Christmas is the season for giving. We all share memories of the joy of giving and receiving gifts. I’m sure many of us have explored the gifts under the tree and maybe shook one or two of them to see if we could figure out what our gift might be? Many of us have also probably been asked: “What do you want for Christmas?
But have you ever wondered how Jesus would answer the question? What does Jesus want for Christmas? What gifts would Jesus want us to bring him for his birthday?
Before Jesus’ birth, God required from two ordinary people, like you and I, very similar gifts—-and that was the gift of their “self.” Those two ordinary people were Mary, a simple peasant girl from Nazareth, and Joseph, a carpenter in Nazareth to whom Mary was betrothed.
Mary was chosen to be the mother of the savior-child and it was within the gift of her body that human flesh grew together with the divine spark to create the infant Messiah—Jesus.
Joseph also was asked to give himself—his identity as a descendant of David. His family name and his fatherly protection were the gifts of the self that Joseph bestowed on the baby Jesus.
And You and I? What gifts do we bring? Sometimes we feel we don’t have much to give. Let me remind you of two previous gifts. One is found in the Christmas song we listen to—The Little Drummer Boy, who sings that he has no gift to give the Christ-child, but he will play his drum for him. Another example is found in this true story from Russia written in 1994 by an American missionary couple after the fall of the Soviet Union. It tells of a visit to a Russian orphanage:
At the orphanage the team of missionaries told the traditional story of Christmas to the children who had been abandoned, abused, and left in care of the government-run program at the orphanage. It was the first time the children, and many of the staff, had heard the Christmas story and they sat in amazement at hearing it told. The missionaries wrote: “We told them about Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem and finding no room in the inn they went to a stable where the baby Jesus was born and placed in a manger. Each child was given a small paper square, cut from yellow napkins I had brought with me. No colored papers were available in the city. Following instructions, the children tore the paper and carefully laid strips in the manger for straw. Small squares of flannel, cut from a worn-out nightgown, were used for the baby’s blanket. A doll-like baby was cut from tan felt we had brought from the United States. The orphans were busily assembling their mangers as I walked among them to see if they needed help. All went well until I got to one table where little Misha sat—he looked to be about 6 years old and had finished his project. As I looked at the little boy’s manger, I was startled to see not one, but two babies in the manger!
Quickly I called for the translator to ask Misha why there were two babies in the manger. Crossing his arms in front of him and looking at his completed manger scene, the child began to repeat the Christmas story very seriously. For such a young boy, who had heard the story only once, he related the happenings very accurately until he came to the part where Mary put the baby Jesus in the manger. Then Misha started to ad lib. He made up his own ending to the story as he said: “And when Mary laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told him I have no mamma and I have no papa, so I don’t have any place to stay. Then Jesus told me I could stay with him. But I told him I couldn’t because I didn’t have a gift to give him like everybody else did. But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much that I thought and thought and decided that maybe if I kept him warm, that would be a good gift. So I asked Jesus, ‘If I keep you warm, will that be a good enough gift?’ And Jesus told me, ‘If you keep me warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave me.’ So I got into the manger, and then Jesus looked at me and he told me I could stay with him—for always!”
The gift that Misha gave—-himself, is the gift that Jesus continues to ask for from each of us every year—-the gift of ourselves dedicated to serving God through love for God and for our neighbor.
Just as God gave his very being at Christmas—Emmanuel, God with us—-we are asked to do the same—-we are asked to give ourselves to the Christ child, to give our heart and very being to the Christ in proclaiming God’s kingdom on earth!
We aren’t asked to just attend church more regularly, or volunteer for more committees, or promise more money, time, obedience, piety or praise to Jesus. JESUS WANTS YOU!! And he wants you tonight, tomorrow, and all through the year.
While we celebrate the birth of the Christ-child tonight—it is the rest of his life that brought the saving love of God into a world so much in need of it then and now. And it is the rest of his life, his death, and his resurrection that brings to us the saving love of God throughout the year.
That’s why when we remember his birth, we also remember his death and resurrection. That is why we close this Christmas Eve service by participating with him in the Lord’s Supper….
WORDS OF INSTITUTION:
We remember that on the last night of his life as a human being on earth, he met with his disciples and friends and gave them something to remember him by when he would no longer be physically present with them.
He took a loaf of bread, and after giving thanks, he gave it to his disciples and said: “Take, eat. This is my body broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
And he took a cup after supper, and when he had given thanks for it, he gave it to them and said: “Drink of it, each of you. This is my blood, the blood of a new covenant poured out for many for the forgiveness of sin.”
Come—eat, and drink with Jesus your Lord. All who believe that Jesus is the Son of God, are invited to this meal…….
BRING YOURSELF TO THIS MEAL—IT IS THE GREATEST GIFT YOU CAN BRING TO JESUS THE CIRST. Amen.