Summary: The greatest gift given was the gift God gave when he sent Emmanuel.

- I would assume, that almost everybody here has one of these set up in there home. If you haven’t yet, you probably will at some point soon. Some have real ones, others have fake ones. It all depends on your family tradition. The tradition of my brother-in-laws is to not only get a real tree, but to get the biggest tree they can find. So when you go to their house, you feel like you have just walked into the middle of a forest. And not only do you have a tree in your house, but your probably starting to pile up gifts below the tree. Some of you put them out a little at a time, and others don’t put any out until Christmas morning.

- Growing up my parents would put some under the tree, just to tease us kids along. But, the big gifts, the ones we were really looking forwards to would be hidden away some where. At least, they thought it was hidden. But every year, when my parents were away from the house, I would go on a Scavenger hung, and I would find my gifts. Now, my parents thought they were being smart, and they would wrap them, just in case I found them out. But, what they didn’t realize is that I was a master at pulling the tape away, seeing what was inside, and resealing the tape without a trace of any mischief. So when Christmas rolled around, I already knew everything I was going to get. Which meant I had to work hard at acting surprised whenever I opened my gifts. But, my parents starting catching on, so they would hide my presents at the neighbors house.

- Well, for any child, and for any adult, an exciting part of the Christmas holiday is the gift-giving and the gift-receiving. To see those gifts under the tree, to know that some are for you, and some are from you, the anticipation of unwrapping that gift, and seeing what somebody got for you, the excitement of seeing someone unwrap a gift you bought, and seeing their expression of joy. It’s a wonderful part of Christmas.

- And almost all gifts given at Christmas are wrapped with beautiful paper, and perhaps a bow... like this gift. And we take pride in the presentation of the gift, knowing that it really is an expression of our love for the person we are giving it to. From a child’s gift bought at a school santa fair, to a spouse’s gift picked out with enduring love. The gift is a small token, a tiny expression of the love that motivates the giving of the gift. I guess you can say, the greatest gifts given, are the ones given with love.

- And so we read, about the gift given to the world on Christmas morning. Instead of giving it under a tree, it was given in a manger. Instead of a gift wrapped in paper, it was wrapped in cloth. Instead of a gift opened at home, it was a gift delivered in a strangers cave in Bethlehem.

- Listen anew to one of the most well known stories of human history... Matt 1:18-23

- What a gift? But, for Joseph and Mary, they were thinking it was a gift they would like to return, or at least exchange. I mean think about it, Joseph receives the shocking news that his wife is pregnant, and he is not the father... which makes Mary, well it makes Mary something he doesn’t want to marry. Sure the angel assures him that Mary is actually a virgin and all she said was true. But try telling that to the village people, try telling that to the people he worked with, socialized with, went to synogogue with. News travels fast in Ipava, and my guess is it traveled just as fast in Nazareth.

- And poor Mary, the last thing a 9 month pregnant woman wants to do is travel 70 miles to Bethlehem on the back of a donkey. And with a pregnant woman who has to go to the bathroom every 5 minutes it must have taken twice as long. And to make matters worse, when the labor pains kicked in, where would she deliver, but in a strange place, with animals surrounding her.

- The way this gift was wrapped, I think Mary and Joseph were ready for a refund. Ohhh, but when the gift was delivered, everything changed. When the gift finally came, when the baby was finally born... Joseph and Mary forgot about the donkey ride, they forgot about the gossips and talk behind their back, they didn’t even notice that their child would have to spend his first night in an animal feeding trough with cow dung not far off. The gift, which seemed so unexpected and unreasonable at first, now became invaluable.

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