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Great Gifts

The words are nestled in Matthew’s version of the Christmas story.  No doubt you recall them well.  “They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened their treasure chests and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11). Bob Weathers assures me that there was a fourth wise man who brought fruitcake and hasn’t been heard from since.  Bob aside, it is well worth your time to read (or re-read) the great classic The Story of the Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke. Behind all the panoply of our gift giving (which I am in favor of; in general we do not gift each other enough)  lies the deep biblical truth that gifts are a way we honor the Lord, the new born King, the Savior.  Even deeper lies the conviction of Jesus’ own teaching from Matthew 25.           31“Now when the Human One comes in his majesty and all his angels are with him, he will sit on his majestic throne. 32All the nations will be gathered in front of him. He will separate them from each other, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right side. But the goats he will put on his left.           34“Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who will receive good things from my Father. Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world began. 35I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. 36I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.’           37“Then those who are righteous will reply to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? 38When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you, or naked and give you clothes to wear? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’           40“Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’” It is from this vantage point that I invite us to remember, as Pastor Mike Slaughter famously put it, “Christmas is not your birthday.”  Great gifts come in the giving. All across the Central Texas Conference congregations and individuals are reaching out in love to offer their gifts in the name of the newborn King.  For many this is yoked to Thanksgiving as well as to Advent/Christmas.  Recently I learned of one example.  Four congregations in the South District did something amazing.  It was and is a true act of honoring the Lord.  From The Gatesville Messenger, November 21st we find this line:  "The United Methodist Churches of Pidcoke, Oglesby, Mosheim and Purmela pooled their resources to donate 10,358 pounds [of food]."  This “small church cluster” honored the newborn Savior with a great gift.  How about you and your church?