Have you ever gotten a really horrible gift? A gift that as soon as you opened up the festive wrapping paper you knew was going to require an immediate trip to the local big box store so that you could exchange what you received for something you actually liked? What’s the worst gift you’ve ever received? I still laugh about my first Christmas at Chelsea’s parents’ house. This is a little bit of a confession, so hang in there, but I felt bad showing up empty handed, but keep in mind I was a broke college student. Luckily, my mom had a Christmas party the night before with all sorts of odds and end door prizes. So, as the party was getting over, I scooped up a handful of these gifts, quickly checking off all the family members who would be there and off I went to wrap them up. On Christmas morning, I waited as they started handing out gifts and when I saw the ones that looked wrapped by an angry one armed person; I knew my time had come. My brother-in-law’s wife was up first—and she was surprised when she found a bar of soap waiting—Her witty response—“What are you trying to say?” Next, was my sister-in-law—she unwrapped the paper and was surprised to find a luminary kit without any candles. Her honest response—“What in the world am I supposed to do with this?” Little did I know, that I started a holiday tradition, a competition of sorts to see who could get the worst gift for the other person—the next year I got my favorite candy bar in a box—a Pay Day, only problem—it was just a wrapper. Then, it was my turn, I got a bunch of Arby’s coupons—they were running a special—with a .01 cent coupon, and better yet, I found a handful of one cent coupons that were expired and gave those. Needless to say, there are some gifts that seem destined for the return pile.
And according to Consumer Reports—20% of all gifts are lousy. What do we do with them? 39% of us store unwanted gifts out of sight and try to forget about them. 15% of us re-gift them to unsuspecting family members or friends. 11% of us return unwanted gifts to a retailer for a refund– or, get this – toss the gift in the trash! 6% percent of us try to resell the gift. But it gets worst. Why 2% of us actually confront the original giver, demanding a new gift, while another 2% of us retaliate with ridicule posting photos of our lousy gift on the Internet![20 Percent Of Adults Get Stuck With Lousy Holiday Gifts, Consumer Reports News: December 14, 2011]
Last week we started an Advent series called Socks and Underwear which showed us that although Christ came in wildly unexpected ways—seemingly like the gift that no one really wanted, he was exactly what we need. We saw Christ coming for a connection rather than for comfort, for our redemption rather than him enjoying royalty, and to love rather than solely to lead. Today we have to decide what to do with the gift, some choose to:RE-GIFT (Matthew 1:18-23) 18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
You can see Joseph’s line of reason; here is the woman he planned on spending the rest of his life with who as far as he can tell crossed the line into adultery. Here is the joy of having a firstborn son tainted by the stain of scandal. The first born son was supposed to be a joy, a namesake, a legacy marker, and here it was nothing more than a black-eye. He is ready to re-gift Mary. They were legally engaged, which meant only death or divorce would end their relationship. Even in re-gifting, he shows his righteous character—opting for a private divorce to spare her the public shame. So he is ready to return the gift that he never wanted like this.
The gift at first looks like garbage. In Tom Brokaw’s book The Greatest Generation Speaks Veronica Mackey Hulick, of Fort Pierce, FL shared her experience in the war. She joined the Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) and after boot camp she was pretty sure she had made a mistake. She spent hours each day sitting at a long table with a soldering iron, long threads of solder and inch-long wires of red, yellow, green and blue. She recounted, “We were given a small wheel and a graph to follow…I decided that I must not have passed my aptitude tests. This had to be the dumbest job in the Navy.” It would only be months later that she saw “something huge on a flatcar near” the building. “It was covered in a gray shroud.” After being moved to Washington D.C., told to keep everything quiet or face death—the women were told that they hadn’t just been wasting time, but actually building a computer nicknamed ‘The Bombe’—a computer that would was responsible for cracking codes, and sinking between 750 and 800 German U-boats, shortening the war by one or possible two years.
It takes an angelic messenger to remind Joseph his gut-wrenching moment was actually a god ordained one. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”(which means “God with us”). We can find ourselves in a parallel situation—doing the same thing to seemingly no avail, being faithful only to find that our partner has walked out, working hard only to see the pink slip in our locker, investing in our children only to see them rebel. Each gut-wrenching moment and we wonder where is God? If you could pull back the curtain—God shows us the even when the pain is real, the rejection real, that he is ready to bring an ordained moment from every obstacles. God moments are oftentimes dressed in the mundane ones. Jesus arrival seemed anti-climactic, unimportant, and routine and yet it was part of the greatest plan in the span of human history. D.A. Carson captured the magnitude of the gift: “If God had perceived that our greatest need was economic, he would have sent an economist. If he had perceived that our greatest need was entertainment, he would have sent us a comedian or an artist. If God had perceived that our greatest need was political stability, he would have sent us a politician. If he had perceived that our greatest need was health, he would have sent us a doctor. But he perceived that our greatest need involved our sin, our alienation from him, our profound rebellion, our death; and he sent us a Savior.”