Christmas (December 25, 2016)

His parents called him Yeshua, the Aramaic word for Jesus. The scriptures call him Emmanuel, Lord, Messiah, and Prince of Peace, the Christ, the Word of God made flesh.

Each of these wonderful titles gives an insight into the magnificence of Jesus whose birthday we are celebrating. But, there is one name that I think stands above all others. It is the name that comes from the tradition of St. John, the disciple who was closer to Jesus than the others, the one who would accompany him up the mountain of the transfiguration - when he shone like the sun; the one who accompanied him across the Kedron valley to the Garden of Gethsemane the night before he died, the one who stood loyally at the foot of the cross with his mother on Good Friday. He is the disciple whom Jesus loved.

From these experiences, we hear from the tradition of John, God’s final and finest title, the name given that not only names him, but, more importantly, describes his very nature: “God is love.” Jesus, as the word made flesh, is love enfleshed.

At Christmas we celebrate the astounding fact that, at a specific time in the history of humanity, love overflowed the infinite expanses of heaven and burst into our world in the form of a human being, Jesus. Jesus is the gift of the Father to us. He remains with us as we celebrate him here in Eucharist.

God who is love has gifted each of us with the gift of being loved and thereby lovable. There is one more step to take in the divine plan: that we share our gift of love with others. Then, God’s love will continue to overflow heaven and through you and me, in a ripple effect, to transform our world. All will be one as the Father and the Son are one in love. Jesus is the reason for the season. He encourages us to carry his love always in our hearts.

A gift is the giving of oneself to another. The gifts we give at Christmas - or any time - are an expression, a stand-in, for ourselves and a continuation of god’s sharing with us. Each gift to another person is another mini-chapter in the ongoing love story.

It may be the gift of our time for friends, family, another. It may be the gift of our talent, the work of our minds and hands - as so many of our forebears have given to us. It may be the gift of our treasure - what we spend of our hard-earned money for family, friends, for those who are dear to us and some whose names we do not even know.

There is a negative experience that makes our positive experience more poignant by contrast. We all feel annoyed at giving a “gift” that is not a real gift from our heart, but an insincere “gift” of obligation or an attempt at manipulation. These are corruptions of the beautiful notion of gift.

Each of us human beings has been shown the models for giving in our Father in heaven and in Jesus, his Son. The gift of Christmas is the gift of love, bestowed and accepted. Our gifts to one another are the ongoing love story we live.