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"Give a Gift to Christ" - January 3rd, 2021


"Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received."


- 1 Peter 4:10


Message of Stewardship from Kevin Lewin


Happy New Year!


It’s 2021, we've had a terrible 2020, and we all hope that this year is going to be something special. And I'm sure it will be.


At some point during this year, I'd like to think that this place will be open again and filled with people. But there's one thing that I was thinking about over Christmas. About paying forward...stuff and things. One thing that we don't have to pay God for is…well, we just don't have to pay God.


When we pay for therapy, or a doctor, or a plumber, or a tree trimmer, we always have to fork out some kind of money. Even when we pick up a phone to ask advice of our parents and friends, there's a phone bill that comes through. I'm British, whenever I phone home to ask my father for anything, the phone bill is astronomical!


But we never have to do that with God.


The only expectation is that we're kind, and generous, and we give back in other ways. Volunteering is a great way to pay back God for the gifts we’re given. We've entered into this new year and though much is uncertain, as I say, the hope is that we'll all be back in this building and at Little Brown Church before Christmas comes around again. It'll hardly be a new era, but we should treat it like such.


We've all missed human contact and the church get togethers we often took for granted,

and so with the New Year upon us, I encourage each and every one of you to be more active in your church!


We will have openings on the elders board this year and on the executive board. And Rick Hall is always keen to swell his list of people with special skills who can help keep everything running as smoothly as possible on the property committee. There’s our food pantry, our green group, Sisters with Heart, and our trips to Tijuana where we build homes for those less fortunate. All of these things will come back and they'll be stronger than before. So please be part of our resurgence and let people like me, Pastor Michael, or Rick Hall know if you're interested in volunteering. We'd love to have you!


But Covid didn't end the life of the church. The elders and executive board members still meet! There are still virtual Sisters with Heart meetings! The food pantry continues, although at the moment it's on pause. There's a prayer circle every Monday here in COV where the elders gather and pray over the requests that you send in every Sunday and through the week. Bible study classes continued virtually. And Rick, myself, and others are always cleaning and fixing what needs to be cleaned and fixed. And there are still bills and people to pay, so please keep donating what you can to the church.


Any and all amounts are gratefully received! Thank you.

"When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh."


- Matthew 2:9-11

Pastor Michael's Sermon - January 3rd, 2021


Well, I've told you many times that I really enjoy shopping. I enjoy shopping for gifts for other people. Birthday presents! Christmas presents! So for me, Christmas shopping is a big part of the preparation for Christmas day. It's something that I really look forward to - going through the stores and checking people off of my lists. And I know I've mentioned to you before that when I'm shopping for someone, I usually don't know what I'm going to buy them until I see it. So I really need to walk through a lot of stores.


But that is a normal Christmas. And as we all know there was nothing normal about 2020.


So of course Christmas was very different, as well as was Christmas shopping. I still made my list of who I needed to buy for, but this time instead of heading off to the mall, I headed off to amazon.com, which I'm sure many of you did the same thing or something similar.


Now Amazon is very convenient, but it works best in a certain way. Amazon works best if you know what you are looking for. When you can just go to the top of the page and type something in like terry cloth bathrobe, or wine glasses, or wristwatch, and it takes you right to these items. It's very convenient, it saves time, and you can get some great deals!


But that's if you know what you are looking for.

1 Peter 4:10 - Phone Wallpaper

Browsing on amazon.com is a whole other ball game. If I'm shopping for someone and I have no idea what I want to buy them, I don't even know where to begin! What am I supposed to type into the search bar at the top? I mean, you can't browse everything on Amazon. There are millions of items! Even if you look through the deals of the day, that doesn't really help. I mean, my mother has no use for a two person camping hammock, or a PlayStation game controller, or fruit punch electrolyte drink tablets! So the point is, when you are on Amazon, you really need to know what gift you want to give.


Today's scripture reminds us of the importance of knowing what gift we should give.


Now the Magi knew very well what gifts they wanted to give to the baby Jesus. To us, their gifts might have seemed a little odd. I mean gold, frankincense, and myrrh is not exactly what we would choose to give a baby. If we were to search baby gifts on amazon.com, odds are none of these would show up. But for Jesus, they were perfect gifts. Each gift was appropriate for a king.


