A Gift Worth Receiving

Sunday, December 26, 2021
Pastor Deb Kielsmeier

Lesson John 1:1-18 NRSV


Merry day after Christmas! Did anyone receive a gift from someone this past week? Cookies, an ornament, or maybe a hat or pair of mittens? Christmas is indeed the season of giving. But have you ever been given a gift that you didn’t quite know what to do with?  Receiving gifts graciously – especially when you are stunned by them – is a bit of an art form.

Garrison Keillor wrote an article on this subject for the 1997 Land’s End Christmas catalog.  This is what he wrote:

“A Christmas gift represents somebody’s theory of who you are, or who he or she wishes you were.  And, of course, you know how to handle that wildly inappropriate gift from a stranger. But what if you see yourself as a suave dude, and a swift intellect, and then one year your wife – your WIFE – gives you a pair of singing under shorts that play “O Tannenbaum” when you sit down.  And a battery-operated coin bank in which the little farmer picks up the coin with his pitchfork and pitches it into the silo.  Well, that’s when you go through sort of an identity crisis.  You would like to think that you’d get a gift that aimed high, like Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” or maybe a ticket to Nepal, but instead here is a pair of bedroom slippers with lights on the toes so that you can see your way to the bathroom at night.  Or a rubber ball on a paddle.  It’s not the kind of thing an inquiring mind would like to spend a lot of time with.”

One of the toughest parts of Christmas is when you open up a gift in front of the person who gave it to you, and you are stunned.  You don’t know what to say.  What do you do?  You might mutter something like ‘How interesting! Who would have thought?’ But in your mind, you are thinking, ‘Who do you think I am?’  Do you think I that I actually wanted bedroom slippers with lights on the toes?  Are you crazy?’  But you don’t say that.  You graciously accept the gift, and either run back to the mall on a day like today to exchange the gift, or you put it in that place in your house that you have set aside for such gifts, in the back of the closet somewhere, until you can sneak it into the neighborhood garage sale.”

Garrison Keillor goes on and finally, he says, “There is for each person a perfect gift.  It is your heart’s desire, and nobody can give it to you except yourself.”


I agree with Keillor that for each of us there is a perfect gift – your heart’s desire. But I don’t think we can give it to ourselves.  In fact, I think we are often mistaken as to what our heart’s desire is.

Have you ever set your heart upon a gift and gave your family hints as to what that was… and then lo and behold, you got it? It reminds me of my daughter Stina when she was a young girl. She was dreaming of a battery-operated doll named My Pretty Ballerina that would twirl and dance if you raised her arm. We bought and wrapped the doll and when she opened it on Christmas, she was over the moon with delight. But the doll was made of hard plastic and was hard to cuddle. Stina soon lost interest, and the doll ended up in the back of her closet. When she brought it out a few years later, the doll leaked battery acid all over her bed.

My guess is that at some point – either as a child or perhaps more recently – you received what you thought was the perfect gift.  But over time it lost its appeal or ended up broken. It was not your heart’s desire after all.

But there is one perfect gift. This gift will never disappoint you no matter your age, your gender, or your interests.

Every Christmas we proclaim that gift is Jesus. God with us.

You may wonder how a baby born 2,000 years ago on a dirt floor to teen parents in a far-off land could possibly be your heart’s desire. Yet, truly, this child is a gift unlike all others.

The scripture passage we just heard from John’s Gospel is often read it at Christmas. It is written more from a heavenly perspective rather than an earthly one.  There are no angels or shepherds. No manger or wise men. Yet it proclaims God coming to earth as one of us.

Listen to verse 10 again: He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.  Did you catch that? He was in the world, and the world came into being through him.

The same One who spun out the stars and spoke the earth into existence set aside all that power and all that majesty to come into the world as one of us. As helpless baby no less, who couldn’t even hold up his head. Completely dependent on his teenage parents. Can you imagine holding God in your arms? Burping the God of the universe?  This humble birth would split history and our calendars into two.  All that came before is B.C. or “before Christ”, and everything after is A.D. for anno Domini which means “in the year of the Lord.”

11 He came to what was his own, Scripture tells us, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God…


The greatest gift imaginable. Yet, some did not accept him. God’s gift of love was left unopened. Rejected.

But to those who received him – to those who welcomed him, who believed and trusted him, he gave the power to become children of God. Wow!

Born over 2,000 years ago, Jesus continues to be born in human hearts today.  And he offers himself, his very life and presence to you.

All this is a bit mind blowing.  But it begs the question…. What about you?

You may have opened this gift.  You have welcomed Jesus into your heart and life. And you can attest that “where meek souls will receive him still the dear Christ enters in.” You have come to know the living God and walk with Christ in a love relationship deeper that any other.

But for many, even though we know the story and sing the carols, it is easy to leave the gift wrapped up under the tree year after year.  Right there with our name on the tag. Or, perhaps you have welcomed Christ as your greatest treasure… but now Jesus is in the back of the closet gathering dust as you give your life and heart to other things. And the living reality of Christ becomes distant.

This Christmas, it is my prayer that you won’t wait… but will truly receive and fully welcome the greatest gift ever given… who is your heart’s true desire. The One who will never leave or forsake you. The One you were made for. Jesus Christ. Emmanuel.

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.


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