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All I Want for Christmas
Scripture: 2 Timothy 1; 2; 3
Track 49 of 52 in the Sermons from 2003 series
Running time: 32 minutes, 39 seconds.

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Sermon for Sunday, December 7, 2003
"All I Want for Christmas. . ."
Copyright 2003 G. Charles Sackett

I can't imagine why they feel so strongly about having the right music cued up. Most of us would never know the difference, I don't think, which may say more about us than we want it to.

I want to introduce you to somebody I've never met, but ran into some information about and was, frankly, quite fascinated. His name is Benjamin Solomon Carson. He's a remarkable surgeon from John Hopkins in Baltimore. The youngest head of the department ever in the history of the school. He was established as a neurosurgeon at the age of 33. Remarkable track record. 1987--became the first person to successfully separate siamese twins and I can't give you the reason why that was so different because the thing is about this long--the name of it. Repeated it again in 1997. Has twenty honorary doctoral degrees in addition to the earned doctorate he has in medicine. Has established the Carson foundation which is an opportunity for young people to apply for scholarships in order to advance their lives.

I suppose that by itself, it would be enough to cause me to sit up and take notice except there was a whole lot more going on here. Maybe it was the fact that he and I were born seven days apart in two different worlds. He was born in Detroit.

When he was eight years old his father abandoned the family. His mother, Sonja, took him and his brother to Boston for about a year and then they came back and lived in the inner city of Detroit. He was, as he himself defines it, the class dummy, up through the 5th grade and basically two fundamental things happened. One, he got glasses so he could now see the blackboard and number two, his mother decided he was not going to waste his life. And so, she had a strict family rule that he and his brother would read two books a week and would write book reports and she would mark them and give them back. What he didn't know until he was an already graduated physician was, his mother couldn't read. But she was absolutely determined that he was going to be able to. She passed along to him, a legacy that he is now passing along to a whole world full of people. You know where she got her determination? She was a Christian and she had made up her mind that her family was going to go forward and they were going to do it in faith. And so, she lived that out in his presence.

I want to read just a brief statement that comes off of his web site. The top if it is a quotation and it says, I'm convinced the future of the American family, black, white and any other color will determine the future of this country. If we have weak and broken families that provide neither love nor a working moral compass then we can expect no improvement in our country and our world. God, says Dr. Carson, designed families to be the social, educational and moral foundations upon which to build one's life and the world.

Families are in danger today by a culture that devalues their sacredness and function substituting instead the impersonal communities of the media, professional sports, celebrities and the internet.

Carson and his wife, Candy, their three sons, Murray, BJ and Royese and Carson's mother, Sonja, live together in Maryland. They enjoy playing pool, tennis and board games. Carson's wife, Candy, an accomplished musician, and their three sons all play musical instruments, piano, violin, cello and viola. Together, like their father before them, the three Carson boys have grown up in a home environment in which TV viewing is curtailed, in which books and school work prevail and time spent as a family is a priority.

Strong families and values have the added benefit of helping children resist peer pressure.

And then this note. Church and Bible studies provide additional comforting environments of trust and support. Each provides more opportunities to share troubles and successes with an extended family of Christians.

Benjamin Carson owes, not just his career, his life to his mother, Sonja, but his faith.

The Bible knows about that. And I want for us to think about that in the context of the coming Christmas season and the core value that we hold dearly around here that it is the job of the family to reach the next generation for Christ.

So I'd like you to look at just two texts over in 2 Timothy. Paul is writing to what he called son in the faith, a young man who had been mentored by the apostle had been taught and led and encouraged and utilized in kingdom work. As Paul reaches the end of his life he writes back to this young man, Timothy, and he makes some rather interesting comments. He notes for example; 2 Timothy 1, this passing remark. He says in verse 5. I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.

Timothy, I want you to know I am well aware of your heritage, your grandmother, your mother and the faith that they have instilled in you and I am confident that it exists in you.

