Let’s Give the Gift of Kindness
January 7, 2007
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
The Visit of the Wise Men
1Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2saying, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him." 3When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
6"'And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.'"
7Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him." 9After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning. I want to talk with you today about giving a gift. It’s a great gift that I’m going to ask you to give. It’s not going to cost you a penny. But today we’re remembering the time of the great gift-givers, the three wise men, the three magi that came to visit the Lord and brought Him great gifts. I’m going to ask us to follow in their spirit. I’m going to ask us to give a gift this week. So our topic and our title today is “Let’s Give the Gift of Kindness.” Let’s give the gift of kindness to somebody this week. As you go forth into the week, friends, this is what I want you to take with you.
The wise men came to Jesus, sought Him out. They followed the star to the bright morning star that was Jesus Christ. When they came, they were very kind to Him. They brought Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. These were gifts fit for a king, fit for a high priest, and fit for the great Redeemer of life. These were also very practical gifts. As Mary and Joseph and Jesus went to Egypt, they were able to use these gifts to pay for the considerable expenses that they had.
The wise men were kind to Jesus. And so, I’m inviting us to think about giving the gift of kindness this week. Especially, I think we should think about this when we’re tempted to be irritable, or we’re tempted to be short or icy or crisp or whatever you want to call it. Let’s give the gift of kindness instead.
To whom should we give the gift of kindness? Let’s give the gift of kindness to those who bless us. You know, there are those wonderful people who can be very quiet, and they bless us all the time. They’re God’s angels to us day by day, and their blessings are constant and faithful, and yet we must not ever take them for granted. Let’s give them the gift of kindness.
I was brought up in a household where you always thanked the one who made the meal. Do we do that? Do we say thank you to the one who prepares the food for us day by day? Do we specifically say, “Hey, that was particularly good!”? All it takes is a kind word. Give the gift of kindness to those who bless you, won’t you? It’s important.
I had my car repaired not long ago. It was expensive, let me tell you. When the A-frame from the trans-axle assembly going into part B is shot and they don’t know how the car ever ran, well, you know, that sounds expensive. And it was expensive. But the fellow who fixes my car is a very good man and very honest, and he does a great job. He must have seen me flinch a little bit, and he said, “Well, you know, I really did give you a discount on this item and this item, and I did this and this without charging you.”
And I thought, aha, an opportunity to give a gift of kindness. And I said to him, “Bob, you know what, I always appreciate what you’ve done for my car. When you fix my car, it stays fixed. I thank you for your hard work and for the discounts and the extra work. Thank you very much.” And he sat up a little taller and breathed a little easier. Give the gift of kindness to those who bless you.
When I go into the bank, I always talk with the teller. Have you ever had tellers in the bank who, when they’re counting out your cash, they do it with such speed, it’s kind of like a Las Vegas croupier? The bills may be right-side-up and upside-down and this way and that. Whenever that happens, I thank them and take all the bills and turn them all in the same direction. Then I say, slowly, “Let’s see, that’s ten, twenty, thirty…” and they get the idea. When I went into the bank the next time, the cashier made sure the bills were all facing the same way and counted them slowly and carefully. I said, “Thank you so much for counting the bills so carefully.” And he smiled, and he seemed to stand a little taller. Then next time I went in, he did the same thing. And I said, “Thank you so much for counting it so carefully.” I always tell him that, and he always does it so well. The gift of kindness – let’s give it to the people who bless us and care for us.
Who else can we bless? How about those who are challenging? How about those who are a little bit difficult to be kind to? The snippy waitress, for example. You know, folks have to work pretty hard to talk me out of the 20-percent tip. But what about a snippy waitress? You know, that waitress may be a single mom with a sick child at home. So be kind. Give the benefit of the doubt, even to the one that’s challenging. Give the gift of kindness.
How about the person that’s following you on River Road with that great big vehicle, and he is on your bumper? You are doing the speed limit, but that is immaterial to the person that’s following you. Why not just pull over, and let that person fly past? Say a prayer for them as they go by. That happened to me once when my godson Dylan was in the car. A large vehicle was on the tail of my little Honda, so I pulled over. The driver was gesturing, shall we say, rather excitedly as he went by. We just let him go, and Dylan said, “Maybe he’s just having a bad day.” Isn’t that beautiful? I think that’s great. Maybe the driver was having a bad day. So, what does it cost us? Give the gift of kindness. Let them fly by; say a prayer; and have peace in your soul.
