Monday, December 31, 2018

Looking Forward to January 6, 2019 -- Epiphany Sunday

This being the first Sunday of the month we will be celebrating the Sacrament of Communion.

For the "Time with the Young at Heart" this week we will be reading the short story The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

The Scripture Reading for this week is Matthew 2:1-11.

The Sermon title is How to Choose the Perfect Gift...

Early Thoughts: What makes something a good gift? The Epiphany story has many things to talk about. But one of the aspects of the story is those gifts: Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. Are they good gifts? Why? Why not?

2000 years of tradition have ascribed a lot of meaning to the gifts of the Magi (Gold for a king, Frankincense for Deity, Myrrh as a sign of death to come). And it is plausible that Matthew had that meaning in mind when he wrote the story down. But on the face of it they do not appear to be practical gifts.  There are many jokes out there about what the wise women brought to the infant Christ -- all much more practical. Wisdom comes in many guises.

Then there is O. Henry and his Magi. I first read this story about 35 years ago and it has stuck with me every since. I have also seen a variety of interpretations of it in Christmas TV shows. Two that stick with me are Bert & Ernie and Mickey & Minnie. Stories where each character places such a high importance on getting the "right" gift for their beloved that they are willing to part with their most valuable possession. [As I recall, Bert sells his pigeons and Ernie sells his rubber duck].

What makes something the right gift?

I think part of what makes a good gift is that it has meaning in the life of the recipient. The combs for Della's hair, the chain for Jim's watch, they have direct ties to the lives of the recipients, they highlight something valuable in their lives. From a literary and theological viewpoint does that make the gifts of the Biblical Magi good?

Another piece of the puzzle is the sacrifice. That is in fact the major point of the O. Henry story. To make a really big gift means giving something of ourselves. That is a traditional part of Christology (Doctrine about who Christ was and is), that God was giving of Godself in the Christ event. That is part of my theology of Stewardship, we are not asked to give of our excess but are asked to make some level of sacrifice as we join in the work God is doing in our world.

We all have times through the year when we give gifts. How do you choose what makes a good gift to give?

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