Making This Christmas Count
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
December 14, 2008
children of Sunrise Express will be back in a little while so we can
enjoy their Christmas presentation. But before they do that, I want to
take a while to talk about Making This Christmas Count. We’ve been
working our way through this series over the past few weeks. Two weeks
ago we talked about giving the right gifts this Christmas. Last week we
talked about controlling the speed of our lives during this incredibly
hectic season of the year. And this morning we’re going to continue by
looking at how we can make the very best of investments.
there’s been a lot of talk recently about investments. Every night on
the news you can see how your investments are doing in the markets.
Sometimes you make good investments and they pay off, but recently it
seems like almost everyone has taken a hit and has lost a good
percentage of their investments.
So we’re going to talk about
making the best of investments. The kinds of investments that always
pay off. Obviously I’m not talking about the investments you can make
in the stock market because we all know that they don’t always pay off.
So I’m not going to give you and insider information on that,
especially since I’m about as outside as you can get. And I’m not going
to give you a series of abbreviations that you’re going to have to look
up to see what they mean. I’m not talking about those kinds of
So what kinds of investments am I talking about?
I’m talking about the ways you can invest your time, your energy and
your finances in ways that they bless others and make a meaningful
difference. I’m going to talk about three investments you can make that
can really matter in your life, in the lives of others, and can grow
right on into eternity.
The first investment is this…
Make the Best Investments This Christmas…
Invest in Relationships, not a boatload of stuff
this is something we seem to complain about year after year after year.
We gripe about how Christmas has become so commercialized, but yet
every year there we find ourselves rushing around trying to buy
anything we can get our hands on. We seem to think that the quality of
our relationships is directly proportional to the cost of the gifts.
me ask you this. How many of you find yourself in this situation:
You’ve already been out and you’ve done your Christmas shopping, you
think you’re all done, but as Christmas gets closer and closer you
start to wonder, “Well, did I get this person enough gifts? Did I spend
enough money on them? What if they get me more than I got them?” How
many of you find yourself asking questions like that? And what is the
inevitable result? You find yourself braving the crowds once more so
you can buy even more gifts, right?
Now, is it wrong to want to
give gifts to the people you love? No, of course not. Giving gifts is a
perfectly legitimate way to show love. I’m sure those of you who work
retail are happy to hear me say that. I think gift-giving is a
wonderful tradition. I enjoy giving gifts and I enjoy receiving gifts.
So I’m not here to poo-poo the whole idea of giving gifts.
considering that financial problems are a leading contributor toward
divorce, don’t you think a little restraint would be wise? I mean, if
you are going deeper and deeper into debt just to buy gifts, isn’t that
just a recipe for disaster? And especially this year with the financial
upheaval around the world and the uncertain outlook for 2009 and how
each of us may be affected, does it really make sense to spend so much
on gifts that are going to break, get lost, become outdated, and start
collecting dust all before Valentine’s Day?
Do you understand
that your kids aren’t going to love you any less if you just spend what
you can afford, and they’re not going to love you more if you spend way
beyond your budget on them. In fact, in the long run, you’re going to
be setting them up for failure themselves and your relationship may
suffer for it.
The quality of your marriage, the quality of your
friendships… the quality of these relationships does not hinge on the
amount of money you spend on them at Christmas time.
of investing so much time and energy and money into acquiring more
stuff, how about exercising a little restraint in those areas and
instead invest that time, energy and money into the relationship
itself? Sure, go ahead and buy some gifts. But do it within the
constraints of your finances and don’t go overboard with it.
me put it this way: Christmas can either be about you making
withdrawals from your bank account or it can be about you making
deposits into your relationships. Which do you prefer?
forward 11 days from now. It’s Christmas morning and you’re gathered
around your Christmas Tree with your family and you’re all opening your
gifts. With every gift, there’s going to be some level of excitement or
disappointment. Hopefully there’s going to be more excitement than
disappointment, but there’s going to be both. As we get older, we
hopefully get better at disguising our disappointment, but you know
what I’m talking about, right? “Oh, great. Just what I always wanted. A
Potty Putter.” I remember when I was in college, one of the gifts I
received was a box of laundry detergent. Yeah, that was exciting.
the point: Regardless of what gifts you receive, whether you feel
excited or a little disappointed, that feeling is temporary. It’s going
to fade. But what you don’t want to fade is the relationship.
if you want this Christmas to count, you’re going to value your
relationships… with your family and with your friends. You’re going to
invest time into those relationships. You’re going to create memories
I think the apostle Paul in the New Testament put it so well in his
second letter to the Christians in Corinth…
2 Corinthians 12:14 (NLT)
I don’t want what you have—I want you.
And remember what Jesus said…
Luke 12:15 (NLT)
“Life is not measured by how much you own.”
Be generous toward those in need
not talking about the “I need the latest video game” or “I need that
trip to the Bahamas” kinds of needs. I’m talking about the basic needs
we all have if we want to live and be safe and be healthy. What can you
do this Christmas to help someone who’s really in need, whether it’s
here in Charlottetown or someplace else around the world?
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
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
“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.’
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.”
He’s saying, “Care for them just like you would care for me if I were
in their shoes.”
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.
The believers in the early Church took this seriously. Look at what
Acts 2:44 (NLT)
They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with
those in need.
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)
genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for
orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world
So again, you have people in need… specifically
orphans and widows… and we’re told that pure and genuine religion (not
power-hungry and corrupted religion but pure and genuine religion)
means that you will care for them.
And you know, I think this is
one of the greatest traditions you can begin. I mean, every one of us
should learn to be generous toward those in need because we serve a God
who’s generous. And if we want to become more like Him, we’re going to
become more generous.