Give the gift of kindness to those who bless you. Give the gift of kindness to those who are challenging. I’d like to tell you about three specific gifts that I’m inviting us to give this week – to listen, to let go, and to let God.
Won’t you give the gift of listening this week? It is a beautiful thing for me to look out and see the attentive listening that you are doing. Won’t you give that gift to a loved one this week? Really, really listen. Walk a mile in the other person’s moccasins. See what it feels like to be him or her.
I remember once when I was going through a hard time I went to talk to a minister colleague of mine. I was telling him my story, and I was going on about it, and I looked up, and I saw his eyes. He was looking straight at me with soft, caring eyes. He didn’t say a word. But to this day, years, years later, I remember that he gave me the gift of listening. It’s a beautiful gift. Somebody needs you to listen this week. You’ll be giving the gift of kindness.
Second, let go. Sometimes the kindest thing you can do is just let go. Let it go. Maybe somebody does something to you that’s kind of irritating, and you and I are tempted to snap back. Ask yourself to take a breath when you’re tempted to do that. Just say, “Can I just let this go? Maybe this person is just having a tough time or a bad day.” Sometimes the kindest thing you can do is to just let it go, to just let a person be who he is, to let him be in the space he’s in today, and to give him kind eyes and a soft heart. Just let it go. You might find yourself more filled with peace than you would have if you’d retaliated and snapped back.
Let go, and let God. Let God do what? Let God tell you how kind He wants to be to you. Let God tell you that He wants to give you His eternal and everlasting favor. Let God tell you that He wants to make your life better. Let God tell you that He’s the most loving parent there could ever be, and He wants to be kind to you. And let God reveal to you the people who are kind in your life, the people who are bringing you gifts of kindness.
Let me ask you a question. Isn’t it easier to dwell upon the hurts and the slights and the worries and the upsets than on those quiet, lovely, gentle people who are blessing you every day? Turn your thoughts to them. Say, “Dear God, let me be aware of the people who are blessing me with kindness. Let me think about them, pray for them, and treasure their gifts today.” Friend, if you do, I assure you that great kindness will come flowing back to you.
Let me close with a little Christmas story. This really happened, this year. If you recall, Christmas Day was overcast, cloudy and rainy. We had had five services here the day before, five wonderful services. That morning, I opened presents with Dylan. And that afternoon, I came over here to the church. I wanted to open the gifts that so many of you had given to me. I had them in my office. So, I came down Sunset Road, and I was heading into the church, and I noticed in the exit driveway of the church was a police car. I thought, “Uh oh, what’s wrong?”
I pulled into the exit driveway next to the police car and rolled down my window. I said, “Good afternoon, officer. Merry Christmas.”
He said, “Merry Christmas to you.”
I said, “Officer, I’m the pastor of the church, and I see you here, and I’m wondering – is there trouble? Is something wrong?”
He shook his head, and he smiled and he sighed. He said, “No, sir, there’s nothing wrong. The reason I’m here is that I just needed a quiet and peaceful place to fill out my reports. I hope it’s okay that I’m here.”
I said, “Sir, it is more than okay that you’re here. We are delighted that you are here. I tell you what – I’m going to be in the church for a while. I’ll have the door open in the back in case you want to take a break. It’s perfectly fine. We’re glad for your vigilance. We’re glad you’re here. You’re always welcome here. Merry Christmas.”
He said, “Thank you very much. Merry Christmas to you.”
So, a man that had to work on Christmas Day, a man that had to be away from his family in a police car, felt the warmth and kindness of this church. You may not have known that happened; it did. Your church was offering kindness on Christmas Day.
The gift of kindness is a royal gift. May it be yours and mine to give this week. And let God let the flow of kindness come right back to you, because God loves you. I do, too. Have a blessed week. Amen.
© 2007 Anthony J. Godlefski