St. Mary’s Nanoose Bay Christmas Eve
7pm, December 24, 2019
Christmas is a birthday. The birthday of Jesus, the one who came to show us the way to love and peace; to save us from being enslaved by hatred, jealousy, fear and idolatry. So each year we celebrate the coming of God into the world, to remind ourselves of the gift he is to us and our world.
And that’s what birthdays are meant to do - to celebrate the arrival of a new person in our midst; a child, a brother or sister, a cousin or grandchild. At a birthday celebration, we give thanks for that person’s presence in our lives and in the world. And we celebrate the gifts they, uniquely, have been given to share with the world. And we shower the birthday person with gifts to let them know how special they are to us. So this the divine exchange – giving thanks for the person we love, and acknowledging the gifts they bring to us. We celebrate how blessed we are to be receiving life, and celebrating as well, how blessed we are to be sharing the life that is in us.
Here’s a story for you about the kind of giving and receiving that Christmas, and divine love are all about. So gather round - (with a nod to O. Henry and thanks to the inspiration!)
Once upon a time there was a family who lived way out in the country. A mother and a father and Steven, a boy of 10 and Rayna, a girl of 14. The brother and sister were each other’s best friend. They did have other friends, but in the country, especially in the evenings, they were mostly home together.
This was a happy family. But a family with little money. The children helped with farm chores but they didn’t receive an allowance; the family budget couldn’t afford it.
Nothing was wasted in their home. And everything lovingly taken care of. The family didn’t have a lot of the modern entertainment gadgets other families had, but the family spent their evenings playing board games and especially enjoyed making music together. Both parents played guitar, Steven kept rhythm on a well worn bongo drum and Rayna played the flute.
Christmas was approaching, It was the day before and it was time for their annual Christmas shopping trip into the city. Everyone was excited. They dressed up for the occasion. Rayna spent a long time in the shower and then curled her long brown hair into an updo and tucked into her favourite knitted hat.
Their father prepared a special breakfast of waffles and bacon while mother prepared her shopping list.
“I’m going to do my chores,” Steven announced, grabbing his skateboard to skate to the barn. The wheels made a terrible sound. They were pretty much worn out. As soon as his chores were done, he jumped on his bike and raced to his neighbours. “Is Tyler here?” he asked as Tyler’s mom answered the door. She turned and called up the stairs, “Tyler, Steven’s here.” Tyler bounded down the stairs, there was a quick exchange and then both boys were grinning. “Merry Christmas, Tyler!” Merry Christmas, Stevie!” Steven jumped on his bike and raced home, just in time to sit down with his family and tuck into waffles drowned in syrup and crispy bacon.
After a quick clean up of the dishes, they went out to brush the snow off the truck and defrost the windshield to start the hour long drive into the city.
Once in the city, they parked at the large mall. The family split up with the agreement to meet at noon in the food court. “Wait,” the mother passed Steven and Rayna an envelope and inside they found $25 to help them with their shopping. They beamed at her. “Thanks Mom and Dad!” they exclaimed. $25 wouldn’t go very far but both Rayna and Steven weren’t worried. They knew what they were going to buy, they had been planning for weeks. Steven was going to buy his sister the kind of jeweled hair clasp all her friends were wearing. Stephen thought his sister was so beautiful and kind and wanted her to feel special. So that morning he had traded his beloved skate board to his friend Tyler in exchange for $20. That would be just enough to buy the green sparkly clips that he thought would shine like her eyes.
Rayna waited until the family dispersed before she made her way to the hair salon where she had made an appointment. “Are you completely sure?” the hairdresser asked as she wrapped the cape around Rayna. Rayna nodded, her heart swelling.
Leaving the hair dressers, Rayna crossed directly to the sportstore and made a purchase there and to the department store to make 2 more. At noon the family gathered, excited but unable to share their secrets. They would have to wait until Christmas morning.
Christmas morning finally arrived. After a quick breakfast of Christmas muffins and hot chocolate, the family gathered around the tree. The presents were distributed one by one.
The first gift went to Mother, who was delighted to receive new strings for her guitar and a music book. Steven and Rayna insisted Father be next. He shook the very long thin package wondering “Is this a new chainsaw?” and they all laughed. Because inside was a brand new fishing rod.
Rayna was next – Steven couldn’t sit still. He came to stand by her shoulder. As she opened the giftbox inside and gasped at the beautiful hair clasp inside, he pulled off her knitted hat. “Voila!” and the whole family stared. Crinkled up to her face were short brown curls, just reaching below her ears.
“Rayna,” they all shouted, “what have you done with your long beautiful hair?” Rayna didn’t answer, but handed her brother the gift she had bought him. Steven unwrapped his gift and stared at it. Inside were a new set of skateboard wheels for the skateboard he loved and had worn. “I sold Tyler my skateboard so I could buy the hair clasp for you,” he said. “And I sold my hair so I could buy the skateboard wheels for you,” Rayna replied. The room was very quiet for a moment. And then Rayna stood up to give her brother a big hug, “You are the best brother in the world,” she said. Allowing himself to be hugged just for a moment, Steven stepped back and pulled on one of his sister’s curls, “And you, Sis, you are the best too!” That was a Christmas that family always remembered. The best Christmas ever.
I hope this Christmas is one you will remember, where you treasure the gift of life, of new beginnings, of being able to share deeply with others. Amen.