The Ultimate Gift of Christmas


(Following is the homily I delivered at this year’s Lessons & Carols service)

Do you remember?

Can you recall Christmas of bygone years?

After hanging glass ornaments on the freshly cut tree

You inhaled the fragrance of pine or spruce

Threads of tinsel and glass bulbs twinkled

The resplendence of tinfoil seraphs

A Pottery Barn-like-glow in the fireplace

You grabbed a mug of hot cocoa with miniature marshmallows

And considered the contents of those red velvet stockings

Garland, eggnog, poinsettias, spritz baking cookies in the oven

The sound of Bing Crosby crooning and sleigh bells ringing

These are the sensations of Christmas

I wonder how the Shepherds of Bethlehem remembered Christmas. How did they recollect their experience from that fateful night? How did they recount the story to one another in years to come?

Here is D.S. Martin’s suggestion, in his poem titled “Shepherd”

On clear cold nights, when distant stars speckle the sky
& woodsmoke goes straight up & disappears
a dozen constellations to my eyes
are a blur when I think back through the years
to when the angel spoke to us that night
joined by the brilliant vast angelic choir
which overcame our senses, with such light
& planted in each man the same desire
that prodded us, till we reached Bethlehem
& led us to an unmarked cattle shed
We stumbled in, and startled both of them
those parents by the baby’s manger bed
The townsfolk were astounded by our story
of uncouth shepherds blessed to see God’s glory

I wonder, have YOU been blessed to see God’s glory?

Have you approached the manger to see for yourself? Not as a detached observer, but like the shepherd of old; an active participant?

Have your eyes fallen upon the mystery of grace? Have you seen the infant King, taking his first breath–the One who existed from eternity?

No child born that night appeared to have lower prospects. Surrounded by the stench of livestock and manure, God’s son came not as a prince, but as a pauper.


The baby grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

And in the fullness of time, he became our Savior–the Lamb of God who would give his life as a sacrifice, nailed to a Roman cross, as the one valid offering for sin.

And then, when it seemed all hope was gone, God raised him from the dead, and enthroned him at the heights of heaven.

This, my friends, is the good news of Advent.

Have you looked upon him, this Jesus Christ? Not as a detached observer, but as a sinner in need of a Savior?

Such is the ultimate gift of Christmas.

Share this article on…

More Articles

The Gift We Overlook

Early Christians saw themselves as the manifestation of Christ in the world. According to sociologist Rodney Stark, this understanding of Christ’s body fueled the church’s

Read More »

Preaching and Prayer

Augustine of Hippo (354-430)—famous bishop, pastor, theologian, and philosopher—was a superlative preacher. In On Christian Teaching, he shares with his brother pastors his meditations on the

Read More »