Fully Present to the Divine Gift

Homily, Fully Present to the Divine Gift
Christmas Eve, 2022
Good Shepherd Episcopal Church
Tequesta, FL

The Rev. Derek M Larson, TSSF

Today’s Lectionary Readings:

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Well, here we are! We’ve finally made it. It’s Christmas. Merry Christmas!

I want to just stop and take a moment to breathe it in! Isn’t this place beautiful? It takes a lot to get to Christmas, doesn’t it? Making it to Christmas is no small feat!

All of the holiday shopping. The baking. The preparing of meals. Organizing parties. Music practices. Traveling through winter storms. Cleaning the house. Battling traffic. Talking to relatives you have a hard time talking to. 

And the rest of life doesn’t stop either. Keeping up with the dishes, the laundry, homework, job responsibilities, getting sick, your loved ones getting sick. 

Preparing for Christmas sometimes feels like it’s own, extra, part time job, doesn’t it! It seems like all your free time from mid-November to the end of December is filled up preparing for the day.

And with all the busyness and hectic energy we carry with us to this day, there is a risk of allowing this moment to completely pass us by. In all of the preparing for Christmas, we can so easily forget to be fully present in this Christ-Mass. 

And yet perhaps the circumstances of the first Christmas were not so different from our own in that way. Though there are two thousands years and a continent between us, in our gospel passage this evening you can imagine just how hectic and stressful it must have been for all those involved. 

Think of Mary. Imagine her, young, unmarried, traveling while nine months pregnant. How do you think she felt? What was going through her mind?

And think of Joseph, about to raise a child that was not his own, arriving in Bethlehem only to find the hustle and bustle of the city crowding his young family out into a cold stable. How do you think he felt? What was going through his mind?

And think of the shepherds. Working into the late hours under hard working conditions, caring for sheep prone to wander, feeling the brunt of the weather. How do you think they felt? What was going through their minds?

The story we hear tonight begins in circumstances just as hectic as our own, and probably more so. And yet in the middle of all the chaos and stress, the skies opened up with a message:

“I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”

At these words the shepherds immediately stopped everything they were doing, and made their way into Bethlehem to see this child. To witness the miracle. To be fully present to this Divine gift.

Jospeh stood quietly by his family, taking it all in, fully present to this Divine gift. 

And Mary, probably exhausted from having just given birth, listened to the shepherd’s testimony, pondering their words in her heart. Fully present to this Divine gift. 

Tonight there is an opportunity for the good news of Christ’s birth to break open our own stressful and hectic lives. There is an opportunity to lay down all of the stress and chaos that has led us here. There is an opportunity to ponder in our hearts the miracle of Christmas. To be fully present to this Divine gift. 

For the words of the angel stand true today, “to you is born this day a Savior.” To you is born this day a Savior, a Healer, a Reconciler, a Peace-Maker, a Teacher, a Friend. 

Don’t let this moment pass you by. Don’t let Christmas pass you by. Don’t let this season pass you by. Slow down. Let go. And be fully present to this Divine gift. Amen.