But these were very expensive gifts, much too expensive for the average person of that time to give. Do you think that other people gave gifts to the baby? What kind of gifts do you think that they would have given? What kind of gift would you have given? What kind of gifts do you give Jesus Christ today?

Matthew 2:11 - Phone Wallpaper

You know, it's an important question for us to ask ourselves. What kind of gifts are we giving to Christ? With the many gifts that we receive from him, what gifts are we giving in return?


Well, the first thing we need to know is what kind of gift would Christ want from us. Well, that's pretty easy to find out. Jesus didn't wait for us to guess what he would want from us, he pretty much spent his time here on this Earth letting us know exactly what he wants from us! And when we fulfill what has been asked of us, well, that is our gift to him.


So when we shine our light upon others, we give a gift to Christ! When we follow him, when we seek the realm of God, we give a gift to Christ. When we ask, when we seek, when we knock, when we take his yoke upon ourselves, or when we follow any of the other instructions that he brought to us through his message, we give a gift to Christ.


This is the perfect time for us to really think about what gift it is that we want to give to Christ. As we enter this New Year, let's think about the things that we can do that Christ will receive as a gift. Let's think about some of the things that Christ has asked of us.


Now first of all, one thing that comes to mind is that he said to us, “Do not judge so that you may not be judged.” As we begin this New Year, that's an important thing to think about. Actually that's an important thing to think about anytime. It can be easy for many of us to place judgment upon others. For their choices, their taste, for their beliefs. But as you know, usually when we judge others, it's probably more of a reflection of something that's going on within ourselves.


Maybe that's what Christ meant when he said, "Do not judge so that you may not be judged.” You know? That when we judge others, we're really judging ourselves.


Christ also asked for us to forgive not just seven times but seventy seven times. Boy, this is a big gift that we can give to Christ! If there's someone who you feel that you've been unable to forgive for something, maybe this is the time to do it. Carrying around something like that can really weigh us down, what good does it do us to hold on to anger and resentment?


When we forgive someone, not only do we give a gift of Christ, but we give ourselves a gift of a lifted burden, of a lighter spirit, and oftentimes when we forgive someone, we can check off another box and that's “love your enemies” - two gifts to Christ in one!


We've also been asked to go and make disciples. Now, I've always believed that the best way to make disciples, the best way to interest people in following Christ is to set an example of what that looks like. This year, we can make an asserted effort to be an example. Let's make 2021 be a year where we show the world what it looks like to follow Jesus’s message, and let it be an invitation to others to join us, and let that be a gift to Christ.


Another thing that Christ has asked us to do is to care for one another. And this unique time in our history has provided for us an opportunity to care for others in a very important way.


As you know, the end of 2020 was not the end of the Coronavirus. So as we move into 2021, even though we're frustrated, even though we've grown weary from all of the restrictions, we must continue to care for others by continuing to protect them and we must continue to wear masks. We must continue to wash our hands. Continue to distance and continue to stay home as much as possible. And when it's your turn to get the vaccine, please do it! This is caring for others.


And even though you may have heard that the Supreme Court has recently allowed houses of worship to reopen in person, we continue to worship online until we feel it is safe. And that is the leadership of your church caring for you.


Let's continue caring for one another and give a gift to Christ.


Now there are many more gifts that we could talk about today, but I want to just mention one more. We have been asked to rejoice and be glad. As we enter this New Year, count your many, many, many blessings. Look around and see all that is beautiful. See all that you have been given. Enter 2021 with a vision of hope! Find the wonder in this world, find the wonder in your life! Thank God for your family, present and passed on. Give thanks for friends, for our church community, and all the gifts that you have received.


Give thanks for love.

Give thanks for life.

Give a gift to Christ.


Let's pray.


Holy God, as we move into this New Year and receive all the gifts it holds with it, remind us to give back to you, to one another, and to your son. And it's in his name we pray. Amen.

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Church of the Valley | 6565 Vesper Ave. Van Nuys CA, 91411

Little Brown Church | 4418 Coldwater Canyon Studio City, CA 91604

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