!” This is the news that is good – 
this is the joy that reverberates down the canyons of time;
Do not be afraid because 
a savior who is born to us – a Messiah, the Lord – has come;
a promise fulfilled for all
as an embodied 
gift given for all people
at all times and in all places.

That’s the revelation: Jesus is the gift that brings Good News. Jesus is the revelation of God among us.  He is Good News for all people in all places.  Jesus the Christ! Jesus is the present whose presence unwraps our deepest desire.

But why is it good news?  This baby born to bring good-news is said to be the Savior – Messiah – and Lord.  These titles ascribed to Jesus are significant.  And why is he what we most need?

Savior & Messiah:  In this context, the savior who brings good-news (the greek word “euangelion”) is expected to be someone.  Good News was a phrase associated with the Roman propaganda machine of Caesar Augustus.  Caesar is said to be the savior bringing peace to the world.  But that peace only reached about 7% of the people in the world at that time.  So to be intentional about using that word in this context is to set Jesus up as a political figure; it is to make him to be in contrast to the most powerful person in the world.  And he is said to be a savior to all the people!  To speak of Jesus as a savior suggests humanity’s need to be saved.  

This savior is the long awaited Messiah!  Jesus is the long-awaited, prophet promised to deliver Israel.  There was an expected prophecy that the Messiah would come and restore order and glory to Israel.  

This Messiah is also Lord.  In the ten previous appearances in Luke, “Lord” seems to be synonymous with God.  Jesus is a savior, because we need saving.  Jesus is God’s promise fulfilled as the Messiah.  And this Messiah is also, at the same time, God.  

Jesus is the gift giver whose gift given is himself wrapped in flesh.  

Jesus is the gift.  This gift ushers us into a new reality.  Jesus is God who comes to save us – save the world – and who promises to bring peace.  This gift is from God to you.  To the world.  And promises to bring peace.  Shalom.  It means wholeness – connectedness to God, to yourself, to others, to creation.  

That is what we need and want most, isn’t it?  A life where we are most deeply connected to God and each other and this world that is so beautiful that it makes me look away blushing!  

III.  For You

This peace is what God gives.  What we most need is God.  This is the gift that has been given to us.   It’s not on Trygve or Ella’s Christmas list, but this gift is what they most need!  The Good News is that God has already given it!  All they or you need to do is to receive its promise of peace is to accept and believe it!  Go in peace! 

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