This homily for Christmas was preached in 2009
There was once a young married couple who lived about a hundred years age. These two young people were very much in love. And like most young people in love, they had very little money. Now Christmas was approaching and each had found the perfect gift for the other. The young man owned silver fob watch that had belonged to his father and before that his grandfather. It was his pride and joy. The young women had beautiful long dark hair which she combed and brushed and took great delight in. The gifts were therefore easy. She found a silver chain, perfect for the fob watch. And he found a gold pin studded with little rubies, perfect for her hair. The problem was, neither had any money. They scrimped and saved for their gifts, but neither had enough money to buy their gifts Yet on Christmas morning, both the silver chain and the gold pin were under the Christmas tree. For the young man sold his heirloom watch to buy his young wife the gold pin; and the young woman wife cut her beautiful hair to buy her husband the silver chain. Each gave away what was most precious to them, happily, freely, and without regret for the sake of the one they loved.
This is what we celebrate at Christmas, a God who gives away what is most precious to him. The gift he offers to us is the gift of himself, the gift of Jesus Christ our Savior. For, as the prophet Isaiah proclaims today, a child is born to us, a Son is given to us, on his shoulders dominion rests. The one who is Emmanuel, God-with-us. For the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-glorious God wanted to be more than our Creator and Lord. He wanted to experience human life as we experience it in all of its richness, our joys and our sorrows, our struggles and our successes, our worries and our trust. He could not share our life as God, but only as a human being. So he gave away what was most precious, the gift of himself that he might become truly one of us, the most fragile, vulnerable, and dependent of all God’s creatures, the child of Bethlehem. Not simply to know what we know, but to save us and to make us like himself. To transform our lives so that our weaknesses would be turned into strength, our fears would give way to hope, and our sorrows, our disappointments, our sickness, and our failures, would be transformed into unshakeable trust in the power of God to heal us.
So each Christmas we exchange gifts to remind ourselves of the One who gave himself to us as a gift. A gift that is present in the Word that was proclaimed today. A gift that we will share in the bread and wine that has become his Body and Blood, in the gift of his presence among us, whether we are Catholics, Protestants, or Jews. For we are all his children. Yet our gifts do more than remind us of God’s gift to us in Christ, they urge us to imitate that young couple who gave away the most precious thing they possessed, to do what God does who gave away himself for us. So this Christmas we offer to each other a consoling word to those who grieve, a warm smile to those who has a heavy heart, an attentive ear to those who have no one to listen, a patient response to those who can get under skin at times, a joyful heart to those who need to celebrate.
In this way we continue to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah, a people who walk in darkness have seen a great light. We make real the promise of Emmanuel, God-with-us. And in this way we make ourselves truly the disciples of Jesus the Christ, the one who gave away his most precious gift, the gift of himself that you and I might have a share in his peace, in his healing power, and in his unbounded love for us.