Christmas Eve Sermon
Merry Christmas, friends!
We’ve arrived. It is Christmas Eve. There were some days leading up to this marvelous night that felt like an instant, and some moments that seemed to slow down to molasses speed. Some say time is constant, but no–to me–time has a way of slowing down and speeding up. For me these weeks leading up to the celebration of our Savior’s birth have flown by.
I asked some of you about these last few weeks and I heard the same. Not enough time! Can we bend time or be in two places at the same time? Is that possible yet?
But if you asked my 4 year old…almost 5 year old… about time leading to Christmas. It goes too slowly. It’s a long, long, long time Mommy. Advent is soooooo long. And I remember those days too. Where every moment, every day leading up to Christmas seemed to slow down when you were a kid. And the waiting–it was awesome and awful at the same time! Oh to be a kid at Christmas! You poor guys.
I recall one Christmas when I was 11 and I had enough of the waiting. I was old enough to know how Christmas goes.. You got to wait. And waiting took forever! I knew that I wouldn’t see presents until Christmas Eve. And I was sick and tired of waiting. I wanted my presents now.
And I knew where my parents hid Christmas presents.
Oh yes. I knew that everytime they would go out to go Christmas shopping they would come back with bags and go into their walk-in closet and come back…without the bags.
So that was the year I decided to have a sneak peek.
I don’t even think my parents know this story. I kept my sneaking and peeking to myself to THIS day.
So I waited for a time that my parents were out of sight…and then I sneaked into their room. Quietly opened the closet door and sneaked the very back of the closet.
And then I opened the plastic bags.
Here was the problem…none of the gifts were labeled. So I had to guess which of the gifts were for me. Probably not the boring book on gardening, probably not college dorm decor for one of my siblings… socks–yeah those were for me. Okay. A couple of videos of movies we saw during the summer. That may be for me too. I saw a few more things that I figured may be for me, and then hightailed it out of the closet with the knowledge of what I was getting.
But fast forward to that Christmas Eve when it came time to opening up gifts.
Every gift I opened I had already seen.
There was no surprise.
I kept waiting to get something that I hadn’t sneaked a peek on, but that something didn’t come.
And I realized with an 11 year old chagrin…probably the first chagrin I had in my life… that I single handedly ruined Christmas! Okay not ruined it…but put a big dent into it.
The 11 year old in me kept on saying–That’s it? I’ve been robbed…by me.
Christmas brings with it so much emotion. So much build up. We all visit those moments and recall those Christmas memories. The great expectations. The sometimes not so great outcomes. Perhaps sneak peeking what is under the tree is not the way to go when it comes to presents, but I believe that there is something in Christmas that we all are asked to sneak peek.
It’s the Nativity. The Nativity is a sneak peek to gifts. Gifts that aren’t wrapped in paper or stuck in bags. They are gifts that can never go bad, gifts that won’t ever be moth-eaten.
Imagine it with me, sneak with me–to a place where animals hang out, sneak with me and look over the shoulder of a man named Joseph who’s been asked to take a crazy leap of faith and guard his betrothed and the new born baby. Sneak to the right and catch the look of a newly made mother–Mary. And see what she’s holding.
She’s holding the gift.
The nativity is a sneak peek to the gift of Jesus.
The gift that God gives and keeps on giving us.
The poet in me likes to imagine one of the shepherds sneaking in and catching a glimpse of this gift. Maybe a shepherd who’s 11, who’ll grow up and move to Jerusalem some years later. Maybe this shepherd even sees this gift–this Jesus–touch a blind man and give him sight. Maybe the shepherd follows Jesus and eats a few fish and loaves with 5,000 of his closest friends.
Maybe that shepherd watches aghast from afar as this gift is hung on a cross–and pounds his heart for the gift he sneaked so many years ago was taken away from him.
But three days later, this shepherd hears whispers of this gift brought to new life.
He hears that the angels who visited the field all those many years ago with ‘good news of great joy’ returned to a tomb and spoke to witnesses and disciples of good news–resurrected life–and new life abound.
The gift had never been lost, it had been given–in its full entirety. The gift of eternal love. The gift of salvation.
We get a sneak peek of this gift tonight.
The gift given in baptismal waters.
The gift received in holy supper of wine and bread.
And we not only get a sneak peek of this gift tonight, but God gives us a peek–a glimmer of the gift–all the time.
You have this gift in you. Maybe you don’t always know it. Maybe you’ve sneaked a peek of this gift in action–guiding you, calling you, comforting you in the midst of life lived.
That effervescent feeling where you can hardly contain it–that’s the gift bubbling up and peeking out.
The comfort of being with 2 or more and you feel a peace in a time of unrest–that is the extraordinary gift peeking through our very ordinary hearts and hands.
And we need not wait for Christmas to sneak peek God’s gift. God gives us this gift–the gift of Jesus’ love, and hope, and joy, and peace everyday of our life. And one day we will be able to embrace the fullness of this gift.
Where my sneak peek into the presents all those years ago seemed to put a damper on the joy, God invites us to fully look at the gift of Jesus and fully receive him. The more we sneak a peek, the more joy, love, peace, and hope we experience.
And here’s another idea for bending time and slowing down some of those moments that seem to speed by. When you sneak a peek of God’s gift–whether it’s the love of Jesus in and around your celebrations this Christmas or the mercy you receive or the peace you have–whenever you sneak a peek at this gift.
Be willing to be filled with wonder.
Take it in. Share it. Tell about.
For this is God’s gift to you. And also a gift for you to give.
So tonight–this Christmas–catch a sneak peek of God’s gift for you. So share this gift friends–for after all, Christmas is the time of gift giving.
A merry and blessed Christmas dear friends. Amen.