Theme: Love comes to the world
Let us pray.
Most holy, Lord God, we are gathered on this evening to celebrate the birth of your son, who came with great expectations; may this birthday be a reminder to us of those expectations and remind us to conform our lives in making the world a better place as Jesus would want for us, through him we follow, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
In her wonderful children’s picture book “We Were There: A Nativity Story,” Eve Bunting (illustrator: Wendell Minor) turns Christmas upside down for us in ways that are revealing.
The simple story shows us first a slithering snake, then a warty toad, a scary scorpion, a shiny cockroach, a swooping bat, a hairy spider, and a furry rat all on a journey. Each creature introduces itself and then concludes with the words “I will be there.”
As the book ends we are shown more common nativity creatures: fuzzy lambs, doe-eyed donkeys, gentle cows. But as those traditional figures in the stable stand around the manger in which the Babe has been laid by his mother Mary, we see in the corner, unnoticed, that small gathering of the snake, toad, scorpion, cockroach, bat, spider, and rat.
Bunting has found a lyric way to remind us that the coming of the Christ is not all about the traditional and cozy trappings in which we have for too long ensconced the Christmas story but that this is a story for all creatures and that Jesus came to embrace and renew the good, the bad, the ugly; the expected and the unexpected.
A simple children’s story like this reminds us of the paradoxes and unexpected twists of the season, rather the way John the Baptist can shake things up for us if only we take time to listen to his message.
The birth of any child brings expectations. I’m sure Mary and Joseph had expectations, too. But I don’t think they were prepared for the great expectations that some where made aware of for Jesus. The shepherds and their wondrous tale of a visit by an angel, not mention the angels appearing separately to Mary and Joseph. Then there are the wise men and their gifts and expectations. It all must have been overwhelming.
This child might have been expected to be a master craftsman, not the savior of the world. This child might have been expected to be a peaceful person, not wanting to be violent or to be a bully, not the Prince of Peace. It might have been expected that this child might be a person people would look up to, not one where people look up to on a cross.
But most of all, this child might have been one who loved his parents and his friends, not one who loved the whole world and would be willing to give his life as a ransom for many. This is truly a great love.
But what does love mean to people aged 4 years to eight years? Here are some responses:
“When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.” -- Rebecca- age 8
“When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.” -- Billy - age 4
“Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.” -- Karl - age 5
“Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.” -- Chrissy - age 6
“Love is what makes you smile when you're tired.” -- Terri - age 4
“Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK.” -- Danny - age 7
“Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more. My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss.” -- Emily - age 8
“Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.” -- Bobby - age 7 (Wow!)
“If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate.” -- Nikka - age 6 (we need a few million more Nikka's on this planet)
“Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday.” -- Noelle - age 7
“Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.” -- Tommy - age 6
“During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn't scared anymore.” -- Cindy - age 8
“My mommy loves me more than anybody. You don't see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night.” -- Clare - age 6
“Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken.” -- Elaine-age 5
“Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford.” -- Chris - age 7
“Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.” -- Mary Ann - age 4
“I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones.” -- Lauren - age 4
“When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.” -- Karen - age 7
“You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.” -- Jessica - age 8
On this night, we remember when love came into the world.
We now pray: Gracious God and giver of all good gifts, we give thanks and praise for the gift of love who became incarnate in a small baby, in a small town, in a small country, so many years ago; may we reflect that love on Christmas and the rest of our days, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Text: Luke 2:1–20 (NRSV)
2 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah,a the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,b praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”c
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.