The Biggest Gift of All
by the Reverend Mary F. Grambsch

A sermon given at The Church of Our Savior (NYC) Christmas Day (Lection I, Year A) December 25, 2010  

Your Word, O Lord, is a lantern for our feet and a light upon our path. In the Name of God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Good Morning and a Blessed and Merry Christmas to everyone! It is wonderful to see so many familiar faces and some new faces as well. Today is the great day of Christmas, known in our tradition as “The Feast of The Incarnation” or “The Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord”. We begin, starting today, a new season of the Church year, the 2nd season; our Advent Season of preparation and waiting is over, for the Season of Christmas is here. Christmastide is a short season, only 12 days long, but it is a joyous and loving time.

We have been anticipating and planning for this day for a long time. If you ask the children (and I suspect many adults) what stands out for them about Christmas Day and they will tell you CHRISTMAS PRESENTS! Indeed, gift giving is a hallmark of Christmas time; we spend a lot of time and money to find just that perfect gift, often frustrated because there are always those people on our gift list that are IMPOSSIBLE to buy a gift for. We make our lists and try not to forget anybody – in my house we always have a few extra gifts just in case someone unexpected drops in for a visit. Maybe you are one of those people, like my mother, who started shopping for next Christmas on the day after last Christmas, and proudly announce in August that her Christmas shopping is all done.

Why do we do all this gift giving at Christmas? Well, originally gifts were given, not on Christmas Day, but on January 6th The Feast of the Epiphany, sometimes called Three Kings Day or Little Christmas. We remember the Three Wisemen or Kings, because of the gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh they brought the infant Jesus. We give gifts to each other in remembrance of those original gifts.

We also give gifts to each other as a way of remembering God’s greatest gift to us; his Son, Our Savior, The World’s Messiah and our Redeemer. The free gift of a loving Father given to us so that we might have freedom and the power of love in our lives. In Jesus Christ we are given the gift of forgiveness of sin and life everlasting. All of the gifts we give certainly fall short in comparison to this amazing gift of God’s Son.

It is easy to forget the “why” of gift giving and get caught up in the particulars of the gift itself. All of the gifts we give each other are meant to be tokens of our relationships to each other and to God. Much like wedding bands are meant to be tokens of marriage vows two people make to each other. Wedding bands stand for something; they are not just pretty jewelry.

What gift are you expecting this Christmas Season? Did you come to church today expecting a gift? I am sure that many of you did not come expecting a gift, and yet here you are receiving again the Greatest Gift of all – the love of God in his Son, Jesus Christ. Nothing under your Christmas tree could possibly match the extravagance of that gift.

I remember a Christmas morning many years ago, when I was 9 years old, I came running down the stairs along with my brothers and sisters, charging for the wonderful tree, and I saw an enormous box. A box that could hold a dishwasher or a small washing machine. It was HUGE and all wrapped up in colorful Christmas paper with a big red bow on top. It was easily the biggest present under the tree and the tag said that it was “To Mary, From Santa”. I was immediately suspicious, “From Santa” huh?! More like, from my pesky brothers. I was sure that it was a big box filled with nothing but shredded paper. I looked around and everyone was watching and waiting for me to unwrap the Biggest Present. However, when you have 9 older siblings, you NEVER do what every one wants you to do! Even my parents were urging me to open the big box, but I refused. I was sure it was just a big joke and everyone was waiting to laugh at me.

The Biggest Present remained unwrapped all day. Finally, my mom and dad took me aside and asked me if I would unwrap the box if no one was around. With that assurance, I went to the Biggest Present and started ripping off the paper. It was an appliance box (an air conditioner box) and inside was a wonderful gift, not from Santa, but from my parents; the most elaborate dollhouse I had ever seen. Every room was designed, painted and decorated from scratch by my artist mother. The gift that I had refused to accept was the most wonderful of all. I was so overcome by the magnificence of that dollhouse that I couldn’t believe that anything so beautiful could be for me. I didn’t think I should play with it. My mother had to convince me that it was truly mine and that I could play with it and enjoy having it.

I think we are sometimes like that with God’s gift of his Son. We ask ourselves, “Can this wonderful gift possibly be for me? Really and truly for me? The gift of Jesus is for us, as amazing as it seems; and for all of us, not just for some people and not others. Every human being, no matter where they live, who they are, what they do, or who they love, has this priceless gift offered to them; no one is excluded or overlooked on God’s gift list, ever.

What does this gift of Jesus mean for us? Well, I can promise you that if you can accept this gift of great love into your life, expect some changes to happen:

If you want the hope of a different life – the gift of Jesus is for you.

If you want a life of courage and power – the gift of Jesus is for you.

If you want an abundant life, filled with love, mercy and grace – the gift of Jesus is for you.

If you want to know true compassion for others, deep knowledge about yourself, and feel the blessed assurance of always being loved – the gift of Jesus is for you.

One of my favorite Churchmen, Bishop Steven Charleston, the retired Bishop of Alaska and now Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, MA, writes about how we, as a culture, are so nostalgic about Christmas and how we never want anything about how we celebrate Christmas to change; we want the same carols, the same Christmas Dinner, the same ornaments on the Christmas Tree, the same EVERYTHING about Christmas. If something about Christmas is changed we are very unhappy; much like the woman I overheard complaining to a friend that she couldn’t get to see the big Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center before Christmas Day and so decided that her Christmas was ruined. The great irony is that the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem of Judea changed absolutely everything. The entire world was changed by that remarkable birth; God broke into human history and nothing was ever the same again. Jesus Christ came into the world to change things; to give light to those in darkness, to give good news to the poor and forgotten of the world, to make the first to be last and the last to be first. Yet we celebrate this earth shaking, world changing event by trying to keep everything the same year after year.

This year, be brave, do something different for Christmas. Give thanks for the Gift of Jesus Christ in a new tradition of doing something for others; Make Christmas Day the day that you give warm clothes to those who need them, make Christmas Dinner a meal when you invite someone who is fearful or lonely to dinner, make this day about loving those in need and sharing the amazing gift of Jesus. God’s gift of his Son is for us to enjoy and to share always. After all, a gift is not a gift unless it is given away. Share your greatest gift; Jesus. Merry Christmas and God bless you. Amen.

 

© 2010 Mary F. Grambsch

Mary Grambsch is a life long Episcopalian, a Priest, a Lesbian and happily partnered for 14 years.


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