I want to welcome you here tonight. This is our spiritual home, built with many sacrifices. Here children are born to new life, here we perform the burial rites for those who die. Here every Sunday God gives us new life and a love that will never pass away.
In the 1947 film, The Bishop’s Wife, the Bishop tells his congregation, “Tonight I want to tell you the story of an empty stocking. Once upon a midnight clear, there was a child’s cry, a blazing star hung over a stable, and wise men came with birthday gifts.
We haven’t forgotten that night down the centuries; we celebrate it with stars on Christmas trees, with the sound of bells, and with gifts, but especially with gifts. You give me a book, I give you a sweater, Aunt Kathy has always wanted an IPad and Uncle Henry can do with a new Keuric Coffee Maker.
We don’t forget anybody, adult or child.
All the stockings are filled, all that is, except one. And we have even forgotten to hang it up, the stocking for the child born in a manger.
It’s his birthday we’re celebrating after all. Don’t let us ever forget that. But let us ask ourselves what He would wish for most. And then, let each one of us put in his share: charity, joy, peace, patience, loving kindness, goodness, patient suffering, mildness, faith, modesty, contentment, chastity and warm hearts that can stretch out and embrace even those who are alien to us. All the shinning gifts that make peace on earth and goodwill toward men.”
My friends, these are the things that matter, not the book, or the sweater or the IPod.
Look in the manger. See there the poverty of the Child Jesus and ask yourselves tonight, do I need these material things to be like Him?
With all the things I worry about. With all the anxiety and impatience that surrounds me. What is it I really need to take his place in this cave of poverty, peace and serenity?
This day, Jesus is calling you to discover the gifts within you like wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord. With these we may not have gifts to fill stockings but we will have gifts to fill hearts – and aren’t they the most important gifts of all.
Merry Christmas to you all, and may your hearts beam with the Light of this humbled Child who comes for you this night to show you the dawn of a new day.