The Gifts That Won't Break
The Rev. Jon Roberts
Calvary Episcopal Church
Indian Rocks Beach, FL
36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one is taken and one is left. 42 Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the householder had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
“There’s nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child.”
This quote was given by the American journalist, Erma Bombeck, who also gave us the quote,
“Guilt: the gift that keeps on giving.”
Put them together and we have a sense of the message in the Gospel this day.
This is the first Sunday in Advent, a time of great preparation for the Christ child to enter the world in a place know as Bethlehem. That’s four weeks away. For right now, we know we don’t want to wake that blessed morn without the feeling we had on a Christmas as a child. If you didn’t notice the advertisements for Black Friday were apropo in getting people to shop. Every retailer found some way to get the message into your life that you had better be ready; set your alarm; be the first to enter the doors to get great deals. One of my favorites this year was the advertisement for an automobile company. Two women greet each other in the morning. One is getting out of her car with some shopping bags and looks extremely tired and haggered. Her neighbor, looking refreshed, comes over with great concern and says, “You look tired.” The woman with no makeup and hair in disarray, holds up her treasured loot saying, “I got up at 3 am for Black Friday, but I saved hundreds. How did you make out,” she asked in return. Her neighbor replied, “I slept in,… but I still saved thousands,” As she turns around and admires her new SUV. The neighbor’s accomplishments of getting up and ahead of the pack, now seems trivial in comparison.
Is this not what we find in the Gospel of St. Matthew this morning?
There will be a flood, so you better be prepared. Like the days of Noah, it will sweep all those who are unprepared off the map and make them history. There will be two in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding mill together. One will be taken and one left. Keep awake, for you do not know the hour in which the Lord is coming. But we know when the Lord is coming and we know where he will enter. It’s going to be on Christmas Eve; at the manger, when we sing, “Silent Night” and “Hark the Herald Angels sing. Glory to the newborn King.” So why not sleep in? It’s because we don’t want to wake up on Christmas morn and miss the experience. We want to see it like a child does. Out of all the things the advertisers will try and do leading up until Christmas, following the lead and success of the Black Friday campaign, is that you don’t want to miss out. This season of Advent, for those who come out on Wednesday nights, here at Calvary, we will learn about four important Christmas gifts that you don’t want to miss out.
In the introduction to his book, “Christmas gifts that won’t break,” James Moore decides to guide us through our preparations so that we feel rested at the manger scene rather than haggard and tired. He retells a story about when a Bishop’s young son came to him shortly into the day of Christmas, crying hysterically because the wheels to his new shiny fire truck broke off. He felt guilty and believed life was so unfair. The feeling we get when the things in life aren’t received the way we want them, or if they don’t last, stirs up guilt: the gift that keeps on giving. In our Advent journey we will learn the importance of four special gifts worth having in our stockings this year. They are hope, joy, love, and peace. These are the gifts Jesus gives us that won’t break. As Christians we should never feel guilty to buy into Christmas. We should never look tired and haggard by rushing to get in line. The evangelist tells us that we are to be ready, for the unexpected hour that the Son of Man is coming. Jesus, the Son of Man, came in an unexpected place over two thousand years ago at an unexpected time. The Jews were waiting for the Messiah to enter with great majesty. They stayed up all through the day and night, chanting and reading, saving hundreds; preparing the festival of lights. But the Son of Man came into the world who would save thousands upon thousands who called upon his name. Still, the people cling to their bags.
What things do we as Christians bring home. Is it all of our cross necklaces and ornaments; the leather bound bibles that collect the dust on our shelves; the pictures we take in front of the church, wearing our Christmas outfits and post on our Facebook page? Is this what it means to stay awake and to be ready?
This isn’t what the child is hoping to find on Christmas morning when they get up. The child hopes for what they want. What if there were no presents, how would the children be? My personal thoughts are these. If you take a family who is simply trying to survive. You know, taking care of the bare basics: food, clothing and shelter. Lump in, that Mom who has been sick all year; the Dad who lost three jobs; they’ve moved in now with their grandparents. When Christmas comes around for them what will they hold up? Perhaps all they have in this world are hope, love, joy and peace? When they see what the other kids got, perhaps they feel something is missing and life’s unfair. But, perhaps they have a better insight to what Christmas is about.
This is why we have four weeks in Advent to get ready. To get like them. We are to be stretched and pulled thin. We are to fast and pray God will fill what is lacking in our lives. It’s not an abundance of things. It’s about an abundance of these Godly gifts. It’s about what we find when we are found in others; hope, love, joy and peace. These can only be truly appreciated through the eyes of the child. Let this Advent season help you open your Christmas eyes. Stay awake.
Be ready for God came into this world, not to make people “happy” but to save people for eternal life. Who will he find? What gifts will you hold up? Will you be tired and haggard? Don’t be filled by guilt, the give that keeps on giving, but rather be filled with…
Hoping for a better day;
Loving those around you;
Being joyful always;
Finding peace in the present moment.
Let us learn to wake on Christmas morning as a child who is filled with all these gifts that truly keep on giving. Let us be one who abstains from the things that only give us momentary, temporary pleasures. In closing, let us be reminded by the words of St. Paul who wrote, “You know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”
Dearly beloved, there is nothing sadder than to wake up on Christmas morning and not be like a child.
Ask God today to help you be ready and to acquire the Christmas gifts that will never break.
 Erma Bombeck, 1927-1996
 Matthew 24:36-44
 Romans 13:11-14