A Christmas Message. Jesus is our Gift. He came wrapped as if in a plain paper bag. But He is the Best Gift. He came packaged in a surprising way, for sure.
Today we move along in our Christmas Octave, as our Sunday celebration lands on the Sixth Day of Christmas. What did my true love give to me, as in the song? Six Geese A-laying. What does that mean? Well, you first need to ask: Who’s my true love? It’s Jesus. He also happens to be in all the 12 Days of GIFTS, including being the unique Savior and Revelation to us, the Partridge in the Pear Tree. So today is Christmas Day Six, as we recall how the Lord founded the world in 6 days, so the 6 represents creation to us—in the original creedal meaning of the carol. Today on our sixth day, let us celebrate life and all that is around you as a “gift” from God. Six Geese a-Laying are these fertile birds laying eggs. Eggs are an almost universal symbol of new life. The sixth day verse (“on the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me”) stands for the Gift of New Life to you in Christ, in Jesus the Lord. My True Love gave to me a restored relationship with God and Creation. It’s a re-creation to you. It’s a Gift!!
In a few weeks I will give a whole homily on Catholicism and Creation and being stewards in it and what Pope Francis was basically teaching in his encyclical Laudato Si. For today, though, in our Christmas Octave, let us look at Christmas as a Gift from our True Love.
Speaking of gifts at Christmas, of the kind that might have been under your tree… do you pay much attention at all to the wrappings of the gifts? I am not much of the expert on gift wrapping, as some years I just buy a dollar store big bag or a red stocking, and stick my present in it—as in a gift card, or a present of assorted cans of cashew and pecan nuts, or in Lady Godiva chocolates, or of a dvd or something that can squeeze in. In the more special presents, I do try to wrap a big gift up well, but I really don’t know how to do a great job at gift wrapping, and bow tying in definitely out. I might buy a pre-tied bow. Some recipients of the gifts are looking for a nice outward presentation!
How do you expect your gift to be wrapped? Do you expect expensive shiny paper and ribbons? What if you got one wrapped in dollar store bag and stapled shut? Would you expect much of it?
God gave us a gift in simplicity, love and uniqueness. It was exquisite, but it didn’t appear first as such. It came to us as if in a paper bag. God came as a simple baby wrapped in swaddling clothes.
Luke 2:7 “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger…” God came to us as in a child, in the wrappings of baby clothes. It was such a unique and love and thoughtful way for God to come into our world and get our attention: on that First Christmas Day. But it didn’t cause too much notice at first. I think of a Bible verse in John 1. “He came to His own, but they recognized Him not.” A baby is a surprise Christmas gift.
I told you once before of the Barry family getting a baby at Christmas. My sister Kristin was born in the week of Christmas, over at Holy Cross Hospital, and brought home to us at Christmas, put in a Christmas stocking. She was definitely precious, the most blessed Christmas present ever in a stocking.
Now I think of Jesus as our ever blessed Gift, come as the infant in Bethlehem. Amazing.
It was a quiet entrance, I’ll say. The song “Silent Night” says it—that God came as almost inconspicuous in His entrance. Yes, there was the star, the magi, the angels—all that was extraordinary—yet those signs were just for a select few who were eyewitnesses there. Yet there was little fanfare elsewise. God just came in a human birth somewhere. Not in a grand arrival. God came to us in a humble birth as a Babe in little Bethlehem. It was Jesus the Infant as come. God was come as the child to a Jewish carpenter and of his young wife Mary, in a little place in Judea: A simple 1st Christmas.
In most ways, as God chose it to happen– Jesus the Babe came to us as in a plain brown bag. Or like in a budget-cost Dollar Store bag. You wouldn’t know the immense value in the wrappings seen of THE original Christmas Present of God. Outward appearances were not too important here. It didn’t matter what He looked like or what fanfare He got. What mattered was that He was the Son of God. The Word made flesh. God become one of us. A Mystery of Incarnation begun.
There is a lesson in the Gift Exchange of Heaven to us on earth. When we get caught up in what things look like, it can cause us some trouble. I think God had all intention of catching the materialistic and surface judgment world off-guard in His unveiling.
Jesus the Babe was born in David’s city, even in the Davidic kingly line, as by Joseph, kin of Bethlehem. Jesus did not look like a king’s kid,at his birth, and certainly not so by the manner of His Bethlehem birth. It was hidden up, even though Jesus certainly was born in the David the King line. But on this day in Bethlehem, he looked like a humble little one (just as shepherd boy David once was unassuming, but would become the Lord’s Anointed and King—which is one of the real surprise stories of the Hebrew Testament. It would be copied and lived a second way in Bethlehem in Jesus’ coming. Jesus is another surprise to come out of Bethlehem, later to be seen as king standing in Jerusalem. Jesus, born where the sheep watchers came from, would become the Chief Shepherd of Souls, the Good Shepherd to save people from sin and death, and He’d defeat a foe much greater than a feared Goliath, like David, but even of Satan and his power, to deliver us in great amazement.
