Christmas Eve Sermon

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Since I will be at Christmas services until midnight or shortly thereafter, I have decided to post my sermon notes/pointers in lieu of MP/EP. Keep in mind that this is not the script I use, as I rarely preach with notes in front of me…..but it conveys the basic gist.

I hope this night finds you surrounded by the love, peace, and joy of the Christmas season……Unto us, a child is born, Alleluia! O come, let us worship!

O Lord touch the words of my tongue so that only the truth may be spoken, and only the truth heard. Amen.

Merry Christmas everyone! For those who are visiting here, I hope you find this service one of warmth and hospitality as we all gather to celebrate the Nativity of our Lord.

I have no problem telling you that while I am joyful this evening, I am also incredibly nervous. This is my first opportunity to preach on Christmas Eve and I’m just a *little* freaked. I think part of the reason is that this holiday means so many different things to a whole lot of people.

I shared some of this anxiety via a FB status last week….and I got many solid pieces of advice. One of which was: “Keep it short, and sweet and they’ll love you forever”…I’ll definitely try and do that as we hear this gospel passage together.

The other bit of conversation that has been shaping my thoughts this week is a conversation I had with my girlfriend on Monday.

We were hanging out, and I asked her what Christmas was all about (half-expecting her to repeat Linus’ monologue from Charlie Brown’s Christmas) when she looked up at me and said with excitement “PRESENTS?!?”

We laughed about it at the time…..but for whatever reason it stuck in my head. I LOVE presents. I have fond memories of receiving all kinds of interesting gifts….like the one year I got a punching bag for Christmas…..which I think I touched maybe half a dozen times after the holidays……or the time when my sisters and I were taken downstairs to have a pool-table and air-hockey table magically appear before our eyes.

Not gonna lie. That stuff is awesome. And I’m very lucky that my parents had the resources (especially as they got older) to get us these gifts.

But why is it such a natural impulse to give gifts at Christmas? We all want stuff….but why would we spend 3 hours in a mob of people at the shopping mall to get it?

I think at the heart of it….when we buy or make someone a gift…..we are making a statement……

In presenting someone with a gift, we want to honour and surprise the person we care for by giving them something meaningful……to quantify—or make known in some sense—what they really mean to us.

I know that this year (at least for me) things have been financially tight. I haven’t been able to spend as much and sometimes feel like I’m being cheap……that my gifts don’t always accurately reflect what I want to say…..they don’t say “I love you” loud enough.

And that’s where tonight’s gospel challenges us. God wanted to give us a gift too….He wanted to shout to all humanity…..beyond everything else…..I love you…..

God could have given us anything…..piles and piles of gold…..he could have asked each individual in the world what they wanted and granted it…..and yet…..what do we find??? A baby wrapped in swaddling clothes.

Instead of “stuff” we get something else. Something we don’t expect…..An infant arrives in a stable……a light to those in darkness……Emmanu-el, God with us….to say without a doubt…..I want to give everything I have…..eveything that I am….to you. You are my beloved.

Oftentimes we don’t conceive of God as someone who WANTS to be with us…Rather it’s because he’s the big sky-god that needed to come down and save us from our sins….

But the message of Christmas is something entirely different.

God says that this night and tomorrow shall be his dancing day, I would my true love give the chance to see the legend of my play and call my true love to my dance. Sing O my love, my love, this have I done for my true love.


Through Christ becoming one of us, God invites us into a new way of living. A way that’s not based on stuff…..but on giving the gift that counts the most….our hearts.

The best way that anyone can express their love for another is to spend time with them, to weep with them when they cry, to laugh with them in times of joy, and yes even to dance when the occasion calls for it.

As you leave this place to celebrate the rest of the holidays, I leave you with this thought….indeed Christmas IS all about the gifts….but not the stuff we can find at the store……

It’s about giving the gift of ourselves to those who are important to us. To let them know exactly how we feel about them…and to extend that love to others who might not otherwise experience it.

Whenever you can, let people get to know you. Whether they be a total stranger on the street or someone you’ve known for a long time. And I say this not as some self-help lesson….but because in doing so, we are following the Christ who gave us the greatest gift possible…and allowed us to see God face to face. Amen. +

Evening Prayer: Eve of the Nativity of St. Jean-Baptiste

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Psalm: 103
Old Testament: Sirach 48:1-11
New Testament: Luke 1:5-21

Y’know…..for all my religious education and seminary training….I’ve never quite understood the connection between Elijah and John the Baptist. I mean….it makes sense since Elijah preached repentance and destruction just like Jesus’ cousin…..but why is he the prophet singled out for comparison???

I don’t pretend to know the answer and would welcome any feedback from my readers as to why Jewish/Early Christians would have made this connection. 🙂

That aside, I was drawn to a line that was repeated both in the lesson from Sirach, and is repeated with slight adjustment in Luke. Check it out:

At the appointed time…you will turn the hearts of parents to their children (Sirach 48:10)

The Third Evangelist quotes this same line, but adds an extra role for Elizabeth and Zechariah’s son.

With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord (Luke 5:17)

What causes me to scratch my head a little bit is that John the Baptist’s ministry was not exactly lovey-dovey. If anything, his call to repentance and harsh words against the Pharisees seems extremely divisive.

But what if the parent talked about….the one we are reunited with….is not a human one. What if our hearts are being turned to the Father??? Then the reading and comparison starts to make sense.

If our relationship to the Father is broken, then every other relationship in our lives can be potentially off-balance. The call to repentance and baptism is not to avoid destruction and wrath…..but as an invitation to right-living and right-relationship.

Tonight we thank God for sending his messenger to make our crooked ways straight and to prepare a highway for our God…..so that we might know our Father face-to-face. +

Note to the reader: You will have to forgive my use of the French name tonight….it’s one of the few times I let my ethnic heritage show even though I can’t speak the language very well 😉

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