|Sermon Notes, Park Street Church - monday 2002-12-16 0717||last modified 2006-01-28 2333|
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I'll attempt to be slightly more objective than my normal journal entry in my notes of the Park Street 4pm service sermon.
As this was the third week of Advent, Danny Harrell spoke about giving gifts in "Take It to the Bank" using Matthew 1:18-2:12. His end point, which he didn't start with, was an evangelical message. He used the passage right at the beginning to set up the general idea that Christmas gift giving is rooted in the magi's gifts to Jesus.
I'd like to take a brief break to give my impressions of what Christmas gift giving seems to entail, based on the examle of the magi. First, their gifts were incredibly expensive (I don't know how incredible 'incredibly' means though, any englightenment on the cost of white gold, frankincense, or myrrh would be appreciated). As an adjunct to this, they also came from far away at risk of robbery and bodily harm to deliver them. Second, their gifts were given to the Son of God. If anything was to be extrapolated from their example, and I don't know that there is, it would be to give until it hurts materially at any risk to God's Son -- or since He's not bodily present, to what He would want it to be given. Since one who celebrates Christmas is ostensibly Christian (...), such a one should already have given their life to Him. Anything material to be given to Him should probably be given to the care of those in need. But then again, that's all totally made up. The shepherds didn't bring Him anything but awe and worship.
Continuing sermon notes. Danny pointed out that the traditions of Christmas really have no Biblical basis, particularly the exchange of gifts between adults (trees, presents under the trees, and gifts to children all have some poorly explained roots). He talked about the tendency we have to try to match and compete about the gifts we give in relation to those we get, trying to be fair. He reduces the problem to one of guilt, or really pride, suggesting that if we just receive the gift, then we won't have any problems.
Taking another break, I suggest the problem is really rooted in greed, and if society eliminated the whole concept of Christmas gift exchanges, everybody might be better off.
Continuing. Harrell proceeded to tell a personal story which provided an excellent segue to his final point, but was otherwise strange. In an attempt to match someone's "piles of gifts" from the previous Christmas, he bankrupted himself and had to go to the bank to plea his case where, to his surprise, he found that the bank had completely covered his expenditures.
The end of the message was how Christ covers our costs no matter what our pride drives us to try to accomplish on our own. Even that sounds a little funny, seems to be what you get when a sermon is based on an anecdote. He ended with something about how we should come to God, and we'll find "piles of gifts." I found that to be a particularly poor choice of imagery to use at the end of a message given that it sounds a lot like wealth-evangelism - come to God, and He'll give you Stuff(TM).
I think I failed at the objectivity. Oh well. Christmas talk reminds me - where does the line about Jesus not crying come from in "Away in a Manger?" It's not in the account in Luke. Too bad the author is anonymous.