Micah 6:6-8, Romans 12:1 Princeton Christian Church 20 December 2020
Christmas is the time we focus on giving of gifts to those we love. We spend a good amount of time deciding on just the perfect gift for each one. We often ask those persons, “What do you want for it that God really wants from us? What should we be offering to God?" “What would be the perfect gift to give to God?” I wonder what gifts should we be giving to God this Christmas. Well, you know that God is not shy about telling us what He wants and how He wants it. So, He has already told us, in His Word, what He desires as gifts from each one of us.
We find His request in the Old Testament from the prophet Micah. Look at Micah 6:6-8. Here, God is telling us exactly what He really wants from us.
There is an old story of a young boy who saw the three wise men coming to worship the baby Jesus. He watched in wide eyed curiosity as they presented their gifts of gold, frankincense & myrrh.
He wanted so much worship the baby, too. But he had nothing to give Him. He had nothing worthy or fit to give to the little king. His eyes filled with tears and he turned and began to walk away.
But just then an angel appeared to him, saying, "Give what is dearest to your heart." The boy thought for a moment. What is dearest to my heart? Finally, he thought of what he could give. He laid a faded blue bag alongside the gifts that the wise men had laid before Jesus.
Inside his bag was a butterfly preserved in candle wax, a forked stick used for his treasured slingshot, a ragged rope he used to help him climb high trees, and a seashell that, when he held it to his ear, echoed the roar of the sea. He gave what was dearest to his heart, and so now was privileged to stand in the presence of the king.
But it seems that the concept of giving gifts to Jesus, established by the wise men, has changed. While we often thank Him for the gifts He gives to us (as we should, of course), we don't so much bring gifts to Jesus, as we do to one another.
There is an old proverb which says, "The only gift worth giving is yourself." I believe that may be what Paul was teaching as he said in Romans 12:1, "I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy & pleasing to God..."
This is, as we know, the season when our focus is on giving. It is a time of generosity. Sadly, it is also a time when we often go overboard and spend more than we can really afford. Sometimes, those gifts are quickly forgotten, used up, or broken in a very short time.
We think about them. We agonize over them. We spend. We endure almost any inconvenience – crowded stores, crazy traffic - in order to buy just the right gifts for others.
Take some time this morning to imagine what it would be like if, for just one Christmas, we would make a covenant to spend just as much time and energy and thought in presenting a gift to Jesus? The thing that is nearest and dearest to our hearts.
The prophet Micah must have been going through that same kind of dilemma in the scripture that we will consider this morning. Hear what Micah says in chapter 6, verses 6-8, as he ponders the best gift to present to God.
“With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?
"Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my first born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?
And here is the answer to his question, and ours – “What does God desire of us?”
TO ACT JUSTLY, AND TO LOVE MERCY, AND TO WALK HUMBLY WITH YOUR GOD.
"What shall I bring to the Lord?" Micah asks. Take a look again at the things he considered as possible gifts: "calves a year old," "thousands of rams," "rivers of oil."
But then God shows Micah what real gifts He desires. Micah understands that God doesn't really want, or need, any of those things. After all, He already owns the cattle on a thousand hills. The gifts God wants from us are just three in number. He wants us to act justly. He wants you to love mercy. He wants you to walk humbly with your God."
Imagine what Christmas would be like if all of us wrapped up those three gifts and laid them at the feet of Jesus.
Now, let’s look at each of these gifts individually for a moment.
First, Acting Justly
There seems to be so little justice in our world today. So many things and situations seem to be unjust. As the old saying goes, “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” The evil seems to succeed and sometimes, even rewarded, while the good seem to fail and pay the price. Our world seems to be turned upside down Justice is sometimes hard to find.
The old saying goes like this: "Steal $10, and go to jail. Steal a million dollars & be elected to Congress."
ILL. I don't think I'll ever be able to understand the justice of what happened out in California a number of years ago. A man abducted a young girl, attacked her, then chopped off her arms & dumped her by the roadside to die. But she lived & identified him & he was sent to prison.
Juries deliberate for hours, even weeks, and sometimes we wonder how in the world they reached the verdict that they did.
ILL. Some years ago the gory details of an ax murder in McKinney, TX, were aired on TV, radio and published in the newspapers. A woman, who went to her lover's house to confront his wife, admitted that she took an ax with her and struck the wife 50 times with it. The jury decided that she was "simply defending herself." 50 blows with an axe? Just defending herself? To most of us that doesn’t look like justice.
