Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve 2008 Homily

Christmas/12.24.08/Fort Q & IH/Luke 2:8-14
Gift

· Christmas is all about gifts
o It really is
§ Oh sure, we teach our kids that Christmas is about something deeper and more meaningful than gifts
· Oh sure, we say that it is about more than gifts and it is more about getting together with family and friends and spending quality time together
o And no doubt this is true
§ But let us not kid ourselves
· Christmas is about gifts

· We spend hours shopping for gifts and often looking for that perfect gift for that special someone
o We go tooth and nail into the Wal-Mart to get that special doll or video game or iPod or whatnot for our kids
§ Ebay and online shopping has brought an entirely new dimension of craziness to the Seasonal shopping
· And once we have completed and conquered our Christmas shopping we bring our trophies home we wrap them and decorate them and place them under the tree
o Then we look at them, we shake them, we weigh them, we ponder them
§ Christmas is about gifts

· A gift is something that is given with no strings attached
o If it is given because of what someone has done it is not a gift but a reward or payment
§ If it is given in hopes of motivating someone to do something then it is not a gift but a bribe
· A gift is given because the giver wants the receiver to have it – that’s it.

· How many of the gifts that sit under your tree this evening would fall into that category?
o Or, to put it another way, how many of those gifts under the tree that have your name on them would you say you truly deserve?
§ That you could say honestly that you deserve those gifts because you have fulfilled perfectly what you should have as a husband, wife, father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, employee, employer, neighbour, citizen, Christian?
· Have you measured up to perfection in 2008?
o Have you even come close?
§ No. You have not. In fact you have fallen short.
· I don’t know the details. I don’t need to. You know it is true. I know it is true. Scripture in fact declares clearly
o Romans 3:23 – all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
§ We all have fallen short. We all have not measured up.

· And let’s not kid ourselves. We aren’t fooling anyone.
o Those around us see our shortcomings.
§ Those around us know we have not lived up to our responsibilities and callings as husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, employees and employers, neighbours, citizens, and Christians
· We may try and keep up appearances, and for the most part we do pretty well at it
o But those who are closest to us, they know
§ And you know.
· Scripture is true. We know it in our hearts even if we have never put words to it.
o Romans 3:23 – all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

· That’s why I think we all have an understanding of grace even if we have never given it any real thought
o We know we are not perfect. We know that others around us are not perfect. We may not call it sin… but we know what I am talking about.
§ And yet how many of you expect to find a lump of coal in your stocking tomorrow morning?
· How many of you decided that someone was rather too naughty and gave them a lump of coal?
o I doubt very much anyone here will receive a lump of coal or has given someone else one
§ But who here can honestly say they don’t deserve one?

· Christmas is about gifts.
o Our gift giving, and even our grace to others and the grace we receive from others, is a picture of a greater gift
§ The gift we have been singing about and hearing about in the Scripture readings today
· The gift that was announced to the Shepherds so long ago
o And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.
§ On that first Christmas God gave the most glorious and most undeserved gift to the world
· His Son Jesus

· 2000 years ago Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary
o Jesus, truly man, truly God, at the same time
§ God became man, took on flesh and blood, in the mystery of the Incarnation
· Of this event Christians have not stopped singing and pondering, marvelling and rejoicing
o You all know the carols, even, if you were like me and didn’t grow up in the Church, you didn’t know what they meant - but you know them
§ They are about Jesus
· They are about this glorious event that God became man
o This miraculous birth, this impossible thing that God has made possible because with God all things are possible
§ that God has become man - Christmas is about gifts

· All the gifts under your tree – they are to point you to Jesus
o All the Christmas gifts are to remind us of the greatest gift – Jesus
§ No, just as the rest of the gifts under the tree, we don’t deserve the gift of God’s Son
· We are sinners, we have fallen short
o However, God so loved the world, He so loved you, that He sent to you this gift, wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in a manger
§ The grace we might show to one another stems from this grace, the grace of God, sending us the gift of Jesus
· That He might take on flesh and live a perfect life in our place, that in that flesh He would suffer for our sins on the cross, and in that flesh rise again that first Easter and defeat death
o Jesus, the true Christmas gift, has in the flesh defeated sin, death, and the devil
§ He has done it for you
§ He gives it to you. As a free gift.
§ You receive it by grace through faith.

· I don’t know how this Christmas Season finds you.
o Perhaps you are surrounded with friends and family and joy
§ Perhaps you look at an empty chair and weep this Christmas
· Perhaps you look forward to 2009 with some fear and trepidation not knowing what it brings to you and yours
o Perhaps you walk with a great burden of guilt upon your shoulders for the sins of the past
§ Perhaps you feel shame and sorrow not knowing where you fit in or where you will be accepted
· Perhaps even being in this building this evening, the House of God, makes you feel uncomfortable, all these church people, and so on
o But hear this, and hear it well,
§ “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.

· Jesus, His love, forgiveness, mercy and grace
o He is truly the only free gift you will ever receive
§ He comes to you and for you each and every time we gather as His people for Services
· Don’t believe the nonsense that you can worship Him at home, or on the golf course, or on the lake while fishing
o That’s not true and you know it – don’t kid yourself
§ He is not there for you in the same way He has promised to come to you in His Church wrapped in His Words of forgiveness, baptismal water, and in Holy Communion under the bread and wine

· This gift of Jesus is for you, it is for all
o No, if you go to Bethlehem today you will not find Him in the manger for you
§ But He comes to you now in the manger of His Word and Sacraments
· Wrapped not in swaddling cloths, but in Words, in water, in bread and wine, in His Church
o He is here for you, that is His promise
§ This gift of God, THE Christmas gift, Jesus, is for you
· Receive Him
o Marvel at Him
§ Rejoice in His grace and forgiveness
§ For it is because of Him, this wonderful Christmas gift Jesus, that we can sing Joy to the World!