Come over to Chapter 3 of that same book. Chapter 3, verse 14. In the midst of this context he says, But as for you, Timothy, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Somewhere in his life from infancy up, his mother and his grandmother saw to it that he understood the faith. He was grounded in the scriptures. He knew what God desired of his life. That meant, I'm not omitting you on purpose, don't have a choice in this case. It appears, from a text we'll look at in a few minutes, that dad was just out of the picture. He was a pagan. He was Gentile. We don't have any idea whether he stayed in the family scene, but he was not the strong lead that I would have ME be, or YOU be as a father. But we can't do anything about that. That's not in this story.

This happens to be grandmother and mother, but it gives us this truth that comes at a time when we spend so much time thinking about gift giving. The greatest gift we give is the gift of faith in Christ. Of all the other things that you could give, that's the one thing that you cannot overlook and yet, at this season of the year, it's the one thing that often goes most unnoticed. Oh you can go out and get all the information you want. If you need a list, I have a list here. What would you like for Christmas? Would you like the Strawberry Shortcake doll or the Hokey Poky Elmo? Maybe you would like clothing in tweed? That seems to be the hot item or tailored shoes in stylist sneaker design. That sounds good. Actually, some of you will relate better to this. This is the shopping list. Chandelier' earrings, gold (either white or rose colored), any home decor in copper (seems to be this year's highlight) or MP3 players, DVD's. Well, the list is a lot longer than these two pages, okay? But, why waste paper on things that nobody's going to buy me anyway.

What are we gonna give? That's the question and according to this text there are some things that are fundamental that we give to our families that become part and parcel of what this season ought to be about.

Come back to 2 Timothy 1 because it strikes me that one of the things we give is a faith that produces life. Look at verse 8 and following.

So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life--not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

One of the struggles I always have at Christmas time is that it seems so divorced from Easter. You see the Nativity scene and what you see is a wonderful picture, an image, of God's incarnation, his coming into the world in flesh, bringing to us life and hope. But all of that is absolutely meaningless outside of Easter. If the Christmas season is all there is, then you might as well give gifts, because that's all there is. Outside of the wedding of his death and resurrection, the coming of Jesus is just an event without much value.

The appearing of our Savior assumes that he will not only come and live among us, but he will die for us and be raised so that we can.

So what do we give our families at Christmas time? Well, ah, I don't know. I hope you give them something they want. Huh! Electric trains are nice, H O style, maybe the new N gauge. They don't take up nearly so much room. You don't have to feed them so you know, it's better than a horse.

What are you gonna give that has this eternal meaning? Is there someplace in the Christmas experience that as a family, we can capture the essence of what this thing is about? That this one who came, who we celebrate, came to bring life.

If there was anything I came away with from reading Carson's website that troubled me, it was his emphasis upon the ability to do things yourself. If you set your mind to it you can do it. If you're educated, you can do it. There's truth to that in life. There is no truth to that in eternity. This text is absolutely correct. Our future life is purely an act of God's incredible grace. It's not cause you deserve it. It's because he opts to give it to you.

Well, what do we give at Christmas time? We give a faith that produces life. We also give a faith that produces character. Ah, come over to Philippians 2. Timothy is an unusual young man. He's a timid young man. In fact, in 2 Timothy we are reminded that Paul had to encourage him about his timidity to not be timid. But one of the things that Paul does in Philippians 2 is to give us just a brief insight to the character of Timothy. If you look down in Chapter 2, skip past the hymn in verses 5 through 11 and come down here to verse 19. Paul accumulates a number of illustrations in Philippians 2 of what it means to live life in unity and in harmony caring about other people. He gets to Timothy's example in verse 19.

I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.

Listen to that contrast. There is Timothy who cares for you and then there are the rest of them, who care only for themselves. This is a man of character. This is a man who knows what it means to live in a world where other people have real needs and to reach out and try to do something about that rather than being selfish.

A father and a daughter were standing beside the bed of an ailing grandfather. He was fighting what may be the worst thing in, well I think, among the worst things that happens to humanity. He was dealing with Alzheimer's. And the family was struggling with what was happening in this man's life, this once capable, vibrant alive man. And the father turned to his daughter and asked, what would you do if that happened to me? Here's her response. I'm watching you to find out! Do you hear what she's saying? The way you treat your father is probably what I'm learning how to do for you.

