Unwrapping the Gift
Christmas Eve 2014
Seriously wrapped parcel:How many of you have received something like this in the mail recently? It’s addressed to Sicamous United Church. What’s in it do you suppose? It’s certainly well wrapped – duct tape, string, thick paper and cardboard to protect it.
Did you know that people try to protect themselves too? Nations train armies, and build weapons. Homes and vehicles have locks.
Sometimes people take self-defence courses or even carry a weapon. It is important to protect ourselves but sometimes we get carried away. As nations, the amount of money we spend on `defence’ or `security’ could feed the world, and provide everyone with safe water to drink. In our fear, and rush to be on the defensive, we make the world a more dangerous place.
Sometimes we are so keen on protecting and guarding ourselves that we don’t even let God get close. We don’t’ want God to see the things we’ve done wrong so we build up walls around ourselves, or we make excuses for behaviour that we know is actually harmful to ourselves or others.
The prophet Isaiah had a vision of God sending a special child who would help us understand peace and compassion so well, that we wouldn’t need to hide under a lot of protection. This child would bring peace through justice, not peace through the bloody victory of war. This child would be called Wonderful Counsellor, Prince of Peace. By the way he lived his life, we believe Jesus is that child. If we let our guard down some, if we drop our weapons, lose the tough act, then we’re one step closer to having God’s light shine in us and through us.
If that feels too vulnerable, if we feel we cannot live without some sort of protection, we can put on the armour of God, as the apostle Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians, and that armour is made of faith, and righteousness, and the gospel of peace, the spirit of truth, or as he says to the Colossians, put on Love, it’s your all-purpose garment. So, let’s take off the tough stuff and see what’s inside…
Parcel wrapped in Comics! Now if you were going to invite guests to the most special event in the world, who would you invite? Prime ministers, presidents, kings and queens, town officials, top athletes, famous speakers, high-classed and high-priced entertainment, and maybe your best friend.
When Jesus is born in Bethlehem, to whom does God send the invitation? Luke’s story tells us the invitation went to shepherds! And it’s first class – they get the Angelic Honour Choir. Remember a written invitation wouldn’t do much good, because they couldn’t read. Shepherds, in the day of Jesus’ birth, were near the bottom end of the social scale. Days and nights spent with a bunch of sheep didn’t leave them smelling like a rose! They had a reputation as thieves when they did come to town.
So welcome to the wonderful comedy of God. The Creator really doesn’t care how much money you have, your status in the community, what kind of car you drive, or whether you are famous or not. The Holy One wants us all to have abundant life, and life-giving relationships. The Source of Love becomes love born into the world, in the vulnerability of a baby whose birth we celebrate this night.
I like to think that the invitation went out to a great variety of people, but that they thought it was a joke to look for a Messiah in a stable. It wasn’t a joke, but it was the comedy of God. May we be open to the God who surprises us with wonder and joy.
3rd Layer: Shiny wrapping paper: Ah – now that’s more like it. This present is wrapped so beautifully, I don’t want to unwrap it. Should I? We generally like to dress up for special occasions, but sometimes we can be so busy concentrating on what other people are wearing – comparing ourselves with them that we don’t really notice the person. What does the media talk about after the Academy awards? What the women were wearing!
Do you ever notice that you get treated better if you are dressed up, or treated worse if you are not?
When I was still living in Williams Lake, both my daughter and son were home for a visit and we were planning a little trip down-town on my days off. Miriam looked lovely, fashionable, and ready to go. Aaron and I stood side by side in front of a mirror. He was wearing his black dress pants, red shirt buttoned up high, budded-cross medallion and black suit jacket.
I had on a faded, tattered pair of blue jeans and a tie-dyed T-shirt that I’d turned into a V-neck with the aid of a blunt pair of scissors. We surveyed the image we made. “Hmm”, said Aaron, straightening up to his full 6 foot 5 inch frame, “I wonder if people will know which one of us is the minister and which is the unemployed bum.”
Back in 1986 when I was working as a student minister at First United Church in the skid-row area of Vancouver, my dad came from the far north (Ft. Nelson) to visit. My Dad is such a bush man- he felt so out of place. He was pretty nervous as he accompanied me around the `hood of Hastings and Main. “Geez, there’s a lot of rough lookin’ characters around here,” he said. I stopped and grinned and said, “Dad, look in a mirror.” My dad has wild long hair and a long white beard, and although he has dentures, I think they live in a Copenhagan snoose can. He looks like he lives on East Hastings street! These folks didn’t bother me at all, they reminded me of someone I trusted and loved and made me feel right at home!
Well, what does this have to do with the Christmas story? Do you remember where the Magi first go to look for the new born King? They went to King Herod’s palace. Can you imagine the shepherd’s being allowed in the palace? They would have been run off at the gate.
Jesus didn’t arrive in pageantry and an ornate gown so that everyone sees the glitter and not the baby. We find that he’s born in a stable, – just a baby, bawling and naked, held against his mother’s warm body, soothed to sleep by the deep soft rumble of Joseph singing some ancient lullaby.
Jesus is stripped of all pretense and all security, and that is how we must be if the Christ child is to be born in us. Let’s take off the pretty paper shall we…
Something wrapped in an old piece of flannel… and here is a Christmas card with a ote: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. You, gathered here tonight at Sicamous United Church, you are my people. I dwell among you, and I give you the gift of love and light – that you may spread the love of God, the peace of the Christ child, and the blessing of the Holy Spirit to all the weary world.”
Ah look – it is the babe – the son of Mary, asking to be born in each of our hearts this night. Would someone like to put this little one in the crèche so we can all see him on our way back out into the world?
p.s. A wee girl named Mia put baby Jesus in the crèche and at the end of the service sang Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star to us all – it was a lovely impromptu way to end our Christmas worship.