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A Christmas That Matters part 2
Making Christmas Matter In Your World
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
December 5, 2010



Just three weeks ago, a remarkable thing happened in the food court at the mall in Niagara Falls, Ontario. People were there just grabbing lunch while doing some shopping when all of a sudden… well, take a look what happen.

VIDEO – Niagara Falls flash mob singing Hallelujah Chorus
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXh7JR9oKVE

Wasn’t that incredible? That video has gone viral on the Internet, so some of you may have already seen that. Obviously that wasn’t spontaneous. That song was the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah, a popular production at Christmas time all over the place, including this past week here at the Confederation Centre. That particular performance in the food court took weeks of planning for the 80-member Chorus Niagara to pull that off. And everyone had to keep quiet about it, too. The mall president was in on it, but he didn’t even tell his head of security until the morning of. For the people who happened to be in the mall that day, it was a complete surprise.

But did you notice how much people enjoyed it? There were people smiling, people crying… it was a moment. The soloist who started the whole things said this about the experience…

“I just loved it. I loved that we really seemed to lift people's spirits like that.”
~ Stephanie Tritchew

Isn’t it great how the celebration of Christmas can raise spirits? Isn’t it great that people can publicly sing about the birth of Jesus and shine some light into the hearts of people who are otherwise wrapped up in the busyness and troubles of their own lives? Isn’t it great that Christmas doesn’t have to be just another day or just another season but that it can be a time that really matters and makes a difference, in big and small ways?

Last Sunday here at Sunrise, we talked about how to make Christmas matter in your own home. And one of the things we talked about was how we can give meaningful gifts that are not necessarily expensive gifts. While gift-giving is a wonderful part of our Christmas celebration, all too many people give far beyond their ability and they put themselves deep in debt as a result. Not a good idea. So while we want to give generously, we don’t want to give unwisely. Nor do we want to buy into the lie that the cost of our gifts is reflective of the quality of our love. So we concluded that we should cut back on expensive gifts and learn to give meaningful gifts instead.

Today, we’re going to talk about giving in more significant ways… giving toward the poor and the disadvantaged in our community and around the world.

This is a wonderful time of the year to decide that you are going to become more generous toward those in need. There are all kinds of opportunities, all kinds of charities and community organizations in the midst of holiday campaigns, with the end of the year coming up you can benefit from tax receipts, plus with New Year’s around the bend you can make a resolution that you are going to make acts of compassion toward others more of a priority in your life.

Let me read for you something that Jesus told His disciples. Jesus was talking about His second coming and how we will all be judged, and this is what He said…

[Not in PowerPoint]

Matthew 25:31-45 (NLT)
“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’
“Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’
“Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’
“And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’”

Do you understand what Jesus was saying there? He was saying, “If you really love Me—if you’re really going to be my disciple—then you’re going to care for those in need.”

It would appear that caring for those in need is not optional for you if you are a Christ-follower. Jesus expects you to be generous and help out.


How to Make a Charitable Difference at Home and Around the World:

1.    Support the charitable causes close to your heart.

The believers in the early Church took this seriously. Look at what they did…

Acts 2:44 (NLT)
They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need.

That’s pretty serious, isn’t it? They were willing to sacrifice and go without certain luxuries in order to help out others. Here’s another verse, this time from the book of James…

James 1:27 (NLT)
Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

So again, you have people in need… specifically orphans and widows… and we’re told that pure and genuine religion means caring for people like that.

Now, the truth is, there are far too many needs and far too many charitable causes for each of us to be involved in all of them. So we have to pick and choose to a degree. What charities do you care about?

For many people, they choose a charity that has a personal connection for them. If, for example, you lost a family member to particular illness or condition, you might give a financial gift to a foundation conducting research in that area.

You’ll also give toward the ministry of the church. If you love Jesus, if you believe in what we’re doing, and you think we have something important to offer to you, to our community and to our world, then you’re going to support it.

And here’s an idea that can double your charitable giving at no extra cost to you. Many companies offer matching gifts. That means that when an employee makes a donation to a particular charity that employer matches the gift with a gift of their own. So check to see if you’re employed by a company that does this.

For Operation Christmas Child, the employees at Home Depot filled a bunch of boxes and pooled their resources to pay for the shipping of those boxes, and they told me that Home Depot was going to match their gift once they got the receipt. A lot of companies do that—in fact, it accounts for about 10% of the charitable donations given by companies. And many charities, churches, and non-profit organizations have benefited. So check with your employer to see if they offer such a program and what the requirements are. And if they don’t, see if they’d consider starting such a program.

Now, we’re talking this morning about making this Christmas matter in our world by giving to charities. But charitable giving should not be reserved exclusively for Christmas time. This is something that I believe should be a regular part of our lives. That’s what the Bible teaches and that’s what each of us should aspire to. But Christmas is a great time to begin giving in these ways or to step it up. It could be a time you make an additional contribution about what you normally give.


2.    Get involved in hands-on acts of charity.

We’ve already talked about money, but what else can you give? Can you give your time toward helping a charitable cause in the community? Can you offer your skills and resources?

I was talking with the captain of the local Salvation Army this week, and they have several things going on right now. Of course, they have their food bank which we have collected food for from time to time. Some of you have helped with that. In fact, I have some food in the back of our van right now that needs to be delivered to them. Maybe you can check your cupboards and see if you have anything you can contribute. You can drop it off yourself or you can bring it here and I’ll do it for you.

The Salvation Army is also reopening its thrift store. You may remember that they had to close it six or seven years ago, but they’re reopening in a location off of Allen Street near Froggies. So why not go through your closet and see what clothes you have that you’re not using. And if they’re in good condition, donate them to the thrift store. While you’re at it, see what else you have that you can donate and see if they have a need for it.

