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Summary: A Christmas Eve sermon reflecting on the greatest gift given to humanity.

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A re-writing of I Corinthians 13 from a Christmas perspective (source: online)

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strings of twinkling lights, and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I am just another decorator?

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I am just another cook?

If I work at a soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all I have to charity, but do not show love, it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crystal snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir’s cantata, but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child, or kiss the spouse. Love is kind, though harried or tired.

Love doesn’t envy another’s home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens. Love doesn’t yell at the kids or other family members to get out of the way, but is thankful that they are there to get in the way. Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return, but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never fails; video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, and golf clubs will rust. But giving the gift of love endures.

The Christmas story from our gospel text along with many other narratives found in our scripture invites us to consider that surprising gifts emerge from surprising places.

Such was the case for a family as they went out for a meal at a local restaurant. The mother tells a story about an encounter between her infant son and anapparently homeless man:

"...Erik leaned over my arm, reaching with both arms in a baby’s "pick-me-up" position. Before I could stop him, Erik had propelled himself from my arms to the man. Suddenly a very old smelly man and a very young baby consummated their love and kinship. Erik in an act of total trust, love, and submission laid his tiny head upon the man’s ragged shoulder.

The man’s eyes closed, and I saw tears flow from beneath his lashes. His aged hands full of grime, pain, and hard labor, cradled my baby’s bottom and stroked his back. No two beings have ever loved so deeply for so short a time. I stood awestruck. The old man rocked and cradled Erik in his arms and his eyes opened and set squarely on mine.

He said in a firm commanding voice, "You take care of this baby." Somehow I managed, "I will," from a throat that contained a stone. He pried Erik from his chest, lovingly and longingly, as though he were in pain. I received my baby, and the man said, "God bless you, ma’am, you’ve given me my Christmas gift." ... I was a Christian who was blind, holding a child who was not. I felt it was God asking, "Are you willing to share your son for a moment?"

A poignant question indeed as we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Over a lifetime I hope that we will have a countless number of “surprising” sources that provide meaning.

What a gift to these guys, shepherds ot in the field, who were one of the first ones to see this baby born in Bethlehem -- to see Emmanuel—God with us—the Messiah—the Christ—the Savior of the world. What new meaning this magnificent experience must have given to the shepherd’s lives as they went about their day to day tasks.

The angel’s announcement to Mary, as well as the story of the Messiah being born in a manger, and the angels’ announcement to the shepherds in the field reminds us that some of the greatest gifts come from the most surprising places.

Mary of Nazareth, the magic moment between a down and out man and a toddler, shepherds out in the field keeping watch over their flock, and the manger scene invite us to have eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts that are open to wonderful gifts coming into our lives from the most surprising of places. God loves to give us a good surprise! What a Christmas gift God has given us in Jesus Christ!

LET US PRAY:

For this evening’s Christmas Prayer I’m going to share a prayer written by Robert Louis Stevenson:

Loving Father, help us remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and the worship of the wise men.

Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world. Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting. Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clear hearts.

May the Christmas morning make us happy to be Thy children, and the Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

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