The Nativity of the Lord (Vigil)

Today’s readings

I want you to think about the best gift you ever received – what was it?  How did you feel when you opened it?  Were you surprised?  Were you happy because the gift showed you how much the person giving it to you loved you?

Because that’s what Christmas is all about: it’s about the gifts.  Or, at least it’s about a gift, but we’ll get to that in a minute.  There are all kinds of gifts – big ones and small ones, and all sizes in between.  My mother used to say that really good things come in small packages, but I think that’s just because she was the shortest one in the family at that point.  Actually, she still says that now!

Some gifts, when we receive them, we want to return them to the store – because they don’t fit, or they’re not the right color, or we just don’t like them.  Sometimes gifts are like that – people give them to us because they feel like they have to, and they don’t give them a whole lot of thought.  Gifts like that can be disappointing, and who wants to have to go through all the trouble of returning gifts?  Sometimes people even re-gift gifts that they don’t like.

Some gifts are fun for a while, but then we lose interest in them.  When I was little, I know there were toys that I just had to have, and once I got them, I found out they weren’t as much fun as they looked like on TV, so I stopped playing with them pretty soon after I got them.  Maybe you can remember some gifts like that too.

But the very best gifts are the gifts that we got that were a total surprise, and when we got them we didn’t know what we ever did without them.  Maybe it’s a favorite pair of jeans, or really cool shirt, or a toy that didn’t seem like much when we first opened it, but turned out to be really fun to play with almost every day.  These are the gifts that “fit right” right out of the box and we use them until they wear out.

Like I said, Christmas is about the gift – one particular gift.  It’s not a gift that Santa will bring, or one that you’ll find wrapped up underneath your Christmas tree.  It won’t be the glitziest present you’ve ever seen; in fact it comes to you in a really simple way.  The good news is this gift is the best one you ever got, and the best one you’ll ever get.  It’s a gift that will fit you right away and you won’t know how you ever got along without it.

The gift I’m talking about, of course, is the gift of Jesus Christ.  That’s why we’re here today – it’s all about the gift.  We know that we have sinned, and humanity always has sinned.  Because of that, we forfeited the right to be in God’s presence and we could never get to heaven on our own.  But that was not okay with God, who made us out of love.  So he decided to save us by giving us a completely surprising gift – the gift of his Son Jesus.

It wasn’t like he had to give us a gift; he gives the gift completely out of love.  And this is a gift that won’t ever wear out: Jesus promises to walk with us all through our life and to be the friend and companion we’ve always wanted.  This gift shows us that God our Father loves us more than anything, because he never wants to live without you or me or anyone else he’s created.

Because of his great love for us, Jesus came into our world in a very humble package: as a baby, born to a poor human family.  He grew up and lived like we do: he made friends and he worked and he loved everyone he ever met.  He was so special that he even died for us – he paid the price so that we wouldn’t have to; he gave his mortal life so that we could have everlasting life.  It’s the most expensive gift we’ll ever get – it’s priceless really.

This one gift changes everything – if we let it.  We have to be happy to receive the gift of Jesus.  We have to treasure what he did for us so much that our relationship with him becomes the most important thing in our lives.   That means that we pray every day so that we can grow in our relationship with him.  That means we come to Church to worship him every Sunday and Holy Day because he’s dedicated his life to us.  And that means we go out and do what he did – love others and give of ourselves so that others can live.

I hope you won’t return this wonderful gift, or let it gather dust in the basement of your heart.  I hope you’ll take this gift out every morning and let him walk with you all through your days.  Jesus is the most incredible gift any of us will ever receive.  How blessed are we that our God loves us this much!

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