December 15, 2002: Children’s Program

Let us pray: Dear Savior, we live in an uncertain world. We live with no real rocks, no constants to rely on and hold on to.—Except You! Your love for us never changes. Your compassion for us never flinches. And Your gifts to us never diminish. Today we have come to thank You for being our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen

TEXT: Luke 2: 12: “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Fellow Redeemed Sinners Uplifted By A Baby:

Have you wrapped those Christmas presents yet? And just why do we wrap Christmas presents? Yes, I know we want them to look nice arranged under the tree. But, isn’t the real reason for “keeping them under wraps” the fact that we don’t want to give away the surprise? Seeing a loved one rip off the wrapping and watching their expression when they see the gift beneath is part of the excitement of gift giving.

Once when I was little someone in my family (I don’t remember who) gave one of those “gift within a gift within a gift” packages. I think it was my sister Karen. In any case, she wrapped about 5 or 6 boxes which all fit inside each other. It was a fun time. I tore off wrapping only to find another wrapped present inside, then another, and another and another and another. I don’t remember the ultimate gift, but I do recall her joke on me! But, of course, in the end there was only one gift.

Today is our children’s Christmas program. Today they have appeared before you to announce the beauty and joy of God’s ultimate Christmas present: the baby Jesus. Like all presents, Jesus was “gift-wrapped” too. In fact, the angel used His wrapping, those “swaddling clothes”, to mark Him as God’s Savior to the shepherds. You see, God wanted the shepherds to find this special gift. He wanted no ambiguity. So, He sent an angel to give the shepherds, and us, specific instructions: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you, he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Well, those men followed those directions to a “T”. “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about. So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in a manger.” In short, they unwrapped their Christmas present! That was the end of it all. Or was it?
Jesus came to save sinners like the shepherds, you, and me. Jesus came to give His life for theirs and ours on the cross. Jesus came to die for us and to rise from the grave to give us a new lease on eternal life. All of this is ours simply by believing and trusting in the power and love of that Baby. But, God’s gift-giving doesn’t end there. For the more faith-filled people unwrap Jesus, the more gifts they will find. You see, the Christ-Child contains gifts within gifts within gifts.

What am I talking about? Remember when St. Paul under the Spirit’s inspiration talks about spiritual gifts? He even lists them. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Unwrapping the Baby Jesus through faith is kind of like peeling an onion. Each layer contains its own pungency and flavor, which in turn encapsulate more and more. When peeling an onion it’s natural to cry. There’s a chemical in onions that causes that reaction. When peeling away each gift of the Spirit contained in Christ we cry too. But those are tears of great joy!

No matter what bad things happen in your life—Christ proves that God still loves you. No matter what upset comes, you still possess peace of soul. No matter the frenetic pace of the holidays, patience is held out to you. No matter the surly attitude of others, that Baby is always kind to you. No matter the evil that intrudes, His goodness is there in the manger. No matter how many others let you down, He is always faithful to you. No matter the harshness of the business and political worlds, Christ offers you His gentleness. No matter how out-of-control your life seems, He gets you back on an even keel via His gift of self-control. Yes, ALL GOD’S GIFTS ARE WRAPPED UP IN THE BABY JESUS!

That’s the message of the angels. That’s the message of the kids today. And that’s my message, too. So when you begin to unwrap your Christmas presents this year, think of the greater meaning behind that colorful paper and ribbon. Think of Jesus, Who gives you gifts within gifts every single day. And when you do, frown lines and inner heartache will dissolve into smiles, laughter, and joy. Amen12