Has anyone ever played Chinese Christmas? This is a game that we play every year at our family get together and I also understand there are several names for this but the basis of this game is everyone buys a gift and we draw numbers to see who gets to choose what present. However if you like a present that someone has opened you have the option of opening a present not yet opened or stealing their present.
At our family gathering we always love playing this and it always causes a bit of drama as the gift exchanges don’t always go over so well. Let’s just say some are more gracious with their gift exchanges then others. There have literally been fights and anger from that game at our family gatherings. The reason I say this is because, if we are not careful, the smallest things can distract us from the real reason we get together. Our family gatherings were about spending time with family, not arguing over who got the inflatable queen air mattress.
It’s kind of like a story about the Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal is one of the most beautiful and costly tombs ever built, but there is something fascinating about its beginnings.
In 1629, when the favorite wife of Indian ruler Shah Jahan died, he ordered that a magnificent tomb be built as a memorial to her. The shah placed his wife’s casket in the middle of a parcel of land, and construction of the temple literally began around it. But several years into the venture, the Shah’s grief for his wife gave way to a passion for the project. One day while he was surveying the sight, he reportedly stumbled over a wooden box, and he had some workers throw it out. It was months before he realized that his wife’s casket had been destroyed. The original purpose for the memorial became lost in the details of construction.
In a similar way, the focus of this season is all about the birth of Jesus Christ. The reason we celebrate is because of Jesus. We sing Christmas worship songs, we have our Christmas eve, many read the story of baby Jesus on Christmas morning, yet in the midst of doing all these things we forget why we are doing them. In many instances those of us who go to church every Sunday, haven’t even embraced the most wonderful gifts that father gives us through is son.
Today, I would like to talk to you about the ultimate Gift Exchange and all about the exchanges that take place in our relationship with God if we fully embrace the gift that comes in Jesus Christ.
Now as I referred to in Chinese Christmas, a gift exchange requires you to give up something to get something else. In our game with our family, you would probably say my VCR trade for a I PAD was a great trade. Well in our relationship with Jesus, the gift exchanges he offers are all you can miss deals. But it does require us to willingly give up something of ours.
Today the gift we are going to be talking about that Jesus offers all who believe in him is the gift of peace. In order for us to receive this gift of peace we must give the lord our worry.
Awesome trade right? Peace for worry?
Simple enough? But you may be saying pastor I have been a Christian for fifty years and I still worry. In fact this season is one of the worst for worry.
You have heard it before, It’s the most wonderful time of the year… and the most stressful.
- We are busy, so we ask, how am I going to fit it all in?
- We are overextended so we ask, how am I going to pay for it all?
- We are reminded of our deepest hurts so we ask, how can I just get through?
For whatever reasons, the season of Christmas can bring a lot of emotions and one of the those is worry.
Lucky for us, especially the worry warts among us, Jesus addresses worry head on in one of the most important sermons ever preached – The Sermon on the Mount – Which is why I want to talk about embracing the gift of peace that comes in the Father and not allowing our worries to influence our relationship with him.
Clarification: Before we touch on worry, let me clarify that there is a difference between worry and caution. We should be wary of dangerous situations. You obviously shouldn’t stand to close to the edge at the grand canyon. There is also a difference between worry and wisdom. Being conservative in your decision-making doesn’t mean you’re worrying. It might just mean you’re wise. We’re talking about a kind of worry that we could avoid.
So Let’s define worry…Worry is allowing your mind to dwell on potentially negative outcomes beyond our actual control.
Jesus addressed it this way…
Matthew 6:25-34 NLT
25 That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
Jesus says several things about worry…
- Worry is unnatural – nature doesn’t worry so neither should we.
- Worry is unhelpful – it doesn’t actually change anything. If anything it makes it worse. I tell VeLora all the time, her outward speaking worrying about my driving makes it worse. If anything her worrying is going to cause me to wreck before my driving… I love you VeLora.
- Worry is unchristian – it reflects a lack of faith. I’m not saying you’re not a Christian if you worry, but I am saying it is a characteristic that goes against our faith because Jesus told us we didn’t have to worry about these things. That this kind of worry is what dominates the thoughts of unbelievers but because of our faith in the father who knows all things we don’t have to worry about that.
Listen, I know what some of you are thinking. Well pastor I know I shouldn’t worry but I can’t help it. Or for my ones who like to justify their actions, well pastor if you have experienced what I have you would worry to and understand. But Church it isn’t about understanding, it is about trusting.
SO instead of debating why you worry, lets talk about how to embrace this wonderful gift exchange that our savior Jesus Christ came for you and I to experience.
1. Let Jesus be King
Ask yourself this question…
What deserves the most prominence in my thought life? Or What should my mind focus on the most?
Hint: It’s Jesus.
Jesus told us that in his sermon on the mount as we see in Matthew 6:33
33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
Church, when you put his kingdom first and make God’s kingdom purposes your primary concern, you don’t have to worry about a lot of other things in your life because they pale in comparison to Him.
It is rather simple isn’t it?
2. Live a day at a time
God gives you enough power and strength for today, but not for tomorrow. He doesn’t equip you to prevent all the future situations you’re going to go through. He gives you the strength to deal with what comes today. So stop worrying about tomorrow and do what God has called you to do today and tomorrow will take care of itself. If you have a test tomorrow, instead of worrying about it, study today and you will be at peace about the test tomorrow. Worrying about something that has yet to happen or might not happen is pointless and only causes stress. God has equipped you with wisdom of what to do today so you will be prepared for tomorrow.
3. Lean on the faithfulness of God
That is, talk to God about it and let him remind you of his promises. Which of course means, studying his promises regularly.
Philippians 4:6 NLT
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”
There are two things Paul says to do with worry…
- Tell God about it – take it to him in prayer.
- Thank God for what he has done.
Gratitude re-focuses our minds on the goodness and the gifts of God rather than the problems around us.
Philippians 4:7 NLT
“Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
You can dwell on your problems, or you can dwell on God’s promises.
There is a story involving Yogi Berra, the well-known catcher for the New York Yankees, and Hank Aaron, who at that time was the chief power hitter for the Milwaukee Braves. The teams were playing in the World Series, and as usual Yogi was keeping up his ceaseless chatter, intended to pep up his teammates on the one hand, and distract the Milwaukee batters on the other. As Aaron came to the plate, Yogi tried to distract him by saying, “Henry, you’re holding the bat wrong. You’re supposed to hold it so you can read the trademark.” Aaron didn’t say anything, but when the next pitch came he hit it into the left-field bleachers. After rounding the bases and tagging up at home plate, Aaron looked at Yogi Berra and said, “I didn’t come up here to read.”
Jesus didn’t come here to give you more things to worry about, He came to give you hope, to give you grace, to give you peace. Are you ready to experience his peace? If so, then Let Jesus be King, Live one day at a time, and Lean on the faithfulness of God. When you do this, you are choosing to give your worry up for the Peace that can only come from our Father in Heaven.