I have no doubt that I will be well taken care of should I live to be an old person because my children watched their mother take care of her dying mother with grace and dignity and compassion.

What are you teaching your children about the depth of character? What it means to be concerned about someone else instead of yourself. See, one of the struggles that we all have and if you didn't have it as a parent, then I guess I just must be the weird duck of us all, because it strikes me that one of the real struggles that we have as parents, is teaching children in a context where we are giving them gifts because we love them, not to think that the world revolves around them. huh!

Did you read carefully the gospel messenger this last week? Kim Hageman's article about children and her testimony about her own family and how every year one of the highlights of their year is to go shopping for the kids at Pine Haven camp out in Montana. That's what they did last Sunday afternoon, by the way. I happened to notice that Kim's family was with us here in services. Had a chance to talk to her mid-week and she said that her folks came over on Sunday afternoon and they did the Pine Haven shopping trip. Do you hear what that's teaching? About how this season is not just about us.

There was an article that came out of the Stockton, California newspaper here this last week, December 6. "What's the best gift you can give your child this Christmas?" A charitable, compassionate spirit, experts say. You can help remind them that Christmas is about something more lasting in life than commercial frenzy. Start small, right at home, where charity begins. You need to teach them to take the initiative to reach out to help people in the family to be connected and to care enough to help. That way you train them to pay attention to other people's feelings. Then, point that behavior out into the community. Help a needy neighbor or a friend. Take donations to a shelter." You model that by going as a family.

What are we giving our children? A faith that produces the kind of character that genuinely changes who they become in favor of other people. And so I look around me and I marvel at an older generation of people who have demonstrated to our young people how true that is. So all of you guys who are about 15, or 18 and under, listen carefully. Those folks out here that enjoy coming together in this place to worship and worship in a fashion that appeals to you, are demonstrating a sacrificial spirit that you'll not understand for another 20 or 30 years.

I just talked to a fella here in the last couple of weeks who had created in his church, a teen worship service because, frankly, the worship was very traditional and their youth group size more than doubled as kids in their community found a place that they could worship in a language that they understood. And the leaders didn't like the fact that there were two separate worship services going on, one for the older people and one for the teenagers. So they asked the church to only have one worship service and so, they did. They went back to the traditional service and of course, all the churched kids continued to come because their faith is strong enough to do that. But the 30 to 40 teenagers, who were not yet Christians, stopped coming.

I'm so grateful for our church and those of you sitting here wishing we did something else on Sunday, I'm so grateful your willing to look around and to say, I am willing to give something that I desire so that another generation can come to know Jesus. That's the character that Eunice and Lois had somehow instilled in Timothy. That it was not about me, it was about them. For the sake of the kingdom advancement, what am I willing to give up?

Well, what do we give our kids? We give a faith that produces endurance. Did you notice that in 2 Timothy 3? He says over here in verse 17 of Chapter 3, But as for you, continue (continue) in what you have learned. There is this thing that we need to understand, that this thing is about finishing, not about starting. It's not about getting your kids through a baptistry, it's about getting your kids into heaven. It's about passing along a faith that will not only enable them to want to come to church on Sunday morning, but will give them the power to live against the peer pressure at school, that will allow them to make the right career decisions, that will enable them to make right choices about their mates, that will give them the ability to live life when it gets hard and harsh like some of you have experienced. It's the faith that gives them the power to keep going.

I don't know where they got that, but I know this. When I read Acts Chapter 16, I find out something interesting about Timothy. Acts 16 is one of those early missionary journeys of the apostle Paul. It comes on the heels of a conference in Jerusalem. It simply says, first two or three verses of Acts 16, he came talking about Paul. Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was a Jewess and a believer, but whose father was a Greek. The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because his father was a Greek. Somewhere in this family structure this woman had the courage to live like a disciple of Jesus in spite of having a pagan father and a Jewish background. She had stepped out of the mold to be what she needed to be in order to be Christian and her son learned that lesson because of her faithfulness. Because of her values, they were able to pass along to the next generation a set of values that enabled Timothy to get beyond his own personal quirk of having some timidity in his life and to step out and to be faithful through a lifetime of service.

