Raise your hand if you’re done Christmas shopping. Are you still looking for the perfect gift? Do you have something for everyone, or do you keep it simple? Is it a grab-bag kind of event in your family?
Actually, I really don’t mean those kinds of gifts.
To get to what kinds of gifts I mean, first there is a story (there’s always a story)…
There is an Old Testament story about David, the young shepherd boy who would go on to become the King of Israel. David’s confrontation with the giant Philistine warrior, Goliath, was the subject of our “Faith Formation” hour at church after worship this morning.
As the story goes, Goliath is huge, covered in armor and heavily armed. Think of a WWF wrestler wearing bronze chain mail and carrying a spear the size of a howitzer. He is ‘the’ Philistine champion, and at this part of our story he is taunting the Israelite army (yes, the whole army). He is challenging any warrior to defeat him and in return the entire Philistine nation will bow down as slaves (a challenge which he is certain no one could meet).
Just now, David is sent to the battle line to bring food to his older brothers in the Israelite army. He wants to know what all the commotion is about – his brothers tell him basically to shut up and go tend to his sheep.
Like any little brother, David thinks that he can take Goliath. He reasons that when he is all alone with the sheep, he is the only one standing between the lambs and the predators. King Saul figures since no one else has the you-know-what’s to face Goliath, he might as well let this kid try. Saul gives the little shepherd his armor and sword to wear, but it’s all too big and heavy for the kid to even move.
No, those weren’t the gifts.
David sets off across No Man’s Land to meet Goliath with nothing but his walking staff, wrist sling, and five stones he picks out of the stream bed on the way. Goliath, needless to say, is unimpressed. He figures he will just break this snot-nosed kid in two and feed him to the buzzards.
Now, remember, David politely declined the King’s sword and armor. He wouldn’t know what to do with all that hardware. But he does know how to kill a beast with the only weapon handy to a shepherd boy, and he’s had a lot of practice protecting the sheep (and himself).
Now we get to the gifts!
I imagine that Goliath felt unthreatened and just stood there, making it even easier for David, probably used to moving targets, to nail him square in the forehead, cracking his skull and knocking him down. David then unsheathed Goliath’s own sword and lopped off his head. Yadda-Yadda-Yadda, David becomes the King of Israel.
Did you miss the gifts?
Don’t feel bad if you did – I did too. (I also confused this story with the part in the Odyssey when Odysseus blinds the Cyclops. At least there’s sheep in the Greek myth, too. ‘Mean giant beaten by little guy, with sheep.’ See how I got confused?)
Anyway – the gifts.
David is really good with his wrist sling. Either he has great aim, or can pick the best stones for deadly aerodynamics, or he has supreme self-confidence. Or, he has God on his side.
Or, all of those are true. Plus, he’s done a lot of practicing. David went to face Goliath not with comparable sword and armor – which do not fit him – but with the only thing he can really believe in, the one thing that will not fail him, and the thing that he is meant to do.
So…go unwrap your gift. But remember to use it so that it serves you well, so that you can serve well. It might be the only thing you can really believe in, the one thing that will not fail you, and the thing that you are meant to do.
With special thanks to the fine thinkers at “faith formation” today. You know who you are!