The Greatest Gift of All
These readings are traditionally used during the Christmas Day service in many liturgical churches.
Homily for Adults
Have you ever noticed how fast children unwrap their presents on Christmas Day? They do it so fast that the gift cards, if we are not careful, may get misplaced or discarded. When we as them: “who gave you that present?” their answer is often: “I don’t know!”
Christmas is an exciting time. Children have been anticipating the day all year. The Jewish people were waiting for their Messiah for a very long time. In fact, they had not heard from a prophet for four-hundred years. Were they now ready to hear directly from God? Are we?
Can we imagine how excited the shepherds were when they heard a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” (Luke 2:14)
The shepherd could not have fully understood what the angles were say, but they did not sit idly by:
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.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. (Luke 2:15-16)
The message to the shepherds was a universal message. How do we respond to it today? We are talking about the greatest Christmas present of all. How do we respond to this gift? Do we receive it? Do we unwrap it? Children do not need to be told to unwrap their presents.
The Apostle Paul tells us what this gift is all about:
When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4)
If we have received this gift then we, like the shepherds, will cause for great celebration
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (Luke 2:20)
Homily for Children
Homilist: Do you enjoy Christmas gifts?
Homilist: Do you like unwrapping them?
Kids: Of course!
Homilist: How can you tell that a gift is yours?
Kids: It has our name on it.
Homilist: Would you stare at a gift under the tree for a while before you opened it?
Kids: No, we would unwrap it!
Homilist: And after that?
Kids: We would check it out and maybe play with it!
Homilist: What if there was a gift that was the Greatest Gift of all time? Do you think someone would not unwrap it if their name was written on it?
Kids: No way!
Homilist: Now remember that you have to send thank-you notes to everyone who has given you a gift.
Kids; Yeah, we know. But what about that gift you were talking about? What kind of gift is it?
Homilist: It is a gift from God.
Kids: Wow! What is it?
Homilist: The birth of His Son Jesus who came to the earth for us.
Kids: Oh! The baby Jesus.
Homilist: Why is His birth important?
Kids: Because He came to save us?
Homilist: Yes. Do you think everyone who knows about this gift should unwrap it?
Kids: If their name was on it.
Homilist: Everyone’s name is on this gift!
Kids: What do you mean unwrap it?
Homilist: Take it out of the box and play with it.
Kids: Jesus wants to play with us?
Homilist: Yes, and after we do we should send Him a thank-you note.
Kids: Can you send a note to heaven?
Homilist: He is listening to us and He is always with us. If we just say we are thankful He would hear.
Kids: Oh! When should we thank Him?
Homilist: Every day. Wouldn’t it be sad if someone didn’t open God’s gift?
Kids: No way. They have to open it.
Homilist: I want to read a verse from scripture to you:
Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:4-8)
Homilist: Do you see that grace is a gift of God?
Kids: Yes. But do we really have to send God a thank-you note?
Homilist: Let me read you this scripture:
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10)
Homilist: God needs us to thank Him with our mouths.
Kids: Can we do that now?
Homilist: Yes, and at each new day we need to thank him for the greatest gift of all.
Obviously this homily is not a script to be memorized by the children. It will not do the homilist any good to memorize it either, because as soon as your listeners are going to take off on a tangent. This advice from our Lord apples:
“Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” (Luke 12:11-12)
What is desired is a dialogue with the children. They are a fearsome force to face, but with patience, and waiting on the Holy Spirit, some good may emerge from one’s efforts.