Luke 2:1-20, Christmas Eve B, December 24, 2014
Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
I wonder, what is the greatest gift that you have ever received? Better yet, what is the greatest gift that you have ever given? Well, if you know anything about me, you know that I am a crafty person. Many of you have seen my tatting at the Harvest Feast and in our newsletter. You have seen my crocheting in our prayer shawls.
But here is a secret - I used to be really good at making clay figurines! Every year when I visit my family, I still see the clay gingerbread men and women hanging on their trees. Then I can't help but remember the many hours that I joyfully spent making ornaments for my family.
Aren't those usually the best gifts? The ones that are carefully handcrafted by the ones you love most? Even if they are small and simple, they show the special thought and effort put into them. Just by looking at them, you can see the love woven deep into their being.
There is a holiday song about something like this. Maybe you have heard it before. It is The Gift, sung by Garth Brooks and written by Stephanie Davis. This song tells the story of Maria, "a poor orphan girl." This girl doesn't have much in this world. When she was on her way to the market, she finds a small bird with a broken wing. Moved with pity, she decides to care for this bird.
Maria cleans it and carefully caries the bird into the market where she spends her last coin on a small cage "made of rushes and twine." She fed it loose corn from the floor of the market and gently tended to this weak bird who slowly became stronger.
When Christmas came, Maria watched as everyone in town laid presents by the manger. Maria fretted because she had no money to buy an expensive gift "fit for a king." Maria waited until midnight so no one could watch her at the manger. She was crying because she had nothing for the Christ child.
Then the Lord spoke saying, "Maria, if the bird in the cage is your offering, open the door and let me see." Shaking with fear and tears, Maria did open the door to the cage. The bird flew out of the cage, a brilliant flutter of perfectly healed feathers. Then the midnight bells rang as the bird sang "a song that no words could recapture, whose beauty was fit for a king."
Maria's story is a beautiful one for this Christmas Eve. She thought that she had nothing worthy for God incarnate, yet God knew that she did. God had watched her carefully tend that little bird. Maria, herself an orphan, saw the orphaned bird and somehow they cared for each other. The loving care shared between Maria and that broken bird is their true gift to God.
We give to each other and we give to God out of gratitude. Our gifts are but small ways to share our thanks for God's ultimate gift to the world found in Jesus Christ. Nothing we do can truly share our appreciation for God himself coming to live among us. We offer our gift of worship, raising our voices just like Maria's bird. Even this is a small token of our thanksgiving.
Jesus, born to Mary and Joseph in a humble stable is God's greatest gift to us. That God in Jesus would experience all of our joys and sorrows, our triumphs and our failures, is immense. Jesus willingly removed himself from the clean, holy realm of heaven to dirty his feet walking our roads.
For Jesus to open our eyes to the scriptures, to love us intensely as he healed the sick and forgave the sinners, he went one step deeper into the darkness of our lives. Then he plunged himself into the darkest part of humanity as he listened to people cry for him to be crucified and mock him as he died on the cross. Yet it was not until he was resurrected and ascended into heaven that we truly realized the gift that God gave us.
In Jesus Christ, we find forgiveness for all our sins. In Jesus Christ, we find a new everlasting life. In that little baby lying in the manger, we find hope for a better world. What a precious gift indeed. Amen.