A Child is Given

Dec. 24, 2015

Is. 9.2-7; Titus 2.11-14; Lk. 2.1-14

All of us come to this celebration today of the birth of our Lord with the memory of other Christmases in other times and other places. I remember the first time I ever attended an Episcopal church was at Christ Church Cathedral in Louisville, Kentucky. And when I came out of the church with all the big bells ringing in the Cathedral tower, snow had blanketed everything and it truly was a magical, white Christmas moment that I will always remember. For most of us Christmas is a joyful and time-honored celebration of family and friends that is made up of guarded traditions ringed around with favorite ornaments, family reunions, and beloved rituals and ceremonies. Also, for us, the Christ-mass is the centerpiece of many of these memories.

For still others, Christmas is a vivid reminder of human frailties. There are any number of things that can paint Christmas black. It could be the death of a loved one (or even the anniversary of the death of a spouse, or a child, or a parent. In such case, it always makes the season seem bittersweet). Or Christmas is sometimes punctuated with the repeated foibles of family members that are all too predictable. Things like grandpa always drinking too much at the holiday meal and fighting with anybody and everybody about even the most insignificant of things. It can bring a sense of dread.

On a personal level, there's gift giving. It conveys the most important of interpersonal messages... how we love and cherish others. Gifts can create elation when a coveted gift is received or likewise there's the disappointment and let down that comes when the hoped for gift just isn't there.

In the big picture, gift giving is such a boon to our economy, it creates a whole series of issues for retailers and shoppers alike. A retailers' entire year can be either established or broken by the success or failure of Christmas sales. And for shoppers who are unprepared for the financial pressures that come from shopping, there're the credit card bills that do not make Christmas ring with "Silver Bells," but rather rumble with the coming avalanche of bills soon to arrive.

We drag all these things into Christmas just like someone pulling a long string of tin cans attached to their backside...and we arrive thus at Christmas pulling all these things in tow and when we stop and all the commotion dies down, we often stop and take a long, deep breath, and ask, "OK, what now?" Surely there's more to Christmas than hearing the endless round of silly musac like "Grandma got run over by a reindeer" or "Santa Baby".

And at this point we find ourselves either deeply let down...or we move onto the discovery of the real heart of Christmas. The prophet Isaiah said it best, "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness--on them light has shined...(Behold) a child has been given...and he shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." It's this miraculous gift to us that may seem peripheral and insignificant and inconsequential to so many...but it's in fact very the reason we will either hear the angels sing or not. Christmas is the elation and the joy that God is with us. And as a result of that, salvation and life have been gifted to us all. Go to the heart of Christmas so that you can hear the angels sing. Their message was meant for us all,

"Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!"

The Reverend WA Ray
St Thomas Church
Diamondhead, MS