So, I find myself asking about me. I won't ask it about you. I'll ask it about me. I have three children. They're all grown. Did I teach them enough about the priority of the church to carry them through life. Did I model for them stewardship at a level that will cause them to be good caretakers of what it is that God has given to us in life? Did I show them enough about a relationship with God that when the hard times, which surely will come, will they have what it takes to endure? What am I passing along? A faith, that at the first hint of trouble, we abandon? A faith, that is so small, that If I don't get my own way about things, that I sit and stew and complain. Or, am I teaching about a faith that has depth, that gets beyond life's hardships and lasts?

What do we give our children in a church whose core value is that we value families who strive to disciple the next generation. We give a faith that produces witness.

2 Timothy 2:2 says, And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.

Timothy, you've learned some things from me. You learned some things from your grandmother and your mother. Now, pass them along to the next group so they can pass them along to the next group.

We teach people how not to make this a selfish thing, this faith that we have, but a faith that we want to give to somebody else. I suppose you figured this out, all of you parents? Children are born with this enate philosophy in life, if I can see it, it's mine. If I can reach it, it's mine. If you have it, it's mine. If I want it, it's mine. And somewhere along the way, you, me, as parents, teach our children--NO. You know the optimum word. SHARE! They don't know how to say it or spell it, but somehow we try to communicate it, right?

This, this faith that has become ours that we so desperately want to become theirs, we never want to stop with them. We always want it to go to the kid next door.

And so, sometimes when our kids bring around, forgive me. . . . . . . . . . . . . we're tempted to say for the sake of our family. ARE YOU SURE? When maybe what we ought to be saying is GO FOR IT! Take that faith and give it to the people who need it.

I need to make a caveat here, because it's such a painful subject. Because if you're like me and some of you are, you have done what you consider to be your very best to pass your faith along to your children, and not all of your children have taken your faith the way you want them to. For that, I am deeply sorry, as only the heart of a father can be and I'm asking you to join me in praying for those children that we're not quite so certain about. That God, in his grace, may still take our faith and give it to them. That they may one day, wake up and discover that what we said was true and know that they need not only to have it for themselves, but maybe it will make them much more effective in giving it to somebody else.

The greatest gift that you can give is a gift of faith. Faith in Jesus Christ that will produce in your children and in your children's children life, character and endurance and witness. Because you see, the greatest gift that God gave was the gift of his Son who came to bring all of those things to us.

And whatever else we do in the midst of this wonderful, marvelous season of the year, may we come to realize that we can do absolutely no better than what God did.

For God so loved the world that he gave his Son. And if we can give the gift of faith in his Son, to another generation, then we have done all that can ever be asked for us to do.

Ben Carson has established the Sonja Carson. . .it's an award, it's a gift, that they give to somebody who furthers the cause. He's talking about an educational cause. I wonder if, in the church, there shouldn't be a Eunice award or a Lois award that we somehow communicate to one another deep gratitude for the grandmother or the mother or the father, or the aunt or the uncle who has passed their faith to us. Oh, we probably wouldn't give a plaque or an award in public ceremony, but maybe at Christmas time you might want to turn to the person most responsible for your faith and remind them how grateful you are. Maybe if you're a young person, what you need to do is take a good solid look at your life and ask yourself, Am I, in fact, taking for myself, the faith that my parents have so genuinely lived out in front of me? Am I honoring the heritage of faith in my family? We want to give you the encouragement to give another generation faith in Jesus Christ. So whatever else you do this Christmas, don't miss Jesus, okay?

If you don't know him and you'd like to, we want to talk with you. If your ready to take another step in your journey, please come and say something to us and let us help you get there.

If you need to renew a relationship with Jesus Christ that has somehow gone awry, please come and let's talk.

If you don't know what to do, please stay with us long enough that you have an opportunity for Jesus to get a hold of your life.

Let's stand and sing.