I would like to begin my sermon with a little ditty that I wrote in my free time (meaning while I was supposed to be paying attention in class). It came about as the result of trying to think of Operation Christmas Child from a Shoebox's point of View.
THE LIFE OF A SHOEBOX
I Am A Shoebox!
Out of cardboard I am made
To hold the shoes, not on display
With a price tag I am packed
Onto a truck way out back
With many like me I will ride
My destination: a store’s inside
Nike, Rebook, New Balance too,
I’m only here to hold the shoe.
I won’t be picked out for MY looks,
I wish I could’ve been a book
And when to a buyer I am sold
It’s only for the shoes I hold
If not trashed or tossed am I,
Then put up on a shelf up high
Now I am resigned to fate;
Collecting dust I now wait.
And I wait, and I wait, and I wait….
Then finally, there comes a day
When I descend down from my grave.
A mighty lung blows off the dust
Amidst the Christmas fuss and rush.
With Shiny paper I am wrapped
Stuffed to the brim I am packed
Cards, crayons, dolls or cars
Packed with gifts to travel far
Now, I’m being shipped again
But this time there is a spin!
My destination is not a store,
But a child; one who will adore;
Not just the objects in my insides
But the gifts: Love, Hope, and Pride.
Now I am much, much more
Than I ever was before
Not just cardboard, not just a box
Even if I just hold socks
Now I am a treasure chest
Who’s packed with a love that will not rest!
I AM A SHOEBOX!
NIV Matthew 10:1 He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. 2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. 5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.
Christian commentators have entitled Chapter 10 of Matthew, “Jesus sends out the twelve”. As you might guess from the title, this is the turning point in the role of the disciples. Up until this point the disciples were simply and literally followers of Christ. They really didn’t do that much to help Christ. They mostly walked around with him, listened (and sometimes questioned) his teachings, and watched him perform miracles, some of which they even tried to prevent the person from bothering Jesus with their request for help.
It seems to me, that the disciples were up until now, simply Jesus groupies. You know what a groupie is, right? In music, it is a person who will follow a band around and act as if they are a part of the band, although they have NO roll in the band whatsoever. Yes, they provide the band with revenue from buying tickets to every show; and often times they may provide the band with company (warranted or not). But in all reality, they contribute nothing to the band.
For the most part, that is the role the disciples played…that is, until the events in Matt. 10. Imagine, being one of Christ’s disciples. You are following him around; walking through the towns, stopping when Jesus does, and when he finishes teaching or healing, you quietly get up and follow him back out of town and on to the next destination. However, today is different. Today, you are following Jesus, and he stops, turns, and gathers all of his groupies around. He suddenly says, “You’ve been following me, watching me, and listening to me all this time. But, today’s the day! I am going to be the one to sit here while YOU go out and do all the things that you have seen me doing. I give you the authority, not only to tell about me, but to be able to cast out demons, and heal the sick. You will have the power that my father has given me. Today, you stop being followers, and start acting like disciples.
How scary that must have been to a young angler or a hated tax collector to hear that now he has to preach, cast out, and heal. I’m pretty sure that most of them thought at that point, “this isn’t what I signed up for…all he said was ‘follow me’, and that’s what I’ve been doing. That is all I was supposed to do…but now, he wants…what? This is asking too much. I was not made for this, I can’t do it!
Fortunately, with a pep talk that is worthy of any commander prepping his troops for battle, Jesus gives them their instructions:
“Do not go among the gentiles or enter any city of the Samaritan. Your job, you ask? Go to Israel, go to the lost sheep and preach your heart out. Preach what you have seen and what you have heard. Preach of hope, love, joy, and peace. Preach that I am here, and preach that the Kingdom that they so long for, the kingdom of heaven is near! HEAL THE SICK! RAISE THE DEAD! DRIVE OUT THOSE DEMONS THAT ARE WHISPERING LIES INTO THE HEARTS OF THOSE WHO WANT TO BELIEVE, THAT WANT TO SEEK THE KINGDOM OF GOD! FREELY YOU HAVE RECEIVED, NOW FREELY, YOU MUST GIVE!”
We have been blessed in so many ways. We too have freely received. I know what it is like to be a poor college student, but I don’t know what it is like to live in an impoverished country not knowing where your next meal will come from. Not knowing what the sickness your parents and friends are dying from. Not knowing if the sounds of civil war that haunt you in the night will reach your doorstep the next morning.
Many of you know that I have a love for photography. One of my favorite photographs is an image that will always haunt me. It is a Pulitzer winning photograph that was taken of a child in Sudan by Kevin Carter in 1994. The child has the bloated belly and muscle-less limbs of starvation. He is crouched in a fetal position unable to move for lack of energy. Behind him is a Vulture bigger than he is, and the vulture is patiently waiting for the child to die. Go on and Google it! Type in: Kevin Carter Pulitzer Photo.
These are the types of people that we are sending our shoeboxes too! These are the people that are receiving our gifts. And I hope that we all know that there is more than crayons, coloring books, cars, socks, and dolls that we are packing. No, what fills in the gaps of our neatly packed boxes are the real gifts that a Christian gives. The gifts of Hope, Love, and Joy! These are what Christ was commanding his disciples to go out and spread. Giving freely these gifts that we have been freely given is what transforms us from being a Jesus groupie, and becoming a Disciple of Christ!
Christ can transform our seemingly mundane gifts. Christ was all about transforming the ordinary to the extraordinary. Christ transformed ordinary water into delicious wine. He transformed ordinary mud into a miracle cure. He transformed ordinary human beings into people with the power to preach, heal, and cast out demons. Like the poem in the opening said, he can transform our measly little shoeboxes into the greatest gift a child has ever received!
Christ said: “Freely you have received, Freely give!”
What will you give this year? How many children will you give the gifts of Joy, Hope, and Love?