But especially for you parents, this can
be such a meaningful tradition and such a character building practice
for your kids. Let me tell you what I’m talking about…
every Christmas, you made it a personal or a family project to give to
someone in need? For example, what if you gave money to make sure a
family in Sierra Leone had clean drinking water? And what if your kids
understood what you were doing and participated, too? What if you
explained to them what you’re doing, and they decided they wanted to
give their allowance to help? Wouldn’t you be thrilled if they showed
such concern for others? Or what if they even told you that they wanted
fewer gifts so that your family could give more generously to those in
need? Wouldn’t that just floor you?
For the past couple years at
our Christmas Eve service, we’ve received an offering to buy pigs for a
home for street children in Odessa, Ukraine. That’s been a fun project,
and we’ve sent hundreds of dollars to World Hope in order to feed those
children. And I believe that has been such a positive part of Christmas
here at Sunrise.
Well, during this past year the Ukrainian
government assumed responsibility for all homes for children under the
age of 16, so we won’t be buying pigs this year. Instead, we’re going
to focus on the Shepherd’s Home, also run by World Hope in the Ukraine.
This is a home for girls ages 16 and up.
Now, one of the
things I’ve become more aware of over the past few years is the
worldwide tragedy of human trafficking. All around the world, including
right here in Canada, people are being kidnapped and sold as slaves.
That’s still going on every day. And one of the hot spots for human
trafficking and especially for the sex trade has been the Ukraine. So
this year at our Christmas Eve service, we’re going to receive an
offering to help provide safe transportation for these girls at the
Shepherd’s Home so they can get an education.
So I’d encourage
you to give toward that offering. But if you’re looking for some ideas
beyond that, I’ve included some other options in your notes this
• The Sunrise Christmas Eve offering (to
go toward the Shepherd’s Home in Ukraine)
• www.WorldHope.ca (Gift Catalogue)
• www.WorldVision.ca (Gift Catalogue)
• www.SamaritansPurse.ca (Gift Catalogue)
• www.PrisonFellowship.ca (Angel Tree
• www.wesleyan.org/gp/etn (Training of
Overseas Leaders) - Empowering the Nations
• Global Partners Missionaries (some
support cards are available on our Information Table)
• Church Planters:
o Sydney, NS – Kevin & Laura
Myers, P.O. Box 722, Sydney, NS B1P 6H7
o St. John’s, NL – Darren & Janel
Clark, 463 Torbay Rd., St. John's, NL A1A 5C9
• Donations to the Food Bank
• www.OpenDoorMinistries.ca (ministering
to the addicted, incarcerated, and powerless)
• The Post (Youth drop-in centre)
• Salvation Army (serving the poor)
• Island Pregnancy Care & Support
• The Upper Room Soup Kitchen
Freely share the message of Jesus
this is Christmas time, but you already knew that. And every year
during this season you’re reminded about what happened the night Jesus
was born. So you know about the shepherds who were out in the fields
watching their sheep, and you know about the angel who appear before
them and told them about the newborn King, and you know how the
shepherds followed the instructions the angel gave them and how they
went into the town of Bethlehem and how they found Jesus and Mary and
You’re familiar with all that. But do you remember what
they did next? Do you remember what they did on their way back to the
Luke 2:17-18 (NLT)
After seeing him, the shepherds
told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them
about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished…
know, it was incredible that the angel appeared to the shepherds. And
it was an honour for them to go and actually see Jesus. But I think
it’s significant that their very first response to what they have
witnessed was to go and tell others what they had seen.
they saw that night changed their lives. What they saw that night
changed my life. What they saw that night is why we’re here this
morning. That baby that they saw would grow up and give His life you
them, for you, for me. Christ the Saviour was born. He was their
Saviour, He’s my Saviour, He’s your Saviour.
That news about
Jesus… the difference He’s made in our lives… this message of hope and
love and forgiveness and life that has been entrusted to me and to you…
it’s the greatest investment you and I can make today.
let’s look a little bit earlier in Luke chapter 2. The shepherds are
still out in the fields looking after the sheep and then we read…
Luke 2:9-11 (NLT)
an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the
Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel
reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that
will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the
Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!”
those two words… “all people.” That means you. That means me. That
means every person you and I will ever come into contact with. Jesus
came for all people. And that’s why we need to share His message.
That’s why we need to extend hands of friendship with those who are far
from God. That’s why we need to pray for them. That’s why we need to
tell them what Jesus has done in our lives. That’s why we need to let
them know what Jesus can do in their lives, too.
This is what
you and I have to offer those who don’t know Jesus: Good news of great
joy for all people. Don’t keep it a secret, and don’t waste it.
know, we like to talk about what interests us. People who are in love
talk constantly about the object of their affection. A husband who is
genuinely and deeply in love with his wife will want to tell others
about her. When he goes on business trips, he can't help but tell
people about the fantastic wife that he can't wait to get back to.
if there's a specific sport that you enjoy, you'll talk about it. I
like hockey. I talk about it. Maybe you like soccer, or basketball, or
baseball, or football. You talk about the things that interest you.
was the last time you found you couldn't help but talk about Jesus?
When was the last time you shared what He means to you with a family
member? With a friend? With someone far from God? If Jesus is alive and
well in our lives, we shouldn't be able to help ourselves when it comes
to sharing what He means to us. Telling others about Christ should be
the natural outflow of our relationship with Him to those who don't
It’s the single greatest investment we can make, because it’s an
investment that can grow right on into eternity.
Isaiah 55:11 (NLT)
“It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces
When you speak the Word of God—when you allow God to speak through
you—it always has results.
those are investments we should all be making. Tell others about the
message of Jesus. Express His love by being generous toward those in
need. And don’t get all preoccupied by buy more and more stuff; invest
in the relationship instead.