Well Christmas is well and truly over both officially and unofficially.
It was over officially 2 weeks ago on Epiphany Sunday – the 12th day of Christmas.
But I suspect that for many people Christmas was well and truly over unofficially on Boxing Day, the 2nd Day of Christmas.
Christmas seems to be a time that causes more stress than enjoyment for many people because of the pressure it creates.
And one of the pressures that it seems to create more and more is what gift to buy for others.
Trying to find something that expresses our feelings for a person is one thing.
But in this day of consumerism, trying to find something that they haven’t already got is not that easy.
We’ve tried to make it easier in our household by adopting what many call “Kris Kringle”.
We pull a name out of a hat and we just buy for that one person.
But even that makes it difficult.
I usually say “whoever has me, as long as it’s Yellow and Black I’ll enjoy it.
Gift giving is not easy, which is a shame because it is so rewarding when you can buy that perfect gift for someone that is exactly what they were wanting.
For children it is not that difficult because they will tell you, or Santa, what they want for Christmas.
But for adults it’s hard and a lot of pressure.
Often we’ll resort to buying a gift card for them, but again you have to work out from which store you’ll buy the gift card.
And it can become impersonal as they know exactly how much you spent on them.
In today’s bible reading Paul talks about gift giving also.
And he’s talking about gifts that God gives to us.
There are several things that Paul says about gifts that God gives.
First – there are varieties of gifts,
Usually when people talk about gifts of the Holy Spirit they think of extraordinary actions – quite often the gift of speaking in tongues or gifts of miraculous healings.
But God’s gifts vary and sometimes we might not even associate things that people do as a gift from God.
Paul gives an example of some but it is certainly not limited to them:
He comments on the gift of wisdom (like King Solomon), the gift of knowledge the gift of faith, the gift of healing, the gift of miracles, prophecy, speaking in tongues and the interpretation of tongues.
But he doesn’t say that one gift is better than the other because they are all given by the same Holy Spirit.
And not everyone receives all the gifts and not all of the gifts are given to everyone.
Paul says all these are given by one and the same Spirit, who gives to each one individually as the Spirit chooses.
And they are given for the common good.
They are not given for our own good but for the common good and the building up of the church – not the building up of ourselves.
And sometimes we don’t recognize that what we have is a gift from God because we are evaluating it in comparison to others.
What we don’t often see is how what we are doing is contributing to the common good and the building up of the church.
And we are guilty at times of not recognizing the contributions that other people are making but we soon discover them when all of a sudden they stop their contribution.
I can recall in a previous parish no clean cloths being available for wiping the communion cup.
Such a seemingly small contribution that goes unnoticed until just before the service we’re scrambling around wondering what we’ll use instead.
It doesn’t seem the same using paper towel.
Or inviting a visitor to stay for a cuppa and realizing that the person on duty for providing milk didn’t turn up – and hasn’t been at church for weeks and is only noticed when there is no milk for morning tea.
No gift is unimportant when it plays a role for the common good of building up the church.
We are all guilty of believing that things just happen until they don’t happen.
Whether it’s the tidying up during the week – getting the Christmas tree – changing the candles – cleaning the altar cloths – getting communion ready – changing the paraments, mowing the lawn, teaching Sunday School.
And there are so many unseen contributions – the prayers – the words of encouragement – visiting the sick – everything that happens for the common good and building up of the church is a gift from God – no matter how big or how small.
But there is one gift that God does give for all people and it is the true sign of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
St Paul says that no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.
If you’ve ever been asked or challenged as to whether you have the Holy Spirit – this is the one sure and true sign.
If you believe in Jesus Christ then you have the Holy Spirit.
Martin Luther also confirmed that when he explained the 3rd article of the Apostles’ Creed;
I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.
And this is why Paul can confidently say – to each is given the gift of the Holy Spirit because the main gift of the Holy Spirit is faith in Jesus Christ to believe that he is your Lord and Saviour.
And it is then the working of that gift of the Holy Spirit that then creates the fruits of the Holy Spirit – love, joy, peace, goodness, kindness, patience, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
As Paul says about these – there is no law – there are no limitations.
And Jesus also shows another gift when giving the Holy Spirit to the apostles says “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven;.
So a gift that is given to you by the Holy Spirit is the ability to forgive.
Probably one of the least recognized gifts that God gives to us is the ability to forgive one another and restore relationships especially when without the Holy Spirit we might be facing something that is unforgiveable..
When people talk about the gifts of the Holy Spirit it’s sad that it is usually gifts that can of turn the focus onto the person receiving.
In fact St Paul says: if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind?
Jesus in his ministry avoided doing miracles to draw attention to himself such as in our Gospel reading.
He seems at first reluctant to change water into wine but then relents in order to bring glory to God and to build up his disciples.
He reacted strongly against requests to keep doing miracles as will Paul when speaking against speaking in tongues because of the distraction it was causing –
He says: I thank God that I speak in tongues more than any of you. But I would rather speak five understandable words to help others than ten thousand words in an unknown language.
Whatever your contribution to the church it is a gift of God – no matter how big, or how small – and even if it goes unrecognized, remember what Jesus says –your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Sadly the gifts that God gives to us can easily become about us rather than God as Jesus would often respond to miracles he performed to not tell anyone.
We don’t do it for reward but be assured that what you do does not go unrecognized.
Whatever your gift to the church – thank you and God bless you.