Opening Music Special: Cochren and Co. Church (Take me Back) https://youtu.be/3eTOcrWu8mQ
Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church, 1307 Bloor Street West, Toronto, ON.
Message for Sunday:
‘The Best Christmas Gift Ever!’
© December 26, 2021, by Steve Mickelson
Based on Messages Shared at BLCF Church on December 25, 2020, and on December 30, 2018
Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayers
Tithing and Prayer Requests: Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers
Music Special; Lauren Daigle – Light Of The World (with lyrics) https://youtu.be/olw5uH_fvuw
Lighting of the Christ Candle: Matthew 5:14-16 ESV
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
To add to today’s celebration, BLCF Church would like to give each member of the congregation a personal copy of A Classic Christmas Caroling Songbook (Hendrickson Publishers). We will be using this songbook for today’s Service. So please remember to bring your Songbook back for the remainder of the year.
Let us give the songbook a trial. At this time the Congregation is invited to make selections from their personal copy of A Classic Christmas Caroling Songbook (Hendrickson Publishers), selections will be accompanied with the corresponding music track from the companion CD: Classic Christmas Carols – 30 Sing Along Favorites.
Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘The Best Christmas Gift Ever!’
Let us pray…
Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church’s Sunday Praise and Worship Service for the day after Christmas Day 2021, which we call Boxing Day in Camada.
As often happens towards the end of a year, we reflect upon the past year and anticipate what the future year may bring us. Looking back over these events, it is not unusual to reflect on both the joys and challenges of the previous year but to contrast them with those of earlier Christmases. The COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic has brought upon the whole world challenges of anxiety, fear, and despair on a global scale beyond any experienced within living memory.
Christmas Day marks the day that believers in the Resurrected Christ, celebrate the birth of our Lord on what we might consider that first Christmas Day, a little over 2,000 years ago. Though the birth of Jesus was not marked by a mass per se, visitors did come to the Lord’s birthplace to worship the Christ Child, some bringing gifts to celebrate the newborn King of kings.
And annually, the birthday of Jesus is celebrated with worship, song, visitation, sharing gifts, and fellowship with others. Before COVID-19, from January 2008 until mid-March 2020, we at BLCF celebrated Christmas on Wednesday at the BLCF Cafe and on Sunday as far back as 1938 at BLCF Church.
Looking back on past Christmases, I recalled one particular Christmas that resonates with our lesson today, ‘The Best Christmas Gift Ever!.’
It was Christmas 1959. I was just eight years old. I remember the Mickelson family living in San Antonio, Texas celebrating Christmas had its challenges. My younger sister, Rhona had suffered a traumatic spinal injury two years previously leaving her paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair. Though dad had a job in the US Air Force, stationed at a local base, many of the medical treatments and medications for Rhona were neither covered nor available to military dependents. The costs to the family meant that there were not a lot of surplus funds in the family budget to pay for decorations or gifts at Christmas. Still, the family made due.
To help pay the bills, Dad took additional work after his daytime job, working as a public information officer with the Air Force during the day, he would work delivering newspapers and later as a journalist by night. Somehow, dad managed to get by with little sleep or no sleep for six days of the week.
When Christmas Eve came around, our mom and dad would go to the local San Antonio Farmer’s Market late in the evening, just as the stalls selling Christmas trees were closing. Mom would negotiate the best price on a tree, which had little or no value as it would otherwise be destined to go to the dumpster at the closing time.
This is when it seemed like some Christmas magic would take place in the Mickelson home. My sisters and I would have gone to bed, and my parents would get to work decorating the tree with lights, ornaments, and popcorn on a string. Stocking would be hung, filled with mandarin oranges, apples, walnuts, new socks, and some candy canes or chocolates.
Since we had financial constraints, mom initiated a Secret Santa gift exchange. Sometime in early December, family members would put their names on a piece of paper, which would be folded and placed in a bowl. We would each draw a name from the bowl, selecting whom we would buy a gift as a Secret Santa. Mom had saved up for the entire year to provide each of us with $5.00 to spend on a gift for the selected family member.
In that particular year, I had drawn my name from the bowl, which normally meant drawing another name and placing my name back in the bowl. However, I told my parents that since I had drawn my name I insisted that I should be allowed to buy a Christmas present for myself. I was surprised when they agreed to my request..
