Many years ago I pondered the age old question about Christmas: Did God the father pass out cigars on Christmas morning, slapping the angels heartily on the back, beaming proudly – “It’s a boy.”? And then, the inevitable second question: Do they even have cigars in heaven?
We have imagined so much about the scene of Christmas – the stable, the shepherds, and the angel choirs; even the ox and ass and sheep became part of our imagining. The Christmas Carols we sing invite us to reflect on that first night – all about a Father’s love begotten, about Joy to the World, about Angel Choirs and Silent and Holy Nights. Our decorations try to capture a bit of the beauty contained in the mystery. Yet I realized, with a bit of a shock, that I never imagined perhaps the most important thing of all about Christmas.
What gift(s) does God want to put under our Christmas trees in 2013? God is not sending Jesus back to earth as an infant this year, but he still desires to enter our world profoundly again. So what gift does God wait to place under our Christmas trees this year?
Now, interestingly enough, when I woke up this morning, there were three presents underneath my tree. And, even more exciting, each of them said the same thing: To: Father Bill, From: God. (3 volunteers to open.)
1) [1st present is opened: have kid hold up and then read the ‘tag’]
“God’s Eye glasses.” Very interesting! Let’s see what these look like on you. Not bad. But what do they do? Any idea? Wait, it looks like there are some instructions in the case. “The wearing of these glasses allows the viewer to consistently see the world as God sees it.” Two thousand years ago, God sent his Son, pleading that we might see our dignity because of him. Christmas 2013 bids us to see that dignity anew, to remember how precious we are. Because God always sees us through eyes and a heart that wants to save and redeem us, then we are invited to believe in our goodness, and the goodness of each last and least and lost among us. Because I have become who you are, God tells us, you need to see what I have seen and known – how beautiful it is to be human. !!! Oh, there’s a Warning label: “All who wear these glasses will see that what God has done for us in Jesus was just the start.” The glory he restored to humanity in Jesus – he has placed into our hearts. When we love our neighbor, we love our God. And what we do, or don’t do, to our neighbor, is what we do or don’t do to our God. (Dismiss volunteer – and they keep the glasses/case)
2) [Different kid opens 2nd gift.] Reads tag: “HOLY SPIRIT ENERGY DRINK.” (any idea why God would think that is an important gift to give this year? – answers??) Why – because God knows the work of the Kingdom is tough stuff and needs all of the energy we can muster. Missouri is one of 8 states that put people to death this year. Our Normandy school district will be financially insolvent by March. This is the 91st year of the 100 Neediest Cases drive in St. Louis, and the need continues to grow. Hmm. Maybe we’re gonna need more than one of these puppies a day. (Start to dismiss volunteer with the energy drink –“hmm – your mom and dad will kill me if I let you take that home and drink it on Christmas eve. How about these mint M & M’s instead?)
3) [Kid opens third gift – reads tag]. “The Light of Christ Flashlight.”
Do you have any idea why God would give us this? Jesus first coming brought the light of God to a weary, darkened world. And so we too, are called to do the same. To all the places in our families where there is pain, we are to bring the light. To those whose worlds are filled with darkness of grief, we are to be a loving presence. We are to flood our families and friends with our love, filling the space around us with the very light we know here at this altar.
I suspect you will find more than these three gifts under your Christmas tree this evening or in the morning. But, if we have the Eyes to see this world as God does, if we drink of the Holy Spirit’s Energy, and we bring Light of Christ to all the dark places of our world, then the yearning that God felt that first Christmas night will once more give birth on this earth. And once again, we will find the Father slapping the backs of the angels in joyful glee, passing out cigars right and left, crying out: “It is sons and daughters!!” “It is parents and children!!” “It is my people born once again into a world’s dark!!!”