Emmitsburg Council of Churches

The Holy Gospel according to St. Luke: 2:1-20

2:1 in those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2:2 this was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 2:3 all went to their own towns to be registered. 2:4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 2:5 he went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 2:6 while they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 2:7 and she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 2:8 in that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 2:9 then an angel of the lord stood before them, and the glory of the lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 2:10 but the angel said to them, "do not be afraid; for I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 2:11 to you is born this day in the city of David a savior, who is the messiah, the lord. 2:12 this will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger." 2:13 and suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising god and saying, 2:14 "glory to god in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!" 2:15 when the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the lord has made known to us." 2:16 so they went with haste and found mary and joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 2:17 when they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 2:18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 2:19 but mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 2:20 the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising god for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. This is the gospel of the lord.

Christmas time is a time when it's impossible not to get sentimental

Christmas time is a time when it's almost impossible not to get sentimental. You, know, like, our first thoughts of Christmas time, take us back to our childhood. Maybe its because, from a child's point of view, everything seems so exciting and magical. Or maybe it is just the natural tendency of older folk . . . (even those of us in our 40s!!) to go back to our happy place!!

You know, the times when life was carefree, when there seemed to be so much time on our hands–and you felt bored and didn't know what to do. When your body felt invincible, the time *(way back!!!) when there were no pains, no joints that creek or bones that are frail. . . . but memories that are filled with warmth and love. These are the sentimental thoughts that most of us hold onto and unwrap once a year – at Christmas time.

What I would like to propose to you this evening is that we take a moment to consider just exactly what it is that makes those old memories so special. Oh, we all know that when you're a kid and its Christmas eve and there's a large box (a nice--large heavy box!!) with your name on it under the Christmas tree – there was a remarkable excitement that would fill you. This is an unforgettable sensation, which can stand out in our minds like it was yesterday.

And we associate these warm memories with the feelings of anticipation about what that gift might be! What exciting adventures it could hold for us or what fun we'll have showing the new toy that what we received on Christmas morning to our friends in days to come.

Now take these thoughts one step deeper . . . .

Consider the giver of the gift!

What was going through the mind of the giver when he or she bought that particular gift for that little boy or that little girl that was you?? Perhaps the giver, mommy or daddy, saw the smile this particular gift would bring to you when you unwrapped it on Christmas morning.

Perhaps the giver thought of all the enjoyment and laughter or quality play time that this young person (you) would experience with that nice gift. Perhaps the giver considered that this particular gift would be educational . . . would teach their little boy or little girl (the recipient) some valuable skills or provide for some special interest – which could even lead this young person to pursue a certain career path/discipline of study or a trade.

!!!consider the thoughtfulness of the giver!!!

The intention of the giver of the gift, when we think about it in this light – I would say, is more important than anything else about the gift. . . .

Through the teaching of the church down through the ages, we have heard re-echoed the story about god's intention in giving the greatest gift he could give to the world.

God's greatest gift to the world can be summed up in that same gospel verse I was speaking about with the children. "For god so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believed in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life!!

Did you catch the "g" word in there?? God gave Jesus for us as a gift . . . so that we would know that god wants to be with us forever!! Perhaps we could say that god, the giver of Jesus to the world, was so determined in his intentions for us, (that we would be saved and therefore eternally grateful), that we would then know that he loves us to the "nth degree," which another way of saying that god loves us infinitely. This we know because he gave the gift that was most precious to god’s-self – Jesus, his only begotten son.

God gives Jesus to us so that we will know true joy and delight in life. God gives to us Jesus so that we will have an example to live by. God gives Jesus to us so that we are taught how to live together in peace and harmony and in love toward one another.

God gives to us Jesus so that we will pursue a course in life that will be everlasting! God gives to us his only son, Jesus Christ our lord so that we will take up a life of self-sacrificial service and caring for others. God gives to us the greatest gift ever. Because Jesus will save us from our sins!!!

So, tomorrow morning and everyday!! as you are opening some new gift, even the ones you were not expecting (like the "paisley" tie or the book on diet and exercise or the aftershave lotion or perfume that makes you gag!) or whatever that special something is!! Consider the intent of the giver. He or she loves you or thought of you when that present was purchased.

There may also be some among us who will not receive any gift or remembrance that they are loved, perhaps it can be said . . . Your's is the privilege of knowing that god's love is that much deeper.

There may also be sadness for others among us for whom Christmas is a fresh wound, a reminder of some sorrowful time or that your special loved one is no longer with you. For you – for all of us!! remember the intent of the giver!! Remember that god sent forth his son to die for you and for me so that we might have eternal life. But before you even think of such a final blessing, consider that god the father sent us his son Jesus to give us newness of life. Jesus came to bring light into the world . . . so that we would not be alone in the darkness of loneliness or despair. Jesus came so that we might have life, and that abundantly!!!

Not just eternal life , but abundant life in the here and now!!!!

Jesus comes as savior and lord, not just as the sentimental thoughts we feel as we gaze at the manger scene and reminisce,

But Jesus comes to us today– right now!

To fill us afresh with his love.

So, let the spirit of god sink deeply into your hearts this night and may this great love fill you to overflowing so that you sing and dance and spread that love to everyone whom you meet!!

Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas people . . . let your heart rejoice with the angels, Merry Christmas!!!!

Read more writings of Pastor Jon