GOD’s GIFT for You and Me
ISAIAH 9: 6 & 7
LUKE 4: 14-21
July 4, 2021
Back in 1963 … if any of you are old enough to remember the year before the Beatles arrived in America to appear on the Ed Sullivan show … back in 1963 during the Christmas season a once famous company based in Camden New Jersey named RCA ran an ad campaign for its brand new color televisions. The ad said, ”Stamp it with special care this Christmas season. Give the gift that keeps on giving from RCA Victor.”
And, so families across this nation soon discovered that somewhere in their neighborhood was a family with a color TV and on Sunday evenings Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color became an event that neighbors invited other neighbors to enjoy. They gathered together crowding rooms with excitement all focused on one thing … A box streaming colored images … alive and living taking the old dark world of gray, blacks, and whites into a new dimension of possibilities.
One Christmas season … a gift whose message was spread neighbor to neighbor … invitations extended to experience this LIVING color via a box manufactured just down the road from here. Of course it was merely a box … filled with tubes because back then there were no computer chips nor circuit boards … a box streaming images … but I do remember going to the Griffin’s house on California Drive with mom and dad and Mark plus a couple of other neighbors to watch Disney because all we had at our house was a box with silvery sticks that you had to move around in order to see images that had no bright life-altering colors but thanks to the Griffin’s … the wonderful life changing world of colored television became alive! It took a few years but we too ended up with a colored television set … perhaps some of you have one in your home today.
And, here we are in July of the year 2021 … I watched my grandson playing with his mom’s I-Pad yesterday seeing images in vivid color that almost appeared 3-d; he will never know the excitement of occasionally going to a neighbor’s house to see images on a box in color rather than his own dull grayish black and white TV… RCA’s Christmas message … THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING from RCA Victor. Yeah! HALLELUJAH!
“A CHILD IS BORN TO US … a SON is GIVEN to US and authority will be on his shoulders, He will be named Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace … “ And, we allege that he arrived on the same date of the calendar year as those RCA TV’s appearance back 58 years ago. But, friends … is Jesus Christ the gift that keeps on giving in your life? Or does your television set offer you more each day … do you focus your schedule associated with that box of colorful images and stories rather than on the living Son of God? Do you schedule Jesus time as much as binge time?
Eight years after that RCA commercial was broadcast, another recording was made just a few miles further north from West Deptford up in New York City, in midtown Manhattan on 44th Street. John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono along with a few other musicians laid down the vocal and instrumental tracks to a song that is played around the world every Christmas season … it begins with the question, “So, this is Christmas and what have you done? Another year over and a new one just begun. And, so this is Christmas for weak and for strong. For rich and the poor ones … the world is so wrong.”
I again will declare the words of the prophet … A CHILD IS BORN TO US … a SON GIVEN TO US and authority is on his shoulders. But in making that declaration here as the month of July begins I can probably add John Lennon’s question in speaking with people who declare that they are Christians … What have you done after receiving God’s living Christmas gift? The gift of God that brought colorful life possibilities to every single human being … ALL of us created in God’s Holy Image? Has the Christmas gift meant anything to you? Do you understand that the Christmas gift of God is for the weak and the strong? The rich and the poor? Do you understand that rushing to join in the world is just so so wrong?
Most of you have witnessed me on more than one occasion singing Joy to the World in the middle of a sermon. It is because first, I do find joy in the fact that THE LORD has come AND I believe that we the current residents of the planet earth should receive our LORD, Jesus Christ, as our King and Master rather than trying to prop up some power-lusting human being so that everyone can bow down to him. REJOICE IN THE LORD ALWAYS, Paul writes. AGAIN I SAY REJOICE.
But, for many years frankly I have been conflicted by the December holiday celebrations because I believe rather than using that date in December as our opportunity to invite the neighbors to share in the living color gift of God that goes beyond anything any human corporation could produce and that keeps on giving every second we take a breath … instead we actually energetically box up our plastic or wooden manger scenes as soon as we can after December 25th until right after the next Thanksgiving when we again decorate our homes with a few symbols related to God’s gift to you and to me.
The Griffin’s didn’t hide their colored TV … they kept inviting us over … and one day I discovered that the Masters family whose home was almost directly right behind ours had a colored TV too and when the Monkees’ TV show debuted on Monday evening September 12, 1966, I watched that NBC program in living color with them … they shared their special living color machine with me, my brother and a few of the Tammaro’s … Are you sharing the living Son of God? Are you treasuring God’s EASTER gift to you and to me? Are you calling on God’s Pentecost Gift … in Bible study this week I asked if there was one thing that each person always prayed for … I wondered who included the simple phrase COME HOLY SPIRIT COME asking for directions on how to turn on the power behind the Christmas gift … to make the gift one we use each day and then to share it so that the people in our unique corners of the world can experience it.
