Let us hear the word. Today’s word is taken from Isaiah 9:6 and Matthew 2:1-12. Isaiah 9:6, “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us,” and Matthew 2, “In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.”
This is the word of the Lord.
What Is The Christmas Season About?
You know, when the Christmas season comes, you don’t want to go to a shopping center because it’s way too busy. But this year somehow Christmas came so suddenly, I didn’t even realize it was Christmas. So the other day I went to Indigo without realizing it was Christmas time and I went in there, oh my goodness, so many people. And there was a lineup that’s all around the big, huge store, there was a lineup all around the wall. I just went to get a small book without realizing it was Christmas time. I didn’t come for Christmas gifts, I just came for the book. There were so many people, but there were so many people also working there so it didn’t take too much time.
Gifts. That’s what we do during Christmas season. 20 percent of total sales are done during Christmas time. People are busy buying gifts even though it is true there that Christmas has been overly commercialized, but I still believe that a gift is what summarizes what Christmas is all about. Christmas is about gifts. Christmas is to celebrate God’s gift of Jesus to the world.
In the Isaiah passage we read today, he said, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” A son is given as a gift. The wise man story also picked up the theme of a gift. They saw the birth of Jesus as the gift to the world. So they came with their gifts in response to the gift of God for the world. God gave us the most gracious and precious gift. You can say that God gave God’s self for the world. There is nothing more precious than giving yourself. That is probably the most precious gift that you can give, or you can receive. Yourself. And God gave God’s self to us and for the world. God was the one who initiated the gift giving.
In Jacob Story’s, Jacob had a problem with his brother Esau because he stole something from him and he had to run away from home. He was a mama’s boy, he stayed home all other times. But this time he had to be all by himself when running away. So he was very lonely. He was never alone. He was lonely at night all by himself, he was kind of sad and lonely and all that. And that’s when God appeared to him, and this is what God says to Jacob, “I am with you. I am with you and will keep you wherever you go. I will not leave you. I am with you.” God gave Jacob the gift of God’s presence.
“I am with you and I will be with you.” God presence, we call it what? Emmanuel, we call it Emmanuel. When Jesus Christ came, Matthew described it in this way; “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son and they shall name him Emmanuel,” because that means God is with us. And also when Jesus left us when he left of world, the last word that he said in Matthew, the last word Jesus said to us was this, “And remember I am with you always to the end of the age.” He came as God being with us and he left us with God being with us. He came as Emmanuel and he left as Emmanuel. God gave himself to us as a gift. The gift of Emmanuel is the most precious gift.
By giving us his self, God’s self, God taught us how we are to live our life. As God was a gift to us, God wants us to be a gift to each other. Being a gift to each other is the most precious gift that you can give to each other. Let us recognize that people around you are gifts from God for you. They’re not there to pull you down. They’re not there to attack you and destroy you. The people around you are there as gifts from God, but sometimes we forget. The people around me are gifts. Sometimes we think that they are enemies, they are threats. We don’t look at them as God’s gift to us. Today is a wonderful Christmas, so we say ‘Merry Christmas’, and maybe we can say “Thank you for being gift.” Why don’t you go around and look around, say thank you for being a gift.
You Are All Gifts
All of you are gifts, that’s our Merry Christmas. You are my gift, you are not my threat. You are my gift! But Herod didn’t think that way. Herod didn’t see the birth of Jesus as a gift to the world. Herod saw the gift, the birth of Jesus as a threat. Even though Jesus’ kingship was very, very different from what Herod thought, Herod did not understand Jesus’ kingship. So he thought that this king may take away my kingship, so he looked at Jesus, the birth of Jesus as the threat, not as a gift. When you see another person as a threat, then what comes next? Fear. Fear comes. “Oh, that person might harm me, destroy me.” The fear comes. When fear came to Herod, he killed innocent children. So many people, so many innocent children, he killed. Violence comes as a result of fear.
That’s what we do. When we start looking at each other as a threat, then fear comes. When fear comes, we become violent. That’s what we see in the world. Violence all around us because we don’t look at each other as a gift, we look at each other as a threat. We have to ask ourselves, how do we see each other? How do we see other people, as a gift or as a threat? Do you see people who are different from you, just because because of the fact that they are different from you, are they enemies? Sometimes we look at different people as enemies. People who are so different from us, racially or whatever reason, when they’re different, we see them as a threat or enemy, not as a gift. Just because they are different, they’re enemies.
This world makes it so hard and even seemingly impossible to each see each other gifts. I’m so sad that this world has become that way. It is so hard to see each other as gifts, but it is very understandable. It is very understandable. I understand that very well. It is very understandable why people are so scared of each other. I mean, when a stranger just drives a trailer truck into the market killing 12 people like in Germany just the other day, how can you see the stranger as a gift?! The moment we experience that, the moment we hear that, we see a stranger as a threat, not as a gift. It is very understandable, so we have no choice but to build higher walls against each other because we are scared. We build strong walls against each other because we are scared. It is understandable, but is it the best way to live? It may protect us, but does that give us a fulfilling life? Is that the kind of humanity we want to nurture, establish and build? What kind of humanity do we want to build, do we want to uphold? That’s not the way we human beings are supposed to live. Seeing each other as a threat, seeing each other as danger, seeing each other as enemies. That’s not the way you’re born to live. That’s not God’s will. God gave us Jesus as the gift so that we may also be the gift to each other, by having the real broken relationships healed and restored. Jesus came to open our eyes so that through our eyes we may see other people in a new way. At least that was how Paul saw the birth of Jesus. This is what Paul said, “For He is our peace, Jesus Christ. For he is our peace, in his flesh, he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall.” That is the hostility between us. Jesus came to break down the wall, and now we are building the wall against each other.
This Christmas will be meaningful if we experience our broken relationships being healed. Maybe there are some people that you need to forgive, or maybe you need to let go of bad feelings towards somebody, and he or she may not even recognize that you have a bad feeling. If you have a grudge against somebody, maybe during this Christmas season you can let go and be free from that grudge, bad feeling and animosity. That was what Jesus came to do. Jesus even said, “Love your enemy.”
We have to learn to see each other as a gift from God. It is hard, but it’s the most beautiful thing we can do. And if you can do it, they will have the most beautiful life we were meant to live. I want to tell you lastly, the very, very important message to you. Maybe somebody who gives you a difficult time, who gives you a hard time – maybe that person is God’s gift to you. Not only the people who do well, who do good things, people who give you hard times. Maybe they are God’s gift for you. Maybe your spouse is God’s gift to you, giving you a hard time. That’s a message.
What makes us happy at Christmas? It’s a gift, but the most beautiful gift, I believe, is people. People around you, that’s the most beautiful gift. Cherish them. When you start seeing other people as your gift, you will become very, very happy. I guarantee. When your eyes change and you start seeing other people, “You are my gift!” Then you’ll be very happy.
After KSM service, some people were going out, and said “you are my gifts,” they told me. Your family, your friends, your coworkers, even of noxious people around you. They’re all gifts from God.
Merry Christmas. Let us sing together.
This time I’d like to invite all of us to have a time of reflection. Over the years, we have been disappointed and hurt without realizing our spirit was broken and poisoned. We have forgotten to see each other as a gift. Rather, we see each other as a threat, without realizing if we have built animosity deep within our heart. We need to be healed from that. We need to embrace each other as friends, as life partners, who walk together on this tough road. Let us pray that God heals us, heal our broken spirit so that our eyes may change and we may see each other as friends and as gifts.