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Feast of the Nativity/Christmas Eve, 12/24/2017

Sermon on Luke 2:1-20, by David H. Brooks

Sermon Text: Luke 2:1-20, Titus 3:4-7



Now that you have arrived at December 24, I hope that you can begin to take a breather. I hope that all that has been labored over these past weeks are fully baked, fully wrapped, fully delivered, fully prepared. I know many people who agonize over every detail during this time, and work very, very hard to ensure that what is received is just right for the recipient. After all, this is the season of gift-giving, and no one wants for a gift to go awry!


Including God.


God, who is the great Giver, who is the source of all good gifts, gives a gift to us that begins with the birth of a small baby. This baby—who he is, what he will become, what he will do, what will happen to and through him—is God’s complete gift to us.


But what is the meaning of this gift called Jesus? What is the meaning of this gift that Luke says is the sign of God’s favor and peace, the sign guaranteeing good tidings?


Now, we must begin by recognizing that gifts often say as much about how the giver understands us as we understand ourselves. Some gifts, like socks and underwear, may be saying nothing more than, well, you needed socks and underwear and the giver saw that. Sadly, some gifts are given which show only a gap, a disconnect between the giver and the receiver. But every gift says something about the two persons involved in the exchange. So, what does this gift of a baby named Jesus say about God; what does it say about God and us?


Now notice that I did not put “us” on the same footing as God. God can stand on his own, but we stand because God stands beside us. And I think that is the first clue to deciphering what this peculiar Christmas gift might mean.  Jesus enters into the world as an expression of the Father’s love for a world that has gone wrong. Consider how Paul, earlier in chapter three of Titus, describes the world we inhabit:  full of “foolish, disobedient, deceived [people] enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.” Which means that Jesus enters into the world with a specific purpose: he is meant to interact with foolish, disobedient, deceived people that are tightly bound to all sorts of mean, nasty things (which explains why the holidays are so frustrating—day after day of foolishness, disobedience and deception will do that to a person).


So Jesus enters into the world with a specific purpose, and that purpose involves you, us. When we try to stand on our own, when we insist that we will make our way by ourselves, thank you very much, we find that we are not really meant to stand alone and apart, not from God, not from one another, even when it seems that all the others in your life always get it wrong and you would be better off standing alone and apart. Again, if you’ve got it bad, think how Jesus felt.


But the gift which God gives runs even deeper. All kinds of comedians get a lot of mileage joking about gifts that are completely wrong for a person. But it also runs the other direction; when the way you understand yourself intersects perfectly with the way that other person understands you. In such a gift there is great power. Indeed, it’s even better when that gift—the expression of what the other person sees—awakens in you something that you knew in the heart but which hadn’t quite made it to the head. For me it was a book: A Christmas Carol, which fascinated me because of the unalloyed JOY that Charles Dickens took in words. Simple words. Oh, I wanted to write, to be expressive with the same delight and sheer exhilaration that Dickens so obviously took in language. And don’t give me that stuff about being paid by the word: you can do it badly and get paid—Dickens wrote his story with glee and gladness. And I took that gift from someone who had looked gently but deeply into my heart and I have been telling stories ever since, even if not as well, with the same glee and gladness.


There are moments when you receive a gift—a true gift, one that touches the deepest truth about who you are, and who you are meant to be.


And you are meant to be as Jesus is: wise, obedient, perceptive and free. He is God’s gift to you, and he will not go awry, he will not fail you, even in the dark of night when you are trying to shepherd what little you have, even in the craziness of life when it seems you have no safe place to rest, even and always when your life, my life, our lives seem chaotic and under the control of other forces, even and especially then, he is the gift of God’s own heart to you and to me.


Merry Christmas. 



Pr. David H. Brooks
Raleigh, NC USA
E-Mail: Pr.Dave.Brooks@zoho.com