The Greatest Gift of All
These readings are traditionally used during the Christmas Day service in many liturgical churches.
Homily for Adults
Christmas is an exciting time. Children have been anticipating the day all year. The Jewish people were waiting for their Messiah for a very long time. In fact, they had not heard from a prophet for four-hundred years. Were they now ready to hear directly from God? Are we ready?
Can we imagine how excited the shepherds were when they heard a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” (Luke 2:14)
The shepherd could not have fully understood what the angels were saying, but they did not sit idly by:
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. (Luke 2:15-16)
The message to the shepherds is a universal message from God. How do we respond to it today? We are talking about the greatest gift of all. Do we receive it? Do we unwrap it? Children do not need to be told to unwrap their presents.
The Apostle Paul helps us unwrap God’s gift:
When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4)
Part of unwrapping Christmas is understanding and receiving the new birth in Christ. This gift from God is for each one of us, but we must acknowledge it with thanksgiving. We cannot take it for granted. It is not meant to be set aside and forgotten.
An often neglected part of unwrapping Christmas is the receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit is for our renewal. God will pour his Spirit on us and into us. This is the Spirit which leads us into all truth and fully explains all that Jesus has taught us and is still teaching us.
If we have received God’s gift, then we, like the shepherds, will have cause for great celebration:
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (Luke 2:20)
Are we excited about the greatest gif of all enough to want to unwrap it and share it with others?
Homily for Children
Gather the children together up near the altar. Give them a chance to settle down and feel comfortable.
Homilist: Do you enjoy getting gifts at Christmas?
Homilist: Do you like unwrapping them?
Kids: Of course!
Homilist: How can you tell that a gift is yours?
Kids: It has my name on it.
Homilist: Would you like to wait a little while before opened your gifts?
Homilist: What would you do with a gift when it has been opened?
Kids: We would look at it and maybe play with it!
Homilist: What if you got the Greatest Gift of all time and your name was written to it? Would you not unwrap it?
Kids: No way!
Homilist: Now remember that you have to send thank-you notes to everyone who has given you a gift.
Kids; Yeah, we know. But what about that gift you were talking about? What kind of gift is it?
Homilist: It is a gift from God.
Kids: Wow! What is it?
Homilist: The birth of His Son Jesus who came to the earth for us.
Kids: Oh! The baby Jesus.
Homilist: Why is His birth important?
Kids: Because He came to save us?
Homilist: Yes. Do you think everyone who knows about this gift should unwrap it?
Kids: If their name was on it.
Homilist: Everyone’s name is on this gift!
Kids: What do you mean unwrap it?
Homilist: Take it out of the box and play with it.
Kids: Jesus wants to play with us?
Homilist: Yes, and after we do we should send Him a thank-you note.
Kids: Can you send a note to heaven?
Homilist: He is listening to us and He is always with us. If we just say we are thankful He would hear us.
Kids: Oh! When should we thank Him?
Homilist: Every day. Wouldn’t it be sad if someone didn’t open God’s gift?
Kids: No way. They have to open it.
Homilist: I want to read a verse from scripture to you:
Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:4-8)
Homilist: Do you see that grace is a gift of God?
Kids: Yes. But do we really have to send God a thank-you note?
Homilist: Let me read you this scripture:
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10)
Homilist: God needs us to thank Him with our mouths.
Kids: Can we do that now?
Homilist: Yes, and at each new day we need to thank him for the greatest gift of all.
Obviously this homily is not a script to be memorized by the children. It will not do the homilist any good to memorize it either, because at some point our listeners are going to take off on a tangent. This advice from our Lord apples:
“Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” (Luke 12:11-12)
What is desired is a dialogue with the children. They are a fearsome force to face, but with patience, listening carefully what the children may be saying, and waiting on the Holy Spirit, some good may emerge. We need to have courage and place ourselves fully in the hands of the Lord.