Several of you already donated time to collect shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child. That was such a positive experience for us as a church and for us individually, and it makes a real difference in our world.

When the students from Bethany Bible College were here a couple weeks ago, we took them to Solomon’s Porch to help with some projects there. Some of you provided housing for the students that night. By simply offering some hospitality you made it possible for those students to come and do what they did. So really, you were personally involved in that. And just so you know, in you want to get more involved in Solomon’s Porch, they offer some great programs for the poor of our community and can always use some volunteers.

Financial gifts are important, but so are other forms of giving. There are all kinds of hands-on opportunities right here in our city for you to get involved in charitable causes and make a real difference.

In Acts chapter 3, there’s a crippled man who was begging for money from Peter and John. But they didn’t have any money. So look at what they said…

Acts 3:6 (NLT)
But Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!”

They gave what they had to give. In their case, the Holy Spirit had given them the ability to perform miracles in the name of Jesus. What do you have to give? Is it your time? Is it your energy? Is it your skills? What do you have to give?


3.    Model generosity to your children.

If you have children in your home, then they are going to take their cues more from what you do than what you say. So don’t just tell them that charitable giving is important; show it to them.

1 John 3:17-18 (NLT)
If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?
Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.

Show the truth by your actions. In particular with your children, do you show them what’s important to you by your actions? Actually, that’s not really the question. Obviously your actions show what’s important to you. So what exactly is it that your actions are saying is important to you? What message are you communicating to your children?

If you want to communicate the message that generosity is important particularly when it comes to charitable causes, then you’ve got to model it for your children. How? There are all kinds of ways.

How about sponsoring a child through Compassion Canada? Shera and I sponsor a child through them. In fact, when Shera was on her mission trip to Guatemala in October she got to meet our sponsor child. So how about sponsoring a child yourself? As a family, you can go online to compassion.ca and browse through some of the sponsorship opportunities. Get your kids involved and select a child in their age group. Maybe they can contribute a percentage of the sponsorship out of their allowance or from a part-time job. And then you can even write to the sponsor child periodically. That’s a great way to model generosity to your kids and to get them involved, too.

I’ve already mentioned the shoe boxes, and that’s all done for this year. But I love it when I see parents taking their kids to the dollar store or wherever and getting them to help select the items to put in the boxes. And then when the kids come to drop off the boxes, they’re so excited about what they’ve done. And parents… whenever your kids perform an act of charity like that it should be celebrated. Applaud them for it.

I’ve taken Nate on a Food Drive. I know Amanda has taken Zander. That’s another great way to teach your child about charitable giving in a hand-on, practical way.

Another suggestion, if your kids love animals then volunteer some time at an animal shelter. You can help clean the animals, play with them, clean the cages… all kinds of ways to get involved there. When you’re looking for a pet, you even adopt one of the rescued animals.

Or think about doing this… sit down with your kids in front of the computer and log on to WorldHope.ca or WorldVision.ca. Check out their online gift catalogue and have your kids help you select an item to purchase there. For example, for only $35 you can buy winter clothing for up to 25 children in places like Mongolia, Romania, and Armenia. For $50 you can buy two hens and a rooster to provide a family in an impoverished nation with a regular source of eggs and income. What if as a family you decide to buy just one fewer presents this year and spend that money on one of these kinds of gifts instead?

If you want something more local and with no expense, take your kids to visit the residents at a nursing home. You can listen to their stories, read to them, offer to clip their toenails and fingernails which can be difficult for nurses to find time to do… and listen, even if you don’t have kids, you can do something like that. Don’t think you’re off the hook just because I’m talking to parents right now.

Oh, another idea… volunteer individually or as a family to help serve meals at the soup kitchen downtown. We’ve done that as a church before and we’ll do it again, but there’s no need to wait until it’s an official function of the church. Take the initiative and volunteer yourself.

I’ve given you a bunch of suggestions this morning, and maybe this has sparked some ideas of your own. You probably won’t be able to do everything, but can you pick one or two that you will do? And you know what? I’m not even going to insist that you do it between now and Christmas. If you can, great. But some of these suggestions take a bit of planning and you might have to make some arrangements. So maybe you’ll be looking at implementing one or two of these ideas in the New Year. But will you actually do it? Will this Christmas matter because it’s when you decided to get beyond yourself and get more involved in charitable causes here in PEI and around the world?

There’s a verse in the Old Testament book of Isaiah that talks about being intentional when it comes to being generous. It says…

Isaiah 32:8 (NLT)
But generous people plan to do what is generous, and they stand firm in their generosity.

Now, let me give you one more opportunity. Let me tell you what we’re going to be doing as a Church to make this Christmas matter in our world. Every year at our Christmas Eve service we receive an offering for a different project to meet needs around the world. We’ve bought pigs for an orphanage in the Ukraine, we’ve provided safe travel for young women in Odessa so they could get an education without the risk of being abducted into the slave trade, and we’ve provided clean drinking water for a community that didn’t have access to clean water before.

This year, we’re going to save lives in Sierra Leone. World Hope runs a centre at the Kamakwie Wesleyan Hospital for children suffering from malnutrition. The lives of these children are at risk because of the malnutrition and related secondary diseases and health conditions. For just $35, we can save the life of a malnourished child and provide training for the caregivers. So on Christmas Eve, let’s see how many lives we can save. Jesus cam to save our lives; let’s make this Christmas matter by saving the lives of these children.


 

 

Copyright © Greg Hanson, 2010 SunriseOnline.ca