Aside from Easter sunrise, Christmas Eve is my favorite service. There’s just something about the hushed reverence that falls over a congregation when it’s meeting at a time that it does not normally meet in order to worship in an especially meaningful way. I have been thinking and planning for what I would say tonight for a very long time, but in the end, it’s really not about what I say or how I say it. This is a story we have all heard before. The importance of a special service such as this one is the experience of worship.
With that in mind, I would like to read you all a story that I think will help us all remember why we are here. This is The Legend of the Poinsettia, retold and illustrated by Tomie dePaola. I’d like to invite all of the kids forward so they can see the beautiful illustrations in this book.
<<You all look so nice. Did you dress up special for tonight? How come?>>
Well, I’d like to tell you a story about a little girl just like you who wanted to bring something special to worship the Baby Jesus.
Her name is Lucida …
<<Tomorrow when you open all of your presents, I want you to remember Lucida and how much she enjoyed bringing a gift to God. And remember what a gift you brought to God just by being here tonight.>>
I used to swim on the swim team when I was a young girl, and I was so excited when my Dad made it to the meet to watch me swim. There was one meet in particular where I was starting to get pretty good at swimming and I swam better than I ever had, but I came in second. I felt so defeated, so heart-broken. All I wanted was to take that one blue ribbon and give it to my dad and tell him that it was for him. I went over to show him my red ribbon, and as I showed it to him, my throat swelled up and I couldn’t speak because of the tears I was holding back. My dad pretended not to see my tears, gave me a big hug and told me that he had never seen me swim so well. He told me that he was very proud of me. Like Lucida, I had felt like I messed everything up because it wasn’t like I imagined it in my head. It took me years to truly appreciate what a wonderful gift of love my dad had given me in that moment.
In truth, all of us are like Lucida and me at some point. We want so much to do everything right, to make everyone happy, to do or make something of worth. In the end, we (like Lucida) discover that it is not about what we bring to Christ. It is that we come to Christ with what we have. The Christmas story is a timeless story of God’s love for us. The Christian worship service (and this night, in particular) is a story of our love for God. The very fact that Christ came to live and dwell with us tells us we are of worth to God. That even though we may tangle the yarns of our lives miserably, Christ will take what we bring to him and allow our lives to bloom in radiance. The very, very good news of Christmas is news of great joy, peace, and hope. And it is news of an unending love, eternally given in Christ our Lord. Alleluia and Amen!