This is human nature; we give gifts to the people that we like and to the people who are important in our lives. But there are other people who have hurt us, or offended us, or who we simply do not like for one reason or another. Under the guidelines of the Gospel according to Santa Claus, we can just scratch them off of our list for this year, and maybe for all of the years to come.
Now contrast Santa's approach to Christmas with the Gospel according to St. John. Two things are fundamentally different. First, John would have us to remember that Christmas is not about the things we give to each other; Christmas is about how the love of God was demonstrated when God gave to us His only begotten Son. That tends to get lost every year about this time, when TV commercials are blaring out the announcement of sales and discounts at stores and in catalogues. Christmas is about Christ. Christmas is about God going to work in human history to forgive our sins, and to reestablish a relationship with every one of us, and to establish our feet upon a path of peace and justice and love for one another. Christmas is about Christ.
Here this message as if you are hearing it for the time; For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but should have everlasting life. What gift has ever been given by anybody or to anybody that can compare with that? I hope you understand that the most precious gift any one could possibly receive this Christmas is the gift of salvation, the gift of the forgiveness of sin and the gift of eternal life with God. Long after the clothes you receive no longer fit, and long after the jewelry you give has faded and lost its luster, our gift from God will still be working. After the Christmas decorations are taken down and the lights are turned off; long after the Christmas carols are no longer heard on the radio, God's gift to us will still be working on our behalf. Christmas is about what God did for us in Jesus Christ.
How appropriate that we focus on the love of God as our Advent theme on the same day that we celebrate communion. The two great events in the life of the church are drawn together in one service; the baby who was born in Bethlehem became the savior who died on the cross as payment for your sins and mine. Every time we share in the communion service we are reminding ourselves of the love of God.
Imagine that this Christmas you pay for all of your gifts and other holiday expenses with a credit card. Now imagine that you have spent to the maximum limit of that card so that you cannot charge another item. Then one day the bill comes in the mail telling you how much you owe and what your minimum payment must be. There is only one problem; you do not have the money so you cannot pay the bill. What do you suppose would happen next? Letters and phone calls would flood into your house demanding payment; but you have no money. The credit card is cancelled and your credit report reflects your non-payment status. But none of that really matters, because you do not have the money with which to pay. You made the charges and you enjoyed the purchases, but now you cannot settle your debt.