A Young Life Club Talk given on December 18th, 2012 at Long Beach Young L:ice - on the topic of starting a relationship with God, to the theme of Christmas.
Hey Merry Christmas, who want’s this gift? (wait till someone actually gets up and takes it) A gift is not yours until you receive it. It needs to be opened and used for it’s value to be actualized.
So it’s Christmas time, we are all pretty familiar with the Christmas Narrative, Christ was born in a manger to a virgin Mary 2000 years ago halfway across the world, he was visited by angels, shepherds, and wise men, and to celebrate now a days, we get together, sing songs, feast, and give each other gifts. What makes a good gift? (poll the audience)… < it’s nice, it is something you want, it speaks about who you are >
Does anyone know the gifts that Jesus got on his birthday? That’s right, Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. Why those gifts? Obviously Gaspar who brought the gold was like that cool uncle who just cut you a check so you could get what you really wanted. In all reality, the wise men each saw this baby in a very special way, and gave him gifts that reflected a part of who he was. Like I said, Gaspar had researched the ancient writings about this baby that would be born when these signs came to pass. He read about how this baby would grow up to be a great King, so he brought him gold, to reflect his royalty, power, and wealth. Melchior studies these texts and read about how Jesus would be a High Priest, so he gave him Frankincense, a wonderful, and expensive incense, one that would be used in a ceremony, similar to perfume. Now Balthazar, seems like your grandma who gives you socks and underwear… Myrrh? What the heck is that? Well, Balthazar, had researched the texts and he had seen that Jesus was coming to be a sacrifice. Myrrh was similar to embalming fluid, it was a mixture of spices and ointments that would help prevent a dead corpse from rotting and smelling up the place. It is a strange gift to give a baby, something that seems so far from death, but I think that it was symbolic of the true meaning of Christmas, that God loved us so much that he came down to us as a child, gentle and humble, he taught us and prayed for us like a priest, he died for us as a sacrifice for our sin and he rose from the grave and took his rightful place in heaven as Lord and King for all of eternity. This is such a wonderful gift that we get on Jesus’s birthday.
How valuable is this gift to us? Is it something that we use, or is it something we just sort of decorate our life with, you know, like a Bible on a shelf that everyone gets for confirmation, but no one reads that. I made a little video I want us to watch to set the stage for what I have to say next.
I love how the lyrics to that song deeply emphasize the need for something of value to be used, and how things that really matter can be used literally forever. Few man made things can stand up to the test of time. If we are honest, we look at the gifts that we typically ask for, and we realize that they just don’t matter all that much in the grand scheme of life. Hurricane Sandy has taught us a lot about letting go of things and holding onto people. Today’s latest and greatest stuff is eventually just going to be tomorrow’s trash. I remember asking for the latest sneakers so that I could look “cool” and hopefully feel more accepted by my friends, that’s silly right? I asked for video games that offered epic adventures and allowed me to escape my boring reality. Eventually I ran out of “things” I wanted, so I would just ask for money so that I could find experiences that would fill my life up with the happiness that this world had promised me. Over time, the sneakers get scuffed and whatever acceptance I had faded with that sense of lost newness, video games come to an end, and no matter how much effort and how much achievements I earned, the characters in a fantasy world can never love me back. Money get’s spent, memories fade, feelings numb, and in the end, these gifts that I wanted so badly, ended up just being the trash on my curb when my life needed meaning the most.
One of the hardest parts of dealing with life after the storm was throwing stuff away. Sure, it was old, beat up, and barely worked before the storm, but it belonged to me, and that was enough to make it valuable. I can remember all the times I messed my things up, it’s kind of like a “battle wound” that helps you tell the story better. I have a tendency to cling to my stuff, even when it is the very thing that is stopping me from truly enjoying life to the fullest. I think that our lives are just like this. Our lives are beat up, patched up, and fed up, but those are the things that we believe that make us who we are, our identity, our stories.
This is a baby blanket, it’s soft, it’s safe, and it’s good for a dozen things. It can be a cape, a tent, a whip, a jacket, a blindfold, you name it, I’m sure Aspen has tried it. I loved my baby blanket as a kid. My dad tells a story of a time where I pretended that it was a parachute and I tried jumping off the couch. He said it was a lot easier to laugh at it once the fear of going to the hospital was removed. As we grow up, life happens, and whether it’s us who does it, or someone else does it to it, our lives get stained by sin. We get abused, we get hurt, people disappoint us and abandon us. This leaves our lives in a pretty sad state. We try to wash it away, sometimes even bleach it, or sew it up and act like we are better and tougher because of it. We take pride in it and stick our chests out like we’re not hurt, but deep down, we don’t really want what we have, but we also don’t want to have nothing at all. That is where this storm has left a lot of us and I hope that our physical condition is allowed to speak to our spiritual condition, because things happen for a reason.
The Bible is a love letter written by God to us. In many of the books of the Bible, God, who is inspiring and guiding the authors, uses poetry. In the book of Isaiah, God really got my attention with this verse:
Isaiah 64:6 - “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.”
I was a good kid growing up. I tried my hardest to be nice and to do the right thing. I always did well in school and athletics to please other people and I went to church to make sure that I did what I thought God wanted me to do, or at least look good to everyone else who was watching. I did plenty of bad things when no one was looking, but even the good things I did, so this scripture says, are just the same old filthy rags to God. Once my life is stained with Sin, from the very beginning, no amount of being good is going to change what my life looks like.
Sean shared the other week that sin had created a canyon of separation between us. God wasn’t ok with this. This semester we talked about how God put on flesh and came down to dwell with his people as Jesus Christ. He showed us that the things of this Earth are temporary, but that the things of Heaven are forever. He paid the sacrifice that his law required with his own life in our place, and then rose from the grave, conquering death so that we could live forever with him in heaven. We can’t get to Heaven because we’ve been good. We can’t get to Heaven by simply calling ourselves Christians and going to meetings. We can’t get to Heaven by reading the Bible, singing songs, praying, or going to Church. We can only get to Heaven by saying yes to God, by letting go of this rag of a life, and grabbing hold to the new life that he has for us. When Christ died on the cross, it was recorded that the curtain in the temple that had separated one part where God’s spirit was suppose to dwell from the rest of the temple was torn in two. You have complete access to Godin a relationship with Jesus Christ through his Holy Spirit. He is holding out his hand with a gift in it, but you have to take it, open it up, use it, and allow it to grow. Let go of this life, even though it is scary to let go of the things that you’re comfortable with, the things that we hide behind. Trust that he has far better things for you. Get involved with other people who are discovering this same truth. Campaigners and church are here to be a place where you can grow. If you have any questions, just as one of us, we would love to talk. I will pray and you can feel free to hang out for the rest of the night.