Today marks the beginning of a new phase. Christmas day – full of fanfare, food, gifts, and fellowship. The presents are most likely distributed and opened, or soon will be. The vacation week plans have begun. The build up to this day has finally reached its goal.
It is good for us to remember this is a birthday celebration for Jesus of Nazareth, the baby born in a little, obscure place called Bethlehem. I wonder how easy it is to forget this? How many of you have friends or relatives with birthdays right around Christmas? My son’s birthday is 12/7 and I always consider it a victory when he receives a present that is NOT wrapped in Christmas paper! Somehow folks with December birthdays always seem to get a bit slighted. So today is vindication! We celebrate the birthday of Jesus!
But how can we honor Jesus in the midst of our hustle and bustle of the season? You all are here – that’s pretty special. In the midst of all the activities you are taking time to remember the reason why we celebrate in the first place. God loves each of us so much that God sent God’s son Jesus to live among us, teaching us how to be disciples. Jesus showed us how to live a life where loving God and loving neighbor guide our hearts and our actions. It is not just about taking in the word of God but of sharing that word with others. It is not just about receiving blessings but sharing blessings.
I always enjoy watching my family open their presents. For the most part, we did pretty good as far as getting the gifts they actually wanted. There’s something really special about seeing that look on their faces at receiving something we gave them. It really is better to give than receive.
I had the privilege of helping deliver the Angel Tree gifts with Sheila last week. What a joy to see the look of awe and the expressions of shear gratitude from those who thought there would be no gifts for their children this year. You all helped to make a difference for our neighbors, giving from your hearts as we celebrate the birth of Jesus. We are reminded that Jesus gave everything of himself for us. In turn, we give back a small portion to God and to others.
This birthday celebration is truly a celebration for all of us. God deemed each of us worthy to receive God’s most precious gift – Jesus, the baby born in a manger. Today we are collecting baby items to donate to our neighbors. Similar to a baby shower, we are helping those in our community who are welcoming new lives into their families. What a wonderful way to honor God as we serve others. We are providing a basic need for the least of these – our smallest community members. Jesus gave us the perfect example as he welcomed children everywhere he went. In a small way we are welcoming them also.
As we approached this day, we set off on a journey throughout Advent. The journey is represented in our Advent wreath as we celebrated hope, peace, joy, and love. There is no greater hope than that which is presented with the birth of Jesus – the hope of the world. There is no greater peace than knowing we are all precious and valued in the sight of God. There is no greater joy than experiencing a life of service knowing our sins are forgiven. There is no greater love than one who came to earth to dwell among us, showing us how to live as followers of God.
Perhaps we didn’t think too much of God’s gift for us throughout Advent and into the Christmas season. We were pretty busy trying to prepare everything and everyone for today. If that is the case, I appreciate the fact that you are here, recognizing the value of God’s precious gift of love for all of God’s people. Jesus brings hope. Jesus brings peace. Jesus brings joy. Jesus brings love. Let us do all we can to share this message to everyone through our words and actions. May God continue to bless each of us as we gather together on this day of celebration. Jesus is here. God is with us. We are called into the family of God. Happy Birthday Jesus! Amen.