In the Morning
It’s Christmas Day in the morning. We are gathered to celebrate the birth of Jesus; to share the bread and wine of the Eucharist; and to baptize Brynn Blake Eckman. A new member will be adopted into and grafted onto the Body of Christ by water and the Holy Spirit. What an auspicious day on which to be baptized.
At the heart of Christmas is a constellation of story telling and gift giving and love. All Christmas stories begin with the story we heard this morning: In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus... That decree led to a young couple journeying to Bethlehem, where they lodged in a stable where their first child was born and laid in a manger for a crib. That child was Jesus, born to be our savior.
As St. John proclaims in his Gospel, The very Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us. Thus the Word of God was born in a stable. And we are present in the stable and at that manger on this morning.
By reading this story today and sharing in this baptism and this Eucharist we are physically and spiritually joined to the most wonderful event being re-membered and re-called.
Now let me tell you another story. It is a true story, but shaped by time.
When I was growing up we never read the Bible in our home. That fact is neither a good thing nor a bad thing, we just didn’t. We heard lots of Bible read in church and we heard all the great stories of God’s people in Church and Sunday school.
We didn’t read the Bible at home, except of one time. One Christmas Eve when I was a little boy, I think it was the Christmastime I turned four, Mother said, “I am going to read you the story of Christmas.” She took the old family Bible off the bookshelf. It was a large Bible, and in the front pages were recorded births, baptisms, marriages, and deaths of members of the family. We layed down on our stomachs on the floor in front of the fire. The room was dark except for the light of the fire. She opened the Bible. There was no marker; she knew where she was going. And she read the story of the birth of Jesus. I expect she read the exact same story we heard this morning. Having finished the story, she said that there was a second story of the birth of Jesus. She turned the pages and read the second story from the Gospel according to Matthew.
I don’t see my older brothers in this picture; maybe they were there, maybe not. In my memory it is just Mom reading this story which was important enough to her to take the Bible down and read it just to me. It was a gift from a mother’s love. It may be the most memorable Christmas gift I ever received.
I invite you to take time this Christmastime to ask yourself, what is the best Christmas present you ever received? What is your most powerful or most tender or memorable Christmas memory? And, if you can, share the story.
Christmas is about story telling, and gift giving and love. Most importantly it is about love. God sent his Word, Jesus to be born for us because God loves us. In particular, God loves you, exactly as you are, more than you can ask or begin to imagine.