Last year, I had the privilege of hearing Michael Slaughter speak. Rev. Slaughter is the pastor of Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church in Tipp City, Ohio. Each year, Rev. Slaughter challenges his church to celebrate the real meaning of Christmas.
"Why do you act like Christmas is your birthday," he asks.
His question is on target. We do celebrate Christmas as if it were our birthday. We put together lists of the things we want, starting at a very early age in life. We tell others exactly what we want for Christmas, forgetting that Christmas is not our birthday but Christ's birthday.
Christmas is the birthday of the one who came proclaiming good news to the poor, release to the captives and recovery of site to the blind.
Christmas is the birthday of the one who turned this world upside down, inaugurating a new kind of kingdom - a kingdom radically different from the ways of this world.
Christmas is about Christ - not us!
We did something a little different at Mount Vernon Place yesterday. We asked people to do their Christmas shopping at church. We invited people to give gifts that matter- gifts that keep on giving. People were invited to buy dinner for women at Calvary Women's Shelter, glucose testing strips for Christ House, a sheep for Heifer International, a net for a child in Africa, yarn for a prayer shawl, or free trade coffee and chocolate. One of our new members made beautiful cards that explain the gift - a card that enables the recipient to understand the meaning and the significance of the gift.
People gave. They gave generously. Our small congregation raised over $2500, and as a result of their giving, other people will receive a gift.
Homeless men will receive the gift of medical care.
People around the world will receive eggs and milk and meat from animals that were purchased.
Individuals in our congregation will receive a prayer shawl - tangible evidence of God's love and grace in their life.
Women - our neighbors - will receive a home-cooked meal delivered to their home at Calvary.
The gifts will keep on giving.
What are you giving for Christmas?