Time and again we hear of a person causing an accident. The escape unhurt, while the person causing the accident are injured or killed. Justice? Somehow that doesn't seem fair, does it?
There is so much in this world that doesn't seem fair.
What if we, that is, the church would wrap up a little gift called "justice" & bring it to the manger before the Lord, with this promise, "Lord, whatever else the world may do, we, as your people, will be fair with one another.
We promise to be fair in our business dealings.
We promise that we will not lie to our customers.
We'll always be honest in the things we say.
We'll always be fair & just in the things we do."
"We promise to be fair with people who have are different from us.” ‘We'll never talk unjustly about them.”
“We won't gossip, we won't complain, we'll not argue or fight with one another. We'll always be fair!" How would our lives be changed? How would the lives of others around us change? What would it be like if God's people would do that?
Now, let us consider the gift of Loving Mercy.
God told Micah "to love mercy, to love kindness." The Bible says, "Love is patient and it is kind."
(1 Corinthians 13:4) It is hard to find kindness today. So many people are unkind.
Most of us, at one time or another has been treated unkindly. We have experienced that sinking feeling inside, when you feel that people don't really care about you. You felt that you have been rejected by them.
Think about the lepers in New Testament. Wherever they went, they had to announce their coming by shouting "Unclean, unclean!" Think about how they must have felt when people looked at them. People turned and got away as quickly as possible, afraid to touch them, did not even want to be near them. They were not even welcome in their own homes, or among their family members.
Yet, when they came to Jesus, He didn't turn and run. He reached out and touched them and healed them! He treated them with kindness, and the result was healing.
Remember the woman that Jesus met at Jacob's well? How many husbands had she had? Was it 5? And the man she was living with now was not her husband. She was branded by the whole community as immoral, as a prostitute.
When she walked down the street they must have pointed fingers and made insulting remarks. They had been so unkind that she was even avoided coming to the well to draw water during the time most other women came. She came in the heat of noontime to draw her water. And it was then that she found Jesus. What if Jesus had been unkind? What if Jesus had said, "I want nothing to do with you, you immoral woman?" She would still have had no mercy, no kindness shown to her.
But He didn't. Instead, He spoke to her in such a kind, merciful manner that she ran back to home to Sychar and told the people to come and meet a man who had told her everything she had ever done. She met a man who had treated her with kindness.
Kindness is a good gift to bring at Christmas time. Could we make a covenant this Christmas to give the gift of kindness? Can we promise that we will make every effort to be kinder to one another? Determine that we will reflect the true spirit of Christ and show the world that He has made a difference and a change in our lives? And, not only our lives, but He will make a difference in their lives as well. That, in itself, would be an incomparable gift to them.
The gift of kindness would be a wonderful gift to bring to Jesus at Christmas time.
Then, let us consider the third gift Micah suggests: Waking Humbly With Our God.
The Lord told Micah that He wanted one more gift - that we would "walk humbly with our God." Jesus came into a world engrained with just the opposite of humility. He came into a world influenced by Greek culture and art.
People were arrogant and proud. They thought that you were important and of more value than others if you had a workforce of slaves and lived among the aristocracy. You would strut your wealth and high position before others of a lesser stature.
Jesus came into a world greatly impressed with Power. Roman officers rode on prancing stallions, with shining armor and plumes in their helmets swords and shields in place giving orders. And people quickly responding to their orders.
And Jesus breaks into that world. There was no chariot drawn by prancing stallions. His ride was on a donkey. He would later enter Jerusalem, not riding the chariot He deserved, but again on a donkey. Into this world He came with no great possessions, no fancy jewels, no material wealth, and the world was not impressed! Instead of recognizing Him for who He was, they rejected Him. The world mocked Him, and finally, it crucified Him!
Almost 2,000 years have passed since then. The world inherited the drive to promote injustice and arrogance, and love of self. So, is the world we live in today any different than the Greeks and the Romans in the day Jesus walked among men?
People are very much impressed with brand names. Some want to wear just the right clothes – be in the right crowd, driving the right automobile and living in the right neighborhood.
Yet, to Micah, the Lord said, "Walk humbly with thy God." Has God’s desire for gifts changed in this day and age? Absolutely not!
Three Christmas gifts. We don't need any money to give them. We don't need any special talent or high position to give them. Everyone here can give them. We can bring them, neatly wrapped, and place them at the feet of Jesus.
When we are ready and willing to that, I believe we will experience the very best Christmas that we have ever had.