Christmas Eve Meditation

It is interesting to me how so much of Christmas has become about the gifts, which comes with a certain amount of anxiety as well as a sense of anticipation of the expression that will be on the faces of those we give to, as well as the sense of affirmation we might receive in being given a most thoughtful gift. It doesn’t matter that we know this celebration is coming every year for Christians, many of us still wait until the last few weeks or days (or hours maybe) to search out a meaningful gift.

The few times I have been super organized and bought something during a summer sale, I usually forget about it and rediscover the item months after Christmas. As I age, I have also noticed that I am quite forgetful about what gifts I have given to others over the years, even though I try to put a lot of thought into my purchases. I have become more aware of this reality now that my mother is trying to put names on cherished items around her home that might be regifted to us in the future.

Many of course feel that burden of guilt for being part of the consumer vortex, buying too much stuff, being snared by that sense that we need to do more to show our love and affection, that we need a gift that is eco-friendly, that we need to be more aligned to the person’s need or sense of delight….. I guess it is too late for this year, but the United Church web site for Advent in a section called Advent Unwrapped offered a very thoughtful shopping guide called the “Buy less Christmas Shopping Guide for All Ages”.

For those of you who still need to find some sort of gift but won’t quite make it to the Superstore before midnight there are some great ideas, for example offering childminding, yard work, painting and repairing, creating a book of coupons for services your loved one can redeem at anytime. I love the ideas for gifts for kids in your life such as:

  • Collecting your favourite books from when you were their age, either re-gifted or found at Grant’s little library for instance (which you could do right after worship tonight!)
  • Assembling a kit that enables them to participate at home: a basket of baking gear, a toolbox, their own bucket of cleaning supplies, a small snow shovel

(of course there may be a few people that might want to give them to a spouse, partner or room mate to give them that gentle nudge)

But tonight is not the time to be visiting our anxieties about gift-giving and receiving on a practical level, but to find that place within us that opens to the presence of our God, our Divine Creator, to contemplate the gifts that God wants to give to each one of us. We know the story so well as told to us by Luke and also by Matthew about the birth of Jesus, each story quite different, neither story really holding up under historic scrutiny, yet each version of the birth story is laden with such rich symbolic meaning that speaks into the hopes and fears that each of us carries in our hearts from the sheer fact of being human with all of our vulnerabilities and possibilities.

Of course, there is nothing so magical and awe-inspiring as seeing and holding a newborn child in our arms, that miraculous gift of new life that both tears our hearts open and calls forth our deepest love, perhaps experiencing a depth of love we have never known before. As you know, I have been so blessed to become a grandmother again with the birth a grandson called Izzie (Isadore- which sounds a lot like ‘I adore’), a son for Jess and Micah, and when I hold him in my arms and gaze at his tiny little face, there is such a flood of emotions and wonderings about what the future will hold for this child. It’s a feeling shared for all of the children being born into our world at this time with all of our fears about creation itself, the migration of millions of people seeking a peaceful place to live, the needs for housing for families and nutritious food, the possibility of meaningful work…..

So whether you are blessed to actually hold a newborn child, or through your contemplation you can imagine the children now being born, especially those being born in UN refugee camps, or in prisons at the edges of national borders, back in your own home country, in hotel rooms here in Ottawa where homeless families are sheltered or even in the comfort of homes with all the amenities….I feel that God calls us to discover within us our deepest hopes for the future… for our world, for our families, for our personal lives….

What are those things that you most hope for……if you can only find anxiety and fear within you as you reflect, then try to turn those fears in positives, to imagine the antidote to those fears which then become the blueprint for your plans for the future.

Now imagine that the child placed within your arms and your heart is indeed God’s own child – Jesus- Emmanuel- God’s own self taking flesh as you embrace God’s hopes and dreams for you….for this world……This gift of Jesus Christ is the most precious gift you will ever receive for it is the gift of pure love….love without judgement…..love without limits or conditions…..love and spirit which can sustain your hope throughout your life, a love which will continue seeking you out even when you find yourself lost in some wilderness, stuck in sorrow or despair, loneliness or confusion…..the Spirit of Christ will be born in you to give you the vision and the energy to keep moving forward with your life, helping you to become the most creative, imaginative and loving person that you could ever possibly be.

And so tonight we are invited to accept this amazing gift that God, known to us as our Heavenly Father or our Heavenly Mother wants to give to us – a gift of grace – and to pray both as individuals but also as a community of faith with open hearts and hands to have the courage to welcome Christ into our lives . With expectant hearts may we pray-

Holy One,

Give us the courage to welcome Christ into every part of our lives,

So that, like Mary, we will hope for a better world,

Like Elizabeth, the Shepherds, and the Holy Family,

We will be brave and bold in our living,

Like the innkeeper and animals, we will be welcoming of others, And like the magi, we will present our best selves.

May we always be ready to welcome, Emmanuel, Christ with us. Amen