Readings: Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26:35; Luke 2:1-7; Luke 2:8-20; Matthew 2:1-11
Since becoming a father, Christmas has made its way to the top of my favorite holidays. You see, a few years ago, Kathleen and I decided to rethink Christmas. We’ve turned it into a day that we call “Yes Day.” Yes Day is the one time of the year where we say yes to everything. As long as the kids don’t ask to burn down the house or want to practice throwing knives at one another, then “No” is not an option.
Of course, the kids also have to say yes to what ever we ask of them; like taking a few more pictures by the Christmas tree or washing their hands before they eat another bag of potato chips. By saying ‘yes’ to the fun and the not so fun stuff, the household is soon filled with the perfect Christmas spirit. There are no fights over toys. There is no complaining over who gets to do what. And there is no resentment or anger, simply because we chose to say “Yes” instead of “No.” For one day in our house, there is truly Peace on Earth.
This time of year it’s always good to remember the words of Jesus who said “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Giving does have its rewards. We see it on a child’s face as he opens a special gift he’d been hoping for. But in order for that child to experience such joy…requires him to first receive the gift that is being offered. He has to say “yes, I will take it!” before he can open it.
Tonight we have come to celebrate the giving of God’s greatest gift, the Incarnate Christ. Such a gracious gift would be meaningless if we did not receive it freely… and accept it willingly. And so I would like to invite you to rethink Christmas Day as a day to say “Yes” to God’s most perfect gift of love. I don’t know about you, but when someone gives me gift I feel so obligated to give one in return. This seems to be the normal practice in a world of proper etiquette.
The question to ponder tonight is this: Where does one even go to find the perfect present for the One who gave the world eternal salvation? The Mall? I think not. I have not stepped foot in a mall, in December, since I discovered Amazon Prime four years ago. So naturally I went online.
I began with baby items. Rock Star themed outfits are still trending, but it’s hard to imagine little baby Jesus in a black onesie with AC/DC’s “Highway To Hell” logo printed across his chest. Since the Magi brought gold to the newborn king, I thought jewelry might be a nice touch. While browsing for religious necklaces, it dawned on me that I was not going to be the one who gives Jesus a golden cross to wear. My son suggested a gift card, but I remembered my wife once told me, “Why do I need a gift card when I have your credit card.” On so many levels she’s right. God already has everything at his disposal. And so I kept searching, looking for that one thing that God doesn’t already have.
Believe it or not, I found it at Meijer. (You really can find everything there) It was in the check out line, next to trashy magazines and various flavors of chewing gum, that I saw an abandoned box of Christmas cards with the words, “Peace on Earth.” My eyes lit up and my heart started to pound. You would have thought I had just met that angel who came to Joseph, and Mary, and the shepherds. I stared at that lonely little box. “Peace on Earth.” As I read it, I realized what God wants from us is for us to receive the very thing that God gives. God wants us to say ‘yes’ to the gift of Peace that flows from God’s everlasting love. The peace that comes with knowing we are saved through God’s grace in Christ Jesus, the one and only Prince of Peace.
Sadly, not all will accept this amazing present. Not everyone will say yes to God’s love. And so the world continues to exist in chaos, without true peace. Maybe it’s you. Or someone close to you. Perhaps you know someone like Herod, who fears God’s peace and will try to control it or even go out of their way to destroy it. But God’s love is greater than any hatred or pain or suffering they can dish out. They don’t want to believe that even when the world looks as if it is coming to an end, God’s love endures forever. It is in this everlasting love that God places peace in our hearts, in our homes, in our communities, and into the entire created order. And so Christmas is a day of receiving God’s peace by simply saying, “Yes.”
By saying yes, we give God what God desires the most. Joseph said yes. Mary said yes. They might not have asked for it, or even understood completely what was given to them, but they received the gift faithfully.
Like the shepherds, the Magi were going about their business when they found themselves startled by what they saw in the heavens. A star so amazing that they would pack up a caravan and follow it into a foreign country. It is doubtful they would have known about the ancient promises of Israel’s prophets or could comprehend the concept of a Messiah born to save the world. They were simply drawn to a star and understood it as the sign of something monumental. And so these wise men said, “Yes” and followed the light to Bethlehem. If you were to ask me, I’d say the bright star in the night sky is the real rock star in our Bible story. It is more than just a remote incandescent body of light. It is God’s imprint in the night sky that guided the Magi to the Christ. And it’s in this light that we are drawn closer to God, who illuminates a path of peace in a dark and often scary world.
What if the Magi had said, “No?” What if they remained in the safety and security of their own country instead of facing a jealous and fearsome ruler like Herod? They could have easily studied the movements of the star from their far away land. But instead they followed this brilliant and mysterious light. They said yes, even when they did not fully comprehend why they were doing what they were doing. The Bible suggests they had been traveling for some time, and when they found the Christ child he was living in a simple home, not in King’s palace. There were no servants, only tired parents to care for their infant son. Bowing before the child, they offer their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh; each one highly symbolic to the joyful and resounding “Yes” that Jesus said to God.
Let’s look at those gifts they brought. The gift of gold, that precious commodity that is still desired today, is the gift of a king. As the King of all Creation, Jesus will rule not by force, but by love. He will rule over our hearts, not from a throne but from a cross. Jesus said, “Yes” to becoming the precious commodity of all life; he is the gold, which we desire. Frankincense is the gift of priesthood. As our divine priest, Jesus is the bridge for the entire world to enter into God’s heavenly kingdom. In saying, “Yes” Jesus becomes a servant King who prepares our way back to God’s faithful righteousness. And then there was Myrrh; an ointment used in preparing the body for burial. It is the gift of one who is to die. Jesus came into this world to live for us,… and in the end, to die for us; to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins.
Jesus said “Yes” to God without condition. “Yes,” knowing he would suffer under Pontius Pilot. “Yes,” knowing he would be crucified and buried. And yes he would rise again, transforming death into eternal life. God gives us this gift of eternal life without condition. So then why would we say anything less than “Yes” and joyfully accept this amazing present? The gift of peace that each person receives…brings us that much closer to the Peace on Earth that God desires most. If you want it, simply say, “Yes” and it’s yours. Merry Christmas and Happy Yes Day to you all.
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”