Year A, Christmas Sermon “Our Christmas List”
Prayer: Lord, on this Christmas Day, as we gather to celebrate the birth of your son: Come and be born again in our hearts, in our lives and in our world. This we pray through Christ our Lord. Amen.
For weeks now we have been preparing for this day….Christmas. I was talking with Christina this week she said back on November 1st of this year, she was at a local store and she heard the song playing over the loud speakers “It’s the most wonderful time of the Year.” (On November 1st!) When she heard this song for her it triggered a list of things that needed to be done over the next month and a half.
This time of year all of us have a checklist. At the top of the list:
Getting Christmas cards signed and mailed, family gift shopping, buying coworker gifts and acquaintance gifts. As November progressed and we moved into December, the number of holiday songs that we heard in stores increased (and the number of holiday songs we heard in Church increased) and so did the sense of urgency to complete our list.
We battled crowds, went to concerts, plays, hung lights, went shopping, watched TV Christmas specials. Put up the Christmas Tree, the wreath, and the stockings…
made family plans, bought plane tickets, made car trips, went to Christmas parties, made Christmas cookies, and bought the ingredients for Christmas dinner.
In the midst of the busyness, finally comes Christmas Eve. This is the peak time of anticipation which we have prepared and planned for weeks. With Christmas Eve and Christmas day come traditions of children waking to gifts, Christmas dinners, family and friends: Memories and traditions that will stay with us. A sense of excitement, a bit of stress, and a sense of relief all come with this Christmas day.
We’ve all made preparations in some form or fashion for today. So take a moment to look back and enjoy your accomplishments; sit back and relax and know that your checklist has been completed for this year. In another 10 months or so, we’ll start again. For this moment, we will rest. And of course some of us will be “at it” again going out looking for the ‘after Christmas’ sales tomorrow.
As far as a holiday and retail event, our society says that Christmas is over after today. From a Christian point of view, it’s important to remember that Christmas is not over tomorrow on December 26th; it is actually just beginning. On the church calendar, the last 4 weeks we have come through the season of Advent, a time of preparation of the birth of Christ. Services in this space last night ushered in the beginning of the Christmas season, a season of celebration which we begin in earnest today.
Today is the beginning the true 12 days of Christmas and we will continue this celebration in the church until the Epiphany on January 6th.
So all of the planning and preparation, and busyness from a secular point of view, concludes after today. But for us as Christians, this is just the beginning. The time of preparation has concluded, now is the season of Christmas celebration.
One night a few weeks ago, Christina and I watched the
In one of them Linus is doing what many children have done this time of year in the weeks leading up to Christmas: he sits down to write a letter to Santa. He is sitting at a table, paper in front of him with pencil in hand. Lucy is standing next to him. Linus writes:
Dear Santa Claus,
How have you been? Please don’t get the idea that I am writing [to you] because I want something. Nothing could be further from the truth. I want nothing. Spend your time this year elsewhere. Don’t bother with me. I really mean it. If you want to skip our house, this year, go right ahead. … I won’t be offended. … Really I won’t.
Looking over his shoulder, Lucy can’t believe what Linus is writing. She can’t imagine somebody writing this kind of letter to Santa. Finally, she can’t take it anymore. “What in the world, kind of letter is this?” she asks.
Linus says: “I hope [Santa] will find my attitude particularly refreshing.”
This year you may or may not have sent a letter to the North Pole. On this Christmas day, you may have already opened a gift or two. On this Christmas morning, what if you were to write a letter. Instead of a letter to Santa, what if you were to write a letter God? How would you begin and what would you write? Would you have a list of things that you would ask for, or might God find it refreshing if we didn’t have a list of things that we wanted?
We might think we know what we want or need, but thinking
just off the top of our head I don’t think most of us really know what we want
or really know what we need. We know
that what we want can change drastically over time. If we were to make a list of things we wanted
and gave it to God, asking for a baby to be born outside of
Part of the Christmas message is that God knows what we need. God knew that the world needed a Savior.
At its core, Christmas is about God’s gift to us. Giving us a Savior was at the top of God’s list. Today we celebrate and give thanks for the gift of God’s son. You might say the gift of Jesus being born was a gift that expressed and revealed how God feels about us. The gift of God’s Son was a way of making God’s feelings for us tangible, a gift from God that reveals that God was thinking about us, that we are important and that God cares for us. In the midst of all of our busyness, when we give gifts this time of year we are following the example God has set for us. God has given to us and so we in turn give to God and we give to others.
I came across an article recently in which Dan Ariely, professor of psychology and behavioral economics at
Dr. Ariely was looking for the basic characteristics of any good gift that could fit any situation.
He concluded that the ideal gift is not something that the recipient can’t afford or didn’t know that she wanted. Rather, a good gift is something that someone really wants but feels guilty buying for themselves. Apparently it all comes down to the financial burden associated with the purchase. We can afford the gift, you see, we just have trouble spending money on ourselves. So our significant other, family member or friend gets us what we want without making us feel the financial pain that comes with buying the gift. He concludes ‘That’s why gift certificates for dinner, drinks, iTunes, movies and so on are so popular. They not only encourage people to experience something new, they let them experience it without any psychological burdens or the pain of [having to pay].
Thinking of God’s activity in this way, the gift of Christ is a gift that allows us to experience something new and it is given freely to us. In Jesus we have the opportunity to experience God in a new way.
In the book, God is in
the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas Dietrich Bonheoffer writes: Jesus stands at the door knocking. In total
reality, he comes in the form of the beggar, of the dissolute human child in
ragged clothes, asking for help. He confronts you in every person that you
meet. As long as there are people, Christ will walk the earth as your neighbor,
as the one through whom God calls you, speaks to you, makes demands on you.
Bonheoffer continues: That is the great seriousness and great blessedness of the [Christmas] message. Jesus lives in the form of a human being among us. Christ is standing at [your] door; Do you want to close the door or open it?
With Jesus’ birth, God entered our world. Because of God’s grace and love, God continues to enter our very lives.
For us, the Christmas season is just beginning. Rather than coming to God with our list of things we want and things that we think that we need, take a moment this Christmas Day and give thanks for all the blessings in your life. Ask for your eyes and heart to be opened so that God’s love might be born again in your life. And give thanks for the gift of Jesus. God might find this act of worship and gratitude…particularly refreshing.