This Child Christ is come as Gift to us, a Gift to save us and deliver us from sin and death—if we could believe it! “For if the Son sets you free, then you are free indeed!” – said Jesus. “I AM the Good Shepherd… come to seek and save the lost.” –said Jesus. What a great gift come to us that First Christmas. “And the Word of God became flesh, and dwelt among us…God from God, Light from Light.” Jesus is the Gift of God. John chapter 1.
He is come to be Your Christmas Gift of everlasting upon everlasting. In Him, your life and mine and fellow believers and followers in Him can become turned to the everlasting, as children of God, children of The Light. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave power/right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His Name.” John chapter 1, verse 12.
If you are truly a Christian, and you’re welcoming Christ to dwell and reign within you—as the Glory of your living—as your Christmas Joy–then you have a realization that God IS the Gift to your soul, and it IS His sweet Communion planned for you forevermore.
My going out point of the homily is that the Christmas Gift of Jesus to us, makes us, then, a gift of Christ to the world. If Christ is in you, and you are in salvation with Him, and if He is making you a new creation, then realize for sure that He makes you a new gift to the world. God will be a gift, through you, to the world. He will use you as a sign of His Presence.
Maybe, like me, you feel that, if it all is so, that we are people in some ordinary wrappings, too, but God has His Presence to be present in you so as to be a present to others. (Repeat: God has His Presence to be present in you so as to be a present to others.) ‘Got that?
That is a Christmas wonder. Christmas as Gift. Jesus to you. Then, Jesus in you, to others.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His Son… John 3:16a.
And how He wants to shine as gift in such people as yourselves, and myself, to bless the world….
I see it going on in our community. Example 1 Riderwood has lots of volunteers to assist us in our liturgies and Christian services. Example 2 There was a need for something nearby, but the money allotment for it for this nursing home was taken away. One of our members simply picked up the tab, so it could go on, as always. What a blessing done! Example 3. Our parish has a volunteer team of finance committee members who help me make professional sense of planning and budgeting for a parish, with skills I don’t have in abundance, so this group comes in to help me. It is nice of them to do it for me and for the service of all of you. Examples 4 & 5 I think of another person who is a giver, though they are confined to bed. So what they offer is a serious prayer life of intercession for others. They are like a nun in a cloister! I also know of a retired priest who’s quite physically challenged, too, but he writes letters to people. It keeps him busy, and it helps others be blessed by getting that well thought out letter from him, a rare treat these days… Example 6 Someone in the parish in 2018 listened to me and heard how I am trying to evangelize neighborhoods, and was asking for helpers. This young adult in 2018 came and assisted me several times in the evangelism efforts. It really helped out. Some new visitors are in our church because of his gift of time to the parish. That new person just might be the person sitting next to you, or it might be you.
Merry Christmas. God has brought us all here to this Special Mass, so to remember how He is Gift to us,the Gift that keeps on giving, forever. The Gift that is now a part of you and me in the Church, Christ’ Body, His vehicle to reaching the world.
End of Homily.
Did you find today’s Gospel just a bit odd for a Christmas one today. This odd Gospel is of Jesus being found in the Temple, at 12 years old. Why might it be in the Scriptures for us—in this Holy Family Christmas Mass. Maybe it is a hint for us to pay attention to Jesus, at all times.
We don’t want to lose Him!
But of course, we all have some guilt of not keeping our attention on Jesus. We lose Him a lot, and not because we thought He was in the caravan with other relatives (like Mary and Joseph’s reason).
The good news, is, that for Mary and Joseph that one time, or for us in our many times— if we cannot find Him for a time, because we turned our attention away, then we can be sure that Jesus will help us to find Him again. This is an interpretation I have today of this odd lost Jesus story.
“When his parents saw Him, that is, found Him, at the Temple talking to the elders there, they were astonished, and His mother said to him, “…Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”
Joseph and I have been looking for you… says Mary. No kidding! There’s an understatement if I ever heard one!! They were going nuts looking to find their lost Jesus!
Yet Jesus was found, but what about us? If He is lost to your view or company, He can be found. He’ll help that happen, with a little searching on your part, first.
In wrapping up my homily on gift wrappings and the Gift of Jesus, I can say that there has been a time last year that I lost a good gift at Christmas. I lost a check that a parishioner sent to me. It was such a nice gift, but I lost the envelope it was in. I had waited until after Christmas to open my cards, as I often do, and I misplaced some cards.
Fortunately, that parishioner checked his banking records, and he saw that I never cashed his check. So, he helped me to find the Christmas money by writing me a new check. What a nice thing! It was easy to “find” my gift.
Sometimes I think Jesus is as generous and easy as that. Once we realize we are missing Him, or even sometimes before we realize He’s out of our sight, He says: Here I Am.