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Based on the Scripture readings:
Luke 2:1-14

2004 December 24
Christmas Eve
Rev. Kenneth F. Baily, Senior Pastor

Rapt Gifts

I have a confession to make. Although this is a rather public confessional. I am a little distracted tonight, and it is hard to concentrate. It could be the full moon or the chocolate, but I know better. With only four shopping hours left before Christmas, I have not yet wrapped my gifts. I own them, and we give very few of them in my family, but they aren't wrapped yet so my holiday anxiety is starting to peak.

Have you assembled everything so far? Have you wrapped everything?

I wonder where that tradition began, anyway: the tradition of wrapping a gift? In some ways it seems rather odd. If you have a wonderful gift, why conceal it, why do you cover it up? Why not show it to the whole world, expose it right from the start?

The Trojan horse was a big elaborate trick of wrapping paper. Although lots of people say that good things come in small packages. But why do we conceal things if they need no adornment? Anyway, I am nervous because I've still got work to do tonight.

Because the truth is, I like wrapping paper. I like the surprise, the expectation and the emergence that it affords. I like the way that it announces: something special is contained in here.

I think that my favorite Bible story about wrapping is the one about Jesus. Translators argue over the exact words, but Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes, which to be more precise means bits of cloth, which to be honest means rags. But he didn't just have this wrapping: he had a box, too. The box was Back to topa manger, and as much as has been made of this word over the years, much of it can miss the point.

We all know there was no room in the inn. But we can forget that the manger was often on the first floor of the inn, like in German farms to this day. The animals were just below the house level, and the manger was literally the trough, the feeding bin, where the animals ate. Some mangers were also in caves nearby. The feeding spot was carved out of the side of the cave, like the place where Jesus lay about 33 years later, so that image scares me a bit. But Jesus was wrapped in rags in a feeding bin.

The reason that I love this image so much is because it made so much sense to the first witnesses. To be honest, most of us don't have feeding bins in our homes. But the first witnesses were shepherds, remember? The first ones called by God's angels in the dark of the night who went in haste were animal people, and they understood feeding bins.

I wonder if they got the symbolism? God is all wrapped up in what sustains you. Even if you can't read or travel or discuss philosophy, God is in your presence in the thing that you most recognize. God is coming to feed you. I wonder if they got that, from the manger?

Anyway, I think that's the best wrapping story from any Christmas. It contained quite a gift. But if God was coming this year, I wonder how Jesus would be wrapped? In our feeding bin: our kitchen? Or at our office, our bank, our vacation home? Maybe in a shelter. What do we understand best? Where do we recognize God, and get it?

Isaiah said it twice: for unto us a child is born; unto us a son is given. Us, and what we understand, are such important values to God. They're even part of Jesus' name, for Emmanuel means "God with us." In love, in peace, in a call to service.

In the end God's gift was not covered with adornment but with adoration. In the end, God wasn't concealing anything but revealing it. I wonder how God will wrap this up so that we can understand?  I won't. But keep your eyes open: this night is full of surprises.  Amen.Back to top

Copyright 2004 Kenneth F. Baily.  Used by permission.

Parent page ] Sermon "Sacred Vessels" ] Sermon "No System to Save" ] Sermon "Entitled to be Thankful" ] Sermon "Welcome Food" ] Sermon "Waking Devotion" ] Sermon "Sitting at the Welcome Table" ] Sermon "Table Manners" ] Sermon "Speaking of God" ] Sermon "Singing New Songs" ] Sermon "Prepare the Way" ] Sermon "Here-ing God" ] Sermon "The Possibility of Possibility" ] Sermon "Sweet Creations" ] Sermon "Not at All Dead" ] Sermon "Planning, Praising and Pondering Palms" ] Sermon "March for Life" ] Sermon "Imagination, Dreams, and Vision" ] Sermon "Following the Magi" ] Sermon "Pushing Christmas" ] Sermon "Forecasts" ] Sermon "Ready for Christmas" ] Sermon "God in the Middle" ] Sermon "The Days to Come, the One to Come" ] Sermon "Earthly Healing" ] Sermon "Digesting Communion" ] Sermon "The Change of Prayer" ] Sermon "Unbreakable Body" ] Sermon "Seeing Clearly" ] Sermon "Right for Present" ] Sermon "A Change Agent" ] Sermon "What is Sabbath" ] Sermon "In Memory of Hope" ] Sermon "These Baptisms are Killing Us" ] Sermon "Wanting Prayer" ] Sermon "Last Minute Gifts" ] Sermon "Praying Well = Praying Much" ] Sermon "Peace Repent, Peace Remember" ] Sermon "Choosing Church" ] Sermon "A Model Church" ] Sermon "The Empire Struck Back" ] Sermon "Love is Patient and Primary" ] Sermon "Manifestations" ] Sermon "The Green Grace of God" ] Sermon "Signs of Sacred Things" ] Sermon "A Deal with the Future" ] Sermon "Free from Fear" ] Sermon "To Carry Each Other" ] Sermon " With God in Death; with Each Other in Dying" ] Sermon "Healing Prayers" ] Sermon "Facing God's Miracle" ] Sermon "Finding All Three" ] Sermon "Controlling Christmas" ] Sermon "Finding Jesus" ] Sermon "God as a Baby" ] Sermon "What Does It Mean" ] Sermon "Katrina's New Covenant Call" ] Sermon "Elevate your Expectations" ] Sermon "See: the Healing" ] Sermon "Lifeless Chaos and Living Creation" ] [ Sermon "Rapt Gifts" ] Sermon "Welcome to Reality" ] Sermon "Offering Up Thanks" ] Sermon "Blue State Blues" ] Sermon "Are we not entitled to thanks?" ] Sermon "Ancient Pieces of Peace" ] Sermon "Noticing Neighbors" ] Sermon "A Summer Day of Renewal" ] Sermon "A New Thing" ] Sermon "Breath of New Life" ] Sermon "Easter" ] Sermon "Sin: Currently Tense" ] Sermon "Why Are You Angry?" ] Sermon "Anxiety over Sin" ] Sermon "A Marriage Grade in Heaven?" ] Sermon "Isn't Marriage Gay?" ] Sermon "Expanding the Body of Christ" ] Sermon "Miracles:  Seeing More in our Midst" ] Sermon "Turning to God" ] Sermon "Why are You in Churchl" ] Sermon "Remember your Baptism" ] Sermon "Every Day Spirituality" ] Sermon "The Cross and Joy of Love" ] Sermon "Welcome Back" ] Sermon "Living Together" ] Sermon "Transforming Destruction" ] Sermon "The Work of Healing" ] Sermon "Peace" ]