Homily, Juggling Oranges for God: A Children’s Message for Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve, 2022
Good Shepherd Episcopal Church
The Rev. Derek M Larson, TSSF
Today’s Lectionary Readings:
Have you ever noticed that in the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke, the baby Jesus is wrapped in cloths, just like a present? And when the angel came to the shepherds they didn’t just say “a baby is born this day in the city of David,” they said, “to you a baby is born this day in the city of David.” Jesus, then, is a gift. And he is a Christmas gift for each of us. So my question is, if Jesus gave us himself as a gift, what can we give Jesus?
Well, tonight I’d like to share with you a story that’s hundreds of years old, and as I tell this story I’d like to invite any children or youth to come forward to get a better view and to receive their own little gift.
Seven hundred years ago there lived a poor boy in northern France named Barnaby. He was an orphan and he had very little. He had no family. He had no shoes. He had no place to live.
But he did have one thing he treasured with all his heart.
Barnaby had a skill for juggling. He loved juggling!
He could juggle one ball with one hand. (Is that called juggling? I don’t know. But he could do it!)
He could juggle one ball with two hands.
He could juggle two balls with two hands.
He could juggle two balls with one hand.
He could even juggle three balls.
In the Market
As a boy, each day Barnaby would go to the market to work for those selling fruits and vegetables. While he worked, sometimes he would juggle.
sometimes he would juggle oranges,
sometimes he would juggle apples,
sometimes he would even juggle potatoes.
And as he juggled them, crowds would gather to watch his amazing skill…and he would always sell lots of oranges, apples, and potatoes.
As the years went by, Barnaby got better and better at juggling, until one day, when he was older, he decided to leave the market and become a traveling juggler. For years he wandered around the countryside putting on shows for anyone that would stop to watch, living only on what they offered him for his skill.
And his shows were wonderful.
He would juggle as low as he could!
He would juggle as high as he could!
He would juggle with one up, then two up, then one up, then two up.
He would juggle so that they would cross in the air and he’d still catch them.
And then for the grand finale…
It was a great show! And everyone loved it! But it didn’t give him very much money. And in the winters, it got quite cold. And Barnaby had no place to live.
One winter’s day, while he was shivering under a tree trying to stay warm, a monk walked by and asked him if he had a place to live (a monk is someone who wears a long robe and dedicates their life to prayer in a church). When Barnaby told him no, the monk invited him to stay with him and the other monks at the monastery church where he would be warm.
Barnaby liked living at the monastery very much. He liked talking with the monks. He liked praying with them in church. And he especially like sleeping in a nice warm room. But juggling wasn’t allowed. And so he let go of his juggling things to take up the way of his new community.
As the days went on Christmas drew near. In the middle of the church was a beautiful statue of the baby Jesus and his mother, and all the monks were preparing Christmas gifts to bring before the Christ child.
One monk wrote a masterpiece of literature to place before the child. One monk painted a beautiful picture to place before the child. One monk decided to carve an elaborate statue to place before the child. But poor Barnaby was sad, because he didn’t have a gift to bring.
On the night of Christmas Eve he watched as the monks, one by one, brought their gifts into the church, while he sat in the back silently in prayer. When everyone had left, and the lights had gone out, he suddenly had an idea.
He ran to the kitchen and found some oranges and quickly came back to the church. And there before the statue of Jesus, he began to juggle.
He juggled as low as he could.
He juggled as high as he could.
He juggled with one up then two up then one up.
He juggled so that two balls crossed high in the air.
And then, for the grand finale…
Barnaby knelt before the statue of Jesus, having given him his greatest treasure. And quietly left the church.
Well, one of the monks had seen Barnaby juggling oranges, and had quickly run to tell the others, who knew that juggling was not allowed. When they came into the dark church to stop him, Barnaby was gone, but there around the statue of the baby Jesus was a bright and mysterious light. And on his face was a smile. And there in his hand was a single orange.
And in that moment the monks knew that Barnaby had given a great gift.
You know sometimes we feel like we don’t have much to give. But everyone has something to give. And if you truly give it with all your heart, it will be the greatest gift of all. Jesus gave the gift of himself. Barnaby gave the gift of his juggling. What will you give to the world and to Jesus this Christmas season? Whatever it is, give it with all your heart.
As you go back to sit with your families, I give you an orange to remember the gift of Barnaby and the gift of Jesus to the world. Amen.