That Saturday we embarked to the Las Palmas Shopping Plaza. I made a beeline to Neisner’s Store with a $5.00 bill in my wallet to purchase a gift for myself. I ended up buying myself a Lone Ranger cap gun with a holster. The set may be considered by many today as politically incorrect was the rage among young boys in Texas at the time, due to the popular TV show.
When we arrived home, I wrapped my present, so it could be placed under the tree on Christmas Eve. But as Christmas Day approached, I was saddened by the fact that unlike the rest of the family, I knew what was I was receiving as my Secret Santa gift. There was no mystery or surprise in my gift which removed any joy of anticipation for me.
Christmas morning arrived and the family opened their only gift from a Secret Santa, with much excitement and anticipation, except for me, there was no mystery or Secret Santa as I already knew what was under the tree. That Christmas Day, I learned some valuable lessons about the sharing of gifts on Christmas Day, particularly the joy of giving over receiving and the excitement of anticipating the arrival of a Christmas gift given in a loving, selfless manner.
Our lesson today contains some parallels to my life lesson. While the Jews had anticipated the arrival of the Messiah sent by God, no one knew the day or time the Christ would arrive. Even the mother of the Messiah was initially unaware that she was chosen by God to give birth to him, Luke 1:26-35 (ESV):
Birth of Jesus Foretold
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed[a] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”[b] 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”[c]
35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[d] will be called holy—the Son of God.
Footnotes: a. Luke 1:27 That is, legally pledged to be married b.Luke 1:28 Some manuscripts add Blessed are you among women! C. Luke 1:34 Greek since I do not know a man e. Luke 1:35 Some manuscripts add of you
Not only was Mary unaware of her selection to be the mother of Christ, but she was also surprised that she would conceive her child as a virgin.
Joseph, to whom Mary was betrothed, had similar concerns to the news of her pregnancy, but his fears were allayed by the visit of an angel, Matthew 1:18-24 (ESV):
The Birth of Jesus Christ
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ[a] took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed[b] to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife,
Footnotes: a. Matthew 1:18 Some manuscripts of the Christ b. Matthew 1:18 That is, legally pledged to be married
While it seems that Mary and Joseph may have been aware of the arrival of a Christ or Messiah for the People of Israel, it appears that neither knew until the angels visited them, that God would choose a woman betrothed to a carpenter as parents to raise His Christ child. The lord had to send His angels them the important place they would have in fulfilling His plan.
We know that there were also Magi or Wise Men, though not Jews, they were aware that God had placed signs in the heavens, so they followed a star to Bethlehem, where the Christ was to be born, Matthew 2:1-15 (ESV):
The Visit of the Wise Men
2 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men[a] from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose[b] and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
6 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
The Flight to Egypt
13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
We see that the Wise Men, the chief priests, scribes, and King Herod were aware of the prophecy of God sending a Christ, the Wise Men sought him in the palace of the king in Jerusalem and Herod was uncertain as to where to find the Messiah.
The chief priests and scribes told Herod that the Scriptures indicated that Christ was to be born in Bethlehem.
King Herod plotted to kill the Christ child, asking the Wise Men to return to him with the location of the baby’s birth. But warned in a dream, the Wise Men returned to their homeland in another way, not telling Herod about the child.
Joseph was warned in a dream as well, by an angel of the Lord of Herod’s plan, and fled with Mary and Jesus to Egypt until receiving word of the king’s death.
As we read through the New Testament, we see that many of the Jews, including the disciples, had not anticipated the reason why God sent His only Son, Jesus nor in what manner Jesus would eventually redeem humanity for the sins that they had committed, which was the judgment of death, John 3:16-17 (ESV):
For God So Loved the World
16 “For God so loved the world,[a] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Footnotes: a. John 3:16 Or For this is how God loved the world
The first Christmas marks the arrival of a much anticipated Messiah, but the manner of how, when, and where God executed His plan and promise of salvation through His only Son, revealed events that were unexpected, filled with mystery, wonder, and joy. This is the message of Christmas: to be blessed with His most precious gift to all who have faith. May you all have a blessed Christmas and a safe and happy 2021.
Let us pray…
Closing Music Special: Lauren Daigle – Thank God I Do (Live) (Lyrics) – https://youtu.be/G0djs41QwlA
Benediction – (2 Corinthians 13:14):
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. – Have a Happy New Year, 2022 and be the Light of the World!