Christmas Eve                                          Dec. 24, 2021                            St. John, New Orleans

Well, the day is finally here! 

We moved here this past January 

and with everything that has been going on in our lives and in the world, 

we’ve been really, really busy getting our house set up like we like it,

making repairs and a few minor improvements that were necessary.

We even had our ductworks cleaned on Tuesday

And Susan’s mother has finally arrived in New Orleans to visit us and see our house, 

Over the year we’ve gone out to some of the great restaurants we have here in New Orleans 

and we’ve taken several of our visitors to the World War Two museum and City Park! 

Oh yeah and it's Christmas Eve today.  Who could forget that?

Yeah, who could forget? But you know what life has been like recently too, don’t you? 

You know, getting the house ready for guests. 

Attending holiday parties and buying presents for your coworkers and others you want to remember. 

And of course, tax time is just around the corner, and you've got all those receipts lying around you need to get organized. 

And with all the warm weather recently, I even had to mow the weeds, I mean my lawn, again. 

Maybe you've hung lights on the House?  And that took a couple of afternoons. 

And through it all, it's easy to forget why we do all this stuff.

So, let's look again to the epistle lesson for tonight. 

Sure, the Old Testament gives us prophecy of the Messiah, 

And the gospel gives us the how and when of Jesus birth, 

but Titus gives us the “why.” 

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people.” 

Grace: the love of God that we don't deserve. 

It saves us all, 

and then Titus describes the life change that comes to those who are saved.

There is a Christmas song titled, “love came down at Christmas.” 

and that's what Jesus’s birth truly was: 

it was his love for sinners made in the flesh 

so that we could see and know him as one of us 

so that when he died for us on the cross 

we would identify with that act of punishment in our stead,

and respond in gratefulness and faith. 

And so, each Christmas, we reflect on, and celebrate, that love of God for all humanity. 

And when one receives love, one should at least acknowledge it and, if possible, reciprocate it. 

John 3:16 tells us that God so loved the world that he gave his only son. 

He did that so that the world would be forgiven by his sacrifice on the cross. 

And Jesus said, “love one another as I have loved you.” 

and to pray, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

And so, if we really look at the religious significance of the holiday 

we realize that the holiday was not given to us for us to enjoy the celebration, 

rather, we offer up to God the celebration in response to his great love and the gift of his son. 

Without Christ, there is no Christmas for the world to celebrate. 

If Jesus had not yet come in the Manger, 

Pagan rituals of winter solstice would rule the night, 

and fear of darkness would rule the day. 

But with the Manger comes the cross. 

And by its deadly outcome, 

life and salvation for every other person was assured 

so that those who approach the grave do not fear its darkness 

but, instead, look forward to the glorious resurrection from that temporary rest,

And an eternity spent at Jesus side, rather than apart from him in hell.

And so, in the truest form of the holiday, Christmas is not about us and what we do for each other, 

rather it is about what God has done for us. 

And, therefore, the gifts we give should not only include him and his church, 

but all our gifts should give glory to God 

and acknowledge his everlasting and total love for us in sending the Messiah when he did.

Generosity and service at Christmastime are not new concepts. 

People have giving to the Salvation Army and other entities that do good works for years. 

And every single nonprofit you can think of sends you a letter or an email appealing to that sense of duty and need to serve. 

But tonight, away from our mailboxes and our cell phones,