When we consider the incarnate God in a manger, there are lots of stock images that flood our minds. One certainly is the imagery of the Magi bringing their gifts to the newborn Christ. Throughout the years a familiar storyline has been what kinds of gifts can be brought to the Babe by those who aren’t Magi, or who don’t have resources.
What, for example, can you bring that rivals gold, frankincense or myrrh?
It is amazing how we invoke the Lord’s name, particularly at Christmas time. The number of ways that we can invoke Jesus’ name, and the number of reasons we can have for invoking it… It’s always been that way.
Consider Apollos, from the book of Acts (Acts 18:24-19:7). Apollos was an Egyptian, from Alexandria. He was an academician, a learned man, and a Jew. He knew his Jewish scriptures, too. And because he knew the Jewish scriptures, and because he had heard the message of John, the Baptizer, and because he had heard the story and message of Jesus, he shared. Basically, he shared his gifts in the process of evangelism.
And we need to respond in a like fashion with our gifts.
We respond to God in the best way that we know!
If you don’t have a college degree, if you don’t have a seminary degree, if you don’t have formal theological training, if you can’t win the Bible Jeopardy game when the Sunday School teacher insists that you play, you need to know that we respond to God in the best way that we know how.
Apollos was an intellectual, and an educated man. But he hadn’t been with Jesus when Jesus walked on water, like Peter.
He hadn’t been with Jesus when God spoke directly to Jesus like John.
He hadn’t been spoken to or touched directly or struck blind in the amazing light of Jesus’ presence, the way that Paul had.
And he wasn’t a Mage, with the opportunity to be at Jesus’ birth.
So he began with what he had. When sharing your faith, when telling the story of the good news, start with what you have.
So, like Apollos, how do we bring gifts to the Incarnate Deity? Offering up our gifts will make our faith journey fuller and more centered on our Lord.
I’d like to suggest three gifts related to our witness to Jesus.
First, EXPECT God to work in and around you, and surrender yourself with that power. As Apollos did, start with what you have. Expect God to direct you, where and when, how and why.
Next, LIVE your faith. Don’t shrink from where your faith takes you or what you are led to on behalf of God’s plan.
Be active as our church ancestors have been for 2000 years, reaching out beyond ourselves and touching the lives and the well-being of others.
Finally, be ACCOUNTABLE for your discipleship. Know that your work makes a difference in the Lord’s vineyard and that your offer of what you have and what you are will provide the means for Christ’s church here on earth. Cultural and societal forces on earth will disagree on each and every point, but keep Apollos in mind and offer up that same enthusiasm and vigor as you offer up whatever gifts it is that you bring to the Lord.
Bring to the Lord, as Apollos did, that which you have, your talents whatever they may be.
You should EXPECT God to work in you and around you.
You should LIVE your life to God and boldly go where your faith takes you.
And be ACCOUNTABLE. Persevere and stand up for that which you believe.
And the love and salvation of the baby in the manger will be yours.
And the grace of the Lord Jesus will be yours.
And love will be yours.
And peace will be yours.
And blessings will be yours.
You will have joined the Magi in the presentation of gifts.
And you will be ready for Christmas love.
George W. Rizor, Jr. is Sr. Minister, Landover Christian Church, Landover, MD and Professor of Social Sciences and Humanities, Westwood College, Annandale, VA.