What do you get for that special someone who is so special that frankly, you have no idea what to get them at all?
You know, the person I’m talking about, right? That person who has everything, is difficult to buy for, hard to please? That person who is so picky you are 99% sure they never wore the sweater you bought for them, read that book you were sure they would love, and probably regifted the jelly you made… from scratch …with berries you picked with your own two hands?
What do you get these incredibly difficult —mmm — I mean special people?
Oh kids, good answer, but not what I was thinking. You know what you get for these incredibly difficult, I mean special people?… You get them a gift card. Am I right? Yeah.
Friends, how many of you have a gift card on your person right now, tucked away safe in your wallet, possibly even from last year?
Well, aren’t we …. special.
Actually, if we were all to open our wallets, chances are that most of us would have an unused or partially used gift card on us. It’s estimated that the average American has about $175 worth of gift cards in their possession, which adds up to something like $20 billion dollars worth of unused cards languishing in our wallets right alongside all that Old Navy Super cash you will never use and the 3 Beuno Y Sano punch cards you have in progress at any one time that are all - ALL! - just two holes away from a free burrito. Can I get an amen?
Experts agree that it's best to use a gift card right away because if you don’t, it won’t do you any good. Thanks to inflation, it’s not going to get more valuable over time, and - let’s be honest - the longer you hold on to it the more likely you are to forget about it, lose it, or see the place that will take it shut down for good.
So the first piece of wisdom I want to impart to you this evening is this: if someone gives you a gift card this Christmas, use it. Use it now. Use it well. And you know what’s a lot like a gift card?
Jesus! That’s right.
Jesus is God’s gift to us; to every last one of us, no matter how incredibly difficult, I mean special we are. Jesus is God’s gift to you. I know the angel is speaking to the shepherds, but just listen to how many times the word “you,” appears in this beautiful passage from Luke.
Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy…For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign for you; You will find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
I bring you good tidings…
For unto you is born…
A sign for you…
You will find…
Friends, this baby… this savior was given for you. This Jesus brings good news of great joy for all people: the good news that you are loved, already, just as you are. The good news that you are forgiven, already, no matter what you have done or failed to do.
But in order for that love and forgiveness to do you or the world any good, you must receive it and then turn right around and expend it on others.
This Jesus came for us that we might learn to love one another as God loves us, and forgive one another as God has forgiven us. Through his life and his teachings, Jesus shows us what it looks like to love as we have been loved and forgive as we have forgiven.…and it’s beautiful.
So this is my second and last piece of wisdom for you all. If you want to see God’ kingdom come and God’s will done here on earth as it is in heaven then go forth this night to love and forgive. Don’t wait. Take a hold of the love and grace that Jesus brings, because if you don’t, it won’t do you any good. Let it into your heart and then use it, right away.
Because friends, experts agree that it’s not going to get more valuable over time and let’s be honest, the longer you hold on to it, the more likely you are to forget about it, lose it, or see the person who will take it shut down for good.
So spend it. Spend it tonight. Spend it tomorrow. Start with the people closest to you who, frankly, are sometimes the hardest people to love and forgive, and then see where it goes from there.
This love, this grace, this Jesus, it’s all God’s gift to you.
Use it. Use it now. Use it well. Amen.