Unwrapping The Gift

Christmas Day 2010

John 1:1-14

 

The Christmas story in the gospel of John doesn’t have a stable.

It doesn’t have a manger or swaddling clothes.

There’s no angel or shepherds or wise men bearing gifts.

 

There is a gift, however.

It’s not gold, frankincense, or myrrh.

And it’s not a gift for the baby.

Rather, it is a gift for us.

 

In these opening verses of the gospel of John,

the gift for us is what John wants us to hear.

 

John writes,

“To all who received him,

who believed in his name,

he gave the power – the authority – the right

to become children of God.”

 

By the birth of God’s son, Word made flesh,

We’ve been given the right to a name this day.

We ourselves have been given the power to call God Father, Mother.

Our Father, Our Mother.

We’ve been given the gift (though maybe it doesn’t always seem a gift!) to be able to call each other brother and sister.

 

It’s an interesting word John uses.

We’ve been given  power to be called children of God.

I wonder how often we unleash this power….

How often we really unwrap the gift given to us at Christmas…

 

There’s many ways to unwrap a gift…

There’s my mom’s way:

First she reads the card – the whole card.

And then she slowly, painstakingly slowly removes the bow.

Next she takes off each piece of tape – one at a time –

carefully so she doesn’t rip the paper.

Finally she unfolds the paper to reveal the gift.

But she doesn’t look at the gift yet – no, first she re-folds

the discarded paper so she can use it again next year!

 

I don’t think she’s bought wrapping paper in 30 years!

 

My mother takes time with a gift.

She savors it.

She’s the prototypical Mary, taking these things and pondering them in her heart.

 

That’s just not my style.

I can go through 3 presents before she’s taken off a single bow!

Card?  There’s a card?

Ideally it’s a stick-on bow so I can just pull it off and not bother to mess with scissors!

I hurry through the wrappings to get to the gift,

immediately open up the box,

throw away the directions,

and then figure out how I can enjoy using it – right away.

 

I don’t think I’ve re-used a piece of wrapping paper in 30 years!

 

Savoring the gift for a long while.

Or… Enjoying the gift immediately.

Both have their place.

 

There are times in which we are called to really take time and savor the gift for us

we’ve been given in Jesus Christ.

God has come down to earth to declare us his children.

Word became flesh and lived among us.

Love came down to us and never left us.

 

Iraqi Christians have been advised to savor their Christmas quietly in their homes this year.

They have been told to avoid decorations or celebrations

or even church services which might  attract violence from extremists.

They will have a quiet Christmas.

And will be forced to consider that even without the joyful celebrations,

the gift has still come to them.

Word became flesh and lived among us.

Love came down to us and never left us.

 

Others closer to home will also quietly savor Christmas this year.

Some of us by choice, and some by necessity.

Through death or through distance, some of us will be separated from loved one this Christmas.

There will be time to savor the gift which has come to us too.

Word became flesh and lived among us.

Love came down to us and never left us.

 

For all of us, we know Christmas is 12 days – not one.

There is time already built into our church calendar to savor the gift.

 

And yet the gift is also meant to be lived, to be enjoyed, and to lead us to something more.

There is a place for laughter and joy and celebration of the gift.

There is a place for sharing more than savoring the gift of God’s love come down to us.

Living this gift of this love is more than watching children dress up as shepherds once a year;

and it’s even more than singing the words about peace on earth.

 

Living the gift of love means

doing something with the fact that shepherds today are often immigrant workers;

it means recognizing Mary in unwed mothers everywhere.

 

Living the gift of love means

working toward that peace on earth we sing about in our lives and in our world.

 

When we give gifts out of the tradition of St. Nicholas,

living the gift of love means

we remember the real saint, Nicholas of Myra

whose gifts were not to his friends and family, but to the poor.

 

John’s gospel says that on this day – this day we celebrate the birth of Jesus, Word made flesh,

we are given the power to become children of God.

 

Let’s unwrap the gift.

Take time and savor it;

Unleash its power and live it.

 

Merry Christmas!

 

Amen.

 

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