Christmas Eve Candlelight Service with Holy Communion is one of my favorite services of the year.  At Starrsville UMC we had many to worship and praise God for God's gift of Jesus, and the offering went to Start With One Kenya to provide water filters for clean and healthy water.  It is one of those great Christmas gifts that will keep on giving just as God would have it.

Here's my Christmas Eve Homily.  Merry Christmas!

The Greatest Gift

Luke 2:1-20, Common English Bible

        The greatest gift comes from love.  My mother and father loved me unconditionally.  From them I learned the way God loves me.  As a child, every Christmas they taught me about the greatest gift in the ways they gave gifts to me.
        When I was eight years old, Mamma sent me next door to Mrs. Brown’s house.  It was in November.  Mamma explained that Mrs. Brown was making a red dress for one of her nieces, and that niece was just about my size—height and all.  Mrs. Brown needed me to try it on as she was sewing it so that she could be sure the sleeves were the right length (it was long sleeved, princess seams and made out of a beautiful red wool fabric—the expensive fabric that had to be dry cleaned—I didn’t have any clothing that had to be dry cleaned).  Then I had to go back again and try it on so she could make sure it was the right length, and she could mark the hem. 
        I remember on this second visit that my Mamma went with me.  All the while commenting on how well the dress fit me.  I kept saying how much I loved the dress and how much I would love to have one just like it.
        When the Messiah arrived into the world, no one recognized him.  All though the signs, the angels, Mary, in her song to Elizabeth when they met, and John, Jesus’ cousin, along with the ancient prophets announced his arrival—Jesus was right there in front of them—living and breathing—God in the flesh.  Teaching, healing.  You could touch him, eat with him, learn from him, pray with him, and even receive healing and peace.  And still those closest to him, those who were the religious scholars and the ones who should have known what was unfolding before them could not believe that it was true.  It just seemed too good to be true—and Jesus did not arrive or live in the ways people thought the Messiah, the King of the Jews should arrive and live.  Most of it seemed concealed, hidden or too good to be hoped for or even believed.
        A dress out of material that had to be dry cleaned?  A dress that fit me just as if it were made for me?  No.  I couldn’t even imagine that this dress was really made by my Mamma for me.  She was simply using Mrs. Brown and her niece as a story to distract me from realizing that the dress was for me.  My Mamma knew that the greatest gift is always the one that is right in front of us—the one we can see that is custom made for us and given by someone who loves us unconditionally.  Given to us through stories and through others who love us enough to sacrifice their time, their money, their skills and abilities to give us joy and to delight in giving a gift and delight in seeing us receive the gift with joy.
        My Mamma perfectly demonstrated that Christmas Day long ago the gift of God’s son to us that we celebrate each Christmas Day. 
        Through the story of Jesus’ birth being announced by angels to the unlikely and lowliest of people, shepherds, Jesus is born in a stable with the animals and their smells.  Mary and Joseph had to be wondering if it was really true that this baby born in this way was really God’s son. 
        Through all the stories that Jesus told in his ministry and life, people had to wonder if his stories really did represent the loving God that they were supposed to be serving and loving with all their heart, with all their mind and all their soul. 
        Like me in my red dress, it was too good to believe that someone loved me enough to make this beautiful dress for me. And it was true.  It was my dress.  I was able to wear it for almost a year and half before I out grew it.
        God came to live among us.  Born as a human baby.  Most people then and now believe it’s too good to be true, and cannot accept the greatest gift—God’s salvation that we never outgrow and that stays with us all our life because God custom designed the greatest gift for each one of us. 
        All we have to do is accept and receive the gift.  And when we do, again and again throughout our lives regardless of the time of year, we will remember how much God loves us.  Amen.


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