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Christmas Day: Proper II

mangerThe Greatest Gift of All

These readings are traditionally used during the Christmas Day service in many liturgical churches.

Homily for Adults

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 ready?

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 angels were saying, 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 is a universal message from God. How do we respond to it today? We are talking about the greatest gift of all. Do we receive it? Do we unwrap it? Children do not need to be told to unwrap their presents.

The Apostle Paul helps us unwrap God’s gift:

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)

Part of unwrapping Christmas is understanding and receiving the new birth in Christ. This gift from God is for each one of us, but we must acknowledge it with thanksgiving. We cannot take it for granted. It is not meant to be set aside and forgotten.

An often neglected part of unwrapping Christmas is the receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit is for our renewal. God will pour his Spirit on us and into us. This is the Spirit which leads us into all truth and fully explains all that Jesus has taught us and is still teaching us.

If we have received God’s gift, then we, like the shepherds, will have 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)

Are we excited about the greatest gif of all enough to want to unwrap it and share it with others?

 

Homily for Children

Gather the children together up near the altar. Give them a chance to settle down and feel comfortable.

Homilist: Do you enjoy getting gifts at Christmas?

   Kids: Yes!

Homilist: Do you like unwrapping them?

   Kids: Of course!

Homilist: How can you tell that a gift is yours?

   Kids: It has my name on it.

Homilist: Would you like to wait a little while before opened your gifts?

   Kids: No!

Homilist: What would you do with a gift when it has been opened?

   Kids: We would look at it and maybe play with it!

Homilist: What if you got the Greatest Gift of all time and your name was written to it? Would you not unwrap 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 us.

     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.

Amen.

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 at some point our 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, listening carefully what the children may be saying, and waiting on the Holy Spirit, some good may emerge. We need to have courage and place ourselves fully in the hands of the Lord.

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Fourth Sunday of Advent

Building the House of David

King David wanted to do something for God. He wanted to build him a house. In today’s Old Testament reading we find him telling this to the prophet Nathan:

When the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.” Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.”   (2 Samuel 7:1-3)

David was probably not prepared for God’s response to his plan. God had to correct what Nathan had said:

But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.   (2 Samuel 7:4-11, 16)

The psalmist celebrated this word from God:

Your love, O Lord, for ever will I sing;
from age to age my mouth will proclaim your faithfulness.

For I am persuaded that your love is established for ever;
you have set your faithfulness firmly in the heavens.

“I have made a covenant with my chosen one;
I have sworn an oath to David my servant:

‘I will establish your line for ever,
and preserve your throne for all generations.'”   (Psalm 89:1-4)

God told David that he would build him a house and not the other way around. The house that God would build for David was an everlasting kingdom. No other kingdoms on the earth have been everlasting. How would God would accomplish this? Reading from today’s Gospel:

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.   (Luke 1:26-35)

Jesus would “reign over the house of Jacob forever.” He would reign over the house of David. The throne of David would be extended through him. His kingdom would be an ever lasting kingdom. Reading from the Book of Revelation:

“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever.”   (Revelation 11:15)

Have we ever wondered what we could do for God to please him? The good news of the Gospel is that we have already pleased him by believing in his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. It is not what we can do for God, but what God will do for us, if we will allow him.

God was going to do an extraordinary miracle through Mary, which had never been done before. She could not have fully understood what God was promising, but she was willing to believe the angel and gave herself entirely to God by saying:

“Be it unto me according to thy word.”   (Luke 1:38)

Do we want to do something pleasing to God? What could we possible do for him, other than believing on the Lord Jesus Christ and following his path? Why would we want to do something more? Perhaps it is because we do not understand that God is the giver and the doer?

Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.   (James 1:17-18)

Perhaps we do not believe that we are worthy of his gifts? The Apostle wrote:

But your sins were washed away. You were made holy. You were made right with God. All of this was done in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was also done by the Spirit of our God.   (1 Corinthians 6:11)

God wants to bless us. He wants to do extraordinary things through us. He has great things in store for us. The Apostle Paul wrote:

But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God — not because of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.   (Ephesians 2:4-10)

Will we be able to say, like Mary: “Be it unto me according to thy word? We have a place in his lasting kingdom. He has created us for that place and he wants to bless us into that place. Are we ready? Advent is about getting ready

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