Pastor Sherry’s Christmas Eve Message
Scriptures: Gen 3:8-15; Isa 9:2-7; Isa 35:1-10; Mic 5:2-4; Lk 1:26-38; Lk 1:59-79; Titus 2:11-14
Some of us will leave here tonight to gather with family and open Christmas gifts. For others, your practice will be to wait until tomorrow, Christmas Day, to unwrap your presents. Once, when my husband was on a naval cruise to the Mediterranean, I left the tree up and presents unwrapped until he got home on Valentine’s Day! Whatever your tradition, I want to draw your attention to the fact that the original Christmas-gift-giver was God the Father. As Scripture says (Isaiah 9:6), For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son [God’s Son] is given….God sent His only begotten Son on a rescue mission to earth. The Father gifted us because of His great love for us. At the Father’s command, Jesus–the Person of the Trinity who spoke creation into existence—“clothed Himself in humanity,” took on human flesh. He arrived among us as a “wee baby,” an expression we use here in the South. Yet He was entrusted with a gigantic mission: to save us sinners from the penalty for our sins. And He completed that mission gracefully and completely, didn’t He?
Perhaps this Advent Season, you have heard played or sung a 12th century French carol called, “The Friendly Beasts.” In the song, each of several animals (that might have been found in the stable where Jesus was born), sings to the Christ child, presenting Him a gift to bring Him comfort. The lyrics are as follows:
Jesus, our Brother, strong and good…
Was humbly born in a stable rude,
And the friendly beasts around Him stood,
Jesus, our Brother, strong and good.
“I,” said the donkey, shaggy and brown,
“I carried His mother up hill and down;
I carried His mother to Bethlehem town.”
“I,” said the donkey, shaggy and brown.
“I,” said the cow all white and red,
“I gave Him my manger for His bed;
“I gave Him my hay to pillow His head.”
“I,” said the cow all white and red.
“I,” said the sheep with curly horn,
“I gave him my wool for His blanket warm;
“He wore my coat on Christmas morn.”
“I,” said the sheep with curly horn.
“I,” said the dove from the rafters high,
“I cooed Him to sleep so He would not cry;
We cooed Him to sleep, my love and I.”
“I,” said the dove from the rafters high.
Thus every beast by some good spell,
In the stable dark was glad to tell
Of the gift he gave Emmanuel,
The gift he gave Emmanuel.
The perspective is interesting, isn’t it? Like the little drummer boy in a more modern song, each friendly beast presents the only gift he/she has to set before the newborn king. The magi will show up later and present more costly gifts. But the first Christmas gifts were brought to Jesus…it was His birthday, after all. People and critters brought Him the best they had.
Some might think it’s childish or fanciful to think of animals gifting the Christ-child, but consider this:
a. In Numbers 22:28-30, the donkey belonging to Balaam, the pagan prophet, tells him a sword-carrying angel blocks their way (that donkey possessed more spiritual discernment than his master!).
b. Later, John reports that Jesus, during His earthly ministry, told the Pharisees that if He were to tell His disciples not to praise Him, the stones would cry out His name (Luke19:40).
c. Paul teaches in Romans 8:19: The whole creation [everything, hills, oceans, trees, animals] waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed [at the end of time]….Jesus Christ came to set humans free from the death penalty for sin—and He did! But animals and inanimate things are still held captive to decay.
d. Finally, Gabriel tells Mary, in Luke 1:37: For nothing is impossible with God! So, the animals who stood in the presence of the tiny King of the Universe may have truly known who He was. Giving Him gifts is improbable, perhaps, but not impossible.
If you were to present a gift to Jesus, what would it be? Can you bring Him the gift of your faith in Him? How about your willingness to obey Him? Are you ready to read Scripture regularly, to get to know Him better? How about spending more time with Him in prayer? Share what’s on your heart and mind, but also listen for His response. How about living a life-style pleasing to God? Can you give Him your obedience? Can you give Him your heart? The God of love wants our heart. The God of love wants our love.
This night, Our Savior has drawn near. Like the animals in the song, let’s remember a gift for baby Jesus. Then, come, let us adore Him.
©2021 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams