From the Rector’s Study
December 24th, Christmas Eve, Gifts
Isaiah 62:6-12, Psalm 97, Titus 3:4-7, Luke 2:1-20
When asked what Christmas is about, most people especially children would say gifts. And there are gifts involved in another Christmas story we hear at Epiphany, the first Sunday in January, the part about the wise men bringing gold, frankincense and myrrh. But today we don’t have wise men we have shepherds, and at first glance are not bringing gifts or are they?
The shepherds hear a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favours!”
And they bring this message to Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus.
In other words; the gift is the message. And this means that the Son of God will show glory to God that will resonate in the highest heaven and bring peace as well.
But all gifts are needed to be shared, not just saying how great this child will be, but will show us the way. I have said before that Jesus leads the way and what is given to Jesus is given to us, so we are given the gift of Relationship with God in prayer and peace with one another.
As the epiphany story begins to point to Good Friday and Easter, this Christmas story points back to Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is expressed in two ways, first part is giving thanks directly to God in prayer, and the second part, using those gifts for the benefit of others, especially those most in need. So this message is similar. It is not that God needs our prayers and attention, but it is crucial for us to realize where the gifts and blessings we receive come from. And the second part is opening the gift. Do any of you have unopened gifts from last year or any previous year? So we open the gift of peace from God. Anthony DeMello tells this story….
A woman dreamed she walked into a shop in the marketplace. To her surprise, she found Jesus behind the counter.
She asked, “What do you sell here, Jesus?”
“Everything your heart most deeply desires,” said Jesus.
Hardly daring to trust what she heard, the woman asked for love, joy, and peace.
Jesus smiled, saying, “I think you’ve got it wrong, my dear. We don’t sell the fruits here, but only the seeds.”
So we are asked to open this gift of seeds and the beginning again of a relationship with God and a relationship with others bringing peace with justice not just the lack of conflict.
The image which comes to mind is not one we would think of for Christmas but is one I think has a place. Both Alan Jones and Bishop Jim Cruickshank talk about the role of the midwife. She is the one who helps with the birth but is not central to the situation. The two refer to this metaphor as one about clergy, but is good for all of us. We are all given the role in a sense of being midwives, helping others give birth and move forward towards peace and dignity for all. Let us celebrate the gifts we have received this Christmas and the blessings we continue to receive and realize these gifts call us again and again into relationship with one another and with God in Christ.