Don started off his sermon today, the Sunday before Christmas, with a few of the words from a popular, secular Christmas song, “Santa Baby.” It is pretty tongue in cheek, but it does get right to the American heart of making a Christmas list of wishes that defy gravity.
Contrast that, Don suggests, with another popular Christmas Song, “The Little Drummer Boy.” In this poetic piece, the boy is focused on Baby Jesus and feels he has nothing of significance to offer him, but nonetheless, offers to play his drum for the baby anyway.
So, Don asked, are we all about what we are getting at Christmas (or anytime) or are we focused on giving? And what does it mean to give? Shopping for the perfect gift that will surprise and delight?
Or, is giving about manifesting the Presence of God to someone? And how in the world do we accomplish that?
The essence of Emmanuel, “God with us” is that God is always with us. Although a simple, but profound truth, it tends to slip through our fingers. What is most important to grasp is that God is not defeated by our struggles, Don assured us. Therefore, he is not just with us when things seem right and are going good – the way we think of as being evidence of God’s favor, blessing or presence. But, always and everywhere, He is with us.
Now, back to how we manifest that presence…
By being with us, our salvation is “manifest.” Brought to light. Exhibited. Shown. Indicated. Displayed. Expressed. Evidenced. Revealed. Demonstrated. His presence with us as a people is expressed in our lives by our peace, joy, healing, growth, love, service, kindness, gratefulness, faith…not just in our success or when the good times roll, and definitely not in our stuff.
How did we get here? Wisemen brought gifts to Baby Jesus and now we all make lists of what we want from Santa. It is hard to draw a reasonable connection. As Christians, we have the power to take back the Holiday. Maybe not so much by preaching “Keep Christ in Christmas,” which always sounded mostly for others, surely not ourselves. But maybe we can take Christmas back by asking as Don prayed on Sunday, “Give us the grace to be manifestations of your Presence, O God.”
How do others manifest God’s presence to you? By persevering, serving, sharing, or forgiving? By being kind, patient, charitable, trusting or trustworthy? Or, by being gentle or joyful?
Don redirected us to a new/old perspective. We need to ask not what do I want for Christmas but what can I GIVE? Not what can I buy? But how can I manifest God’s presence?
Whatever we do for someone else, we do for him. Jesus is all grown up now. But he still invites us to come humbly to him as a baby, and just play our drum. For him.