Sermon text: Luke 2: 1-20
Almost every year at Christmas there is a must have toy that children are dying to receive and parents are struggling to find. These are the toys that drive everyone crazy. The ones that make the news because people got in a fist fight over the last one or scalpers are holding them ransom in the parking lot with a $200 dollar mark up.
This past week I read an article that reviewed some of the most popular, hyped, and notorious Christmas toys since the 1930s. Let me read off the list. See how many of them you remember, or bought, or received:
- 1934: The Shirley Temple Doll
- 1960: Chatty Cathy
- 1964: GI Joe
- 1977: Star Wars Action Figures
- 1983: Cabbage Patch Kids
- 1984: Transformers
- 1988: The Nintendo Entertainment System
- 1996: Tickle Me Elmo
- 1996: Beanie Babies
- 1998: Furby
- 2008: The Nintendo Wii
- 2014: The Elsa Doll
Do you remember any of these toys from Christmases past?
For me, Furby is the most memorable. Do you remember those bizarre looking balls of fur that spouted insults in some made-up language? That year, 1998, my uncle was searching for one, but he couldn’t find a Furby in all of the greater Washington DC metro area. Somehow my family found one, bought it, and delivered it at Christmas. That was a horrible car ride. At every bump, every stop, and every turn the thing made noise. I remember, we were finally in my uncle’s neighborhood in Annapolis, and my father didn’t see a speed bump and hit it pretty hard. Everything in our car bounced around, including the Furby, which went “WEEEEEE!” (Turns out, Furbies have great comedic timing)
I think what’s really interesting about many of toys on this list is that they peaked in popularity just before the holiday season, stores everywhere experienced shortages around Christmas, and then, in many cases, they fell out of favor quickly after the hype was over.
And that’s probably the case with most of the presents we receive at Christmas. Anything new can give us a short-term happiness boost. But most everything—from that new car with the big bow on the top to the new box of Legos to the new Barbie doll—will lose its luster over time. We will get bored or accustomed to them. Researchers say that material objects make us happy for six to 12 weeks before the pleasantness fades. That’s it. Six to 12 weeks.
That’s something I have a hard time wrapping my head around, yet I know it’s true. How many times has the thrill of what’s new gone away? You know how it goes: You’re given some new contraption, it consumes your life for a short period of time, and then it slowly fades into the background, or it’s left in the closet, destined for a yard sale 10 years from now.
But then, if we consider Jesus, the greatest present that the world has ever received, we see one gift that will never fade into irrelevance or be tossed aside for something new and shiny. It speaks to the divine power of Jesus, how he changed the world all those years ago and how he continues to be active in our lives, transforming us in the present. Think about all the times when people discovered and opened this gift.
On his very first night on earth angels visited the shepherds in the field and told them about Jesus’ birth—they brought good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. So the shepherds went and they found Mary and Joseph and Jesus. They were astonished that they witnessed the coming of the Messiah and they went on their way glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. That night their lives were changed by this gift. Not for 6 weeks. Not even for 12 weeks. But for a lifetime.
A few years later the Magi from the east visit Jesus. They were guided by a star. When they finally found Jesus they were overwhelmed with joy and they worshipped him. God’s gift to the world transformed their lives.
Three decades later 12 disciples and crowds that numbered in the thousands followed Jesus as he ministered to the people of Israel. He healed, he exorcised, he taught and the world experienced God’s gift.
At some point the world didn’t know what to do with this present and they tried to get rid of it by hanging him on a cross. But Jesus could not be hidden in a tomb or relegated to the depths of the earth. Jesus rose from dead in triumph and his disciples saw it. They bore witness. They shared this good news of great joy to everyone who had ears. And God’s gift to the world began to spread. Lives were transformed. Not for weeks. Not for months. But for lifetimes. The gift lives on.
From Christmas Day until present day, Jesus continues to be a gift of good news for all of creation. He is a different kind of Christmas Present, the original, and the world will never grow tired of him because he is more than a mere material possession. Jesus is an experience, a belief, a way of life. He connects with us on every level of our existence. In Christ, the hopes and fears of all the years are met in him tonight.
This Christmas, may you continue to find joy in the gift of Jesus Christ. May every day with Christ be the same as the first day you experienced him.