Jesus went home to Nazareth … did you hear when Patty read that Jesus returned “in the power of the Spirit” because God’s Holy Spirit was even there with the Son of God. On the Sabbath he was handed a scroll from the same prophet who told the world that He, Jesus, would be born to us .. the Son of God given to us … that as He walked the dusty roads of Nazareth; that hillside village … authority was on His shoulders and even in those moments His disciples and others could have called out WONDERFUL COUNSELOR … by the way, do you turn to Jesus for counsel in your daily journey? As Jesus prepared to read another portion of the Prophet’s writing about Himself, any person in that small stone synagogue could have called out MIGHTY GOD … PRINCE of PEACE but they still did not know Him. But, we know Him church … we have experienced Him … we are here in worship because of Him.
Friends, do you know … really know … God’s EASTER gift to us? You see the manger scene is beautiful … The Shepherds, all sweaty and tired after being spoken to by the angels, arriving at the manger is awesome … especially since afterwards they went out and told others about Jesus; you are telling others about Jesus aren’t you? Especially after you hear the Christmas story … sing Silent Night Holy Night … you have a personal testimony or affirmation of faith that you share with excitement as you tell others about the special gift you received that is still giving back to you? You do, right?
I love Christmas; in fact I still have my Christmas tree up in my dining room but EASTER … HOLY WEEK … Jesus entering the city of Jerusalem countering the Roman legion entering from the Northwest accompanying Pontius Pilate during the same moments boots on the stone or Hosanna’s in the air … Passover Week; a celebration of God’s love … Holy Thursday when Jesus established the sacrament of Communion not to be determined or limited or segregated by human power seekers full of rules but open to all out of God’s love … then the arrest … then the chanting as the powerful religious leaders got their rabid hate-filled crowd to chant with them until Pilate agreed to quiet them by putting Jesus on that cross … the sadness of that Friday but then … then on EASTER MORNING … the women .. Mary … the call RABOUNI … Jesus was alive; Mary shouted HE IS RISEN <<He is RISEN INDEED>>
Jesus sharing “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. He has sent me to preach GOOD NEWS to the poor, to proclaim release to the prisoners, and recovery of sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
The Year of the Lord’s favor … hmmm. The world was given a reset … perhaps a redo … it came in form of a global shut down, a pandemic that is still killing all too many people in nations who have not yet received the vaccine that we are so fortune to have here … My friends in Uganda see all too many getting sick and dying. But, our coming out of the pandemic with its calendar proximity to this year’s Pentecost has caused me to consider whether we as people of faith need to reconsider and reassess God’s love and amazing gift in Jesus Christ to us. As we go through July, I want you and I to focus on God’s gift. We always seem to want to declare that it is about a baby. We don’t even know if Jesus was a cute baby and we certainly don’t know his sleeping habits but we are comfortable with AWAY in the manger no crib for His bed but friends we need to focus on the teacher, our rabbouni, on the Wonderful Counselor then we need to take on the truth that matters and embrace the fact that Jesus Christ is MIGHTY GOD … We need to bow down and truly focus on God, the Eternal Father, and God’s expectation … then we will come to find that Jesus, the Prince of Peace, can bring us peace even amidst the conflicts of life. On Sunday’s I don’t let you forget that Jesus Christ, HE IS RISEN <He is Risen Indeed>> but you need to celebrate that on your Tuesday’s and Saturday’s too.
There were a lot of birthday celebrations this week associated with this church family. But, since we don’t know the exact date that Jesus was actually born I am going to celebrate the gift that keeps on giving every day in July and then hopefully in August. God’s gift to ALL out of love … a gift that one day will provide true believers with eternal life in a place of joy and comfort called heaven. And, all God asks … all God EXPECTS is that we believe and God has given us the gift that gets us there. God can tell if our works and our words and our attitudes actually reflect faith or whether we are mere pretenders … And, if our faith is real … if as you share the Table of the Lord this morning, which Jesus opened to all, with worship and prayer … then you will know what a great living gift we share … God’s Easter Gift to you and me … so if you have figured it out then who are you sharing it with? Who are you inviting to next week’s hymn sing and to church the rest of the month. The Griffin’s and the Master’s shared their color tv’s with my family and one day my family finally had what they had. AS Christians we have something more precious … MERRY CHRISTMAS in JULY FRIENDS … HAPPY EASTER!! If you feel like you are missing out please talk with me.