Monday, December 26, 2011
The Very Best Gift...a sermon for Christmas Day 2011
It is Christmas Day and we are here to celebrate the birth of a baby.
But so much more than just that.
We are here to celebrate
the coming of God into the world in human form.
It’s called incarnation.
This day, this Jesus,
is all about love.
Unconditional and transforming love.
Thank you for coming out to celebrate Christmas Day
here at St. John’s.
As children of God--
and we all ARE children of God--
I want to tell you a story this morning,
as we are here,
surrounded by these glorious poinsettias.
Some of you may know this story
but the wonderful thing about stories
is they only get richer in their telling and re-telling.
There was a man named Dr. Joel Poinsett.
He was the first Ambassador to Mexico.
Actually he was called the American Minister to Mexico
because he was there in 1825
and the US did not have ambassadors until the late 1800’s.
One the things he brought back to the United States from Mexico
was this beautiful, bright red, star-shaped flower--
and there were only red ones at that time.
Some people called this plant “Flame Leaf”
or “Flower of the Holy Night.”
We of course call it the poinsettia--
named obviously after Dr. Joel Poinsett.
There is a legend connected to the poinsettia.
It is about two small children.
Their names are Maria and Pablo.
Maria is the older sister and Pablo is the little brother.
There once was a little girl named Maria
who had a little brother named Pablo.
Their family was poor.
They lived in a rural village and their family barely had enough food to eat,
much less any money for extras.
Christmas was approaching and their village was preparing for parties
and parades and lots of festivities.
Every year a large creche--a manger scene--
was set up in the village church.
All the children in the village were so excited
to go to visit the baby Jesus
and to present him with a very wonderful present.
All the children were thinking
about what gift their family would buy this year
to present to the baby Jesus.
Maria and Pablo knew
their family had no money to buy any gift at all.
Like the other children,
they wanted to give a really really wonderful gift to the Holy Child, too.
they knew they had nothing to bring as a gift.
still they wanted to go up to the village church
and see the baby Jesus in the manger
of the creche at the church.
And then, Maria and Pablo came up with a great idea!
Since they had no store-bought gift,
they decided to pluck some weeds growing beside the road.
They thought the weeds could make a soft bed for the baby.
They were very happy and excited that they would have something
to offer to the baby Jesus.
They arrived first and began placing their weeds in the manger,
all around the figure of the baby Jesus.
Just then the other children began arriving.
You know, sometimes children--well, sometimes adults--
can be unthinking and cruel.
The other children began teasing Maria and Pablo--
making fun of them and laughing at their weeds.
Maria and Pablo were so ashamed.
They were almost in tears.
And then suddenly--
the weeds burst into bright red petals
that looked like stars.
The flowers were so beautiful that everyone gasped,
in awe of their beauty.
The weeds had been transformed
into the bright red beautiful poinsettias.
The weeds had been transformed.
It doesn’t take a miracle
for us to realize that we are like those weeds.
We too can be transformed by love.
The gift of love is the only thing God really asks of us.
There is certainly nothing wrong with buying someone a gift,
nothing at all wrong with receiving a gift,
But the message of Christmas
is that God sent a baby because of love
and that baby came to remind us
of what love looks like with a human face
and it is love and only love
that can transform our scraggly, weedy selves
into flowers of such beauty.
Poinsettias are a wonderful reminder
that the best gift we will ever be able to offer anyone is love.
In our reading from Titus this morning we hear:
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...
We do not have to earn God’s love.
True love is always pure gift.
May these poinsettias that surround us this Christmas Day
remind us of the love of God that surrounds us
every day of the year.
And Merry Christmas!