Great Things in Small Packages   Luke 2:1-14

Christmas Eve                                     December 24, 2022                 St. John, New Orleans, LA

They say little packages hold precious gifts. 

Perhaps it's jewelry like an engagement ring. 

Maybe it's the keys for a new car.

Or, perhaps that little trinket someone picked up for you on a trip abroad.

Sometimes we say, “it's the thought that counts,” 

when someone is unsure of their gift, or embarrassed at its value or lack thereof. 

But it's a true statement. 

Who wants a thoughtless gift? 

You know, that meaningless bobble that takes up space. 

That gag gift that will end up in the trash. 

Or that gadget for the kitchen you'll never use because you don't cook that way. 

When you open a gift like that you wonder, “do they even know me?” 

the best gifts are those that not only show a knowledge of the person, but an appreciation for their interests, passions, or needs. 

The best gift, no matter the size, expresses the depth and importance of the relationship.

Isn't it strange how gifting has become so formulary? 

Rather than be a relational thing, it's become transactional. 

You give me a plate of cookies, I take over a box of chocolates. 

I give you a gift card, you send a thank you note with a pretty ornament. 

I've even seen and experienced a sense of dread wash over someone who was handed a gift unexpectedly. 

Because the expected reaction would have to be gracious joy and appreciation, 

and the required response would be an equally thoughtful gift at a later, seemingly unrelated time and place. 

Rather than being little moments of joy, receiving gifts become stressful, angst-ridden productions. 

It's like receiving a gift has now caused you to incur a debt you must now keep track of 

and pay off later. 

And yet, deep down, we know it shouldn't be that way. 

And so we still try to make gift giving meaningful 

and we hold out hope it will pass on joy as we intended.

Tonight, we celebrate the purest and the best gift ever given. Jesus! 

First, the gift of Jesus is always appropriate. 

There is nothing objectionable at Jesus. 

Even those who don't know him as their savior have a favorable view of the infant born in a Manger. 

An innocent child, vulnerable, in an unassuming location, sent by God. 

And even the message the story tells is filled with goodwill. 

Not only is he the chosen one of God, but he is destined to save the world. 

The world always needs another hero, right? 

Secondly, he is relatable. 

The humble state of affairs in which we find him in Luke 2 

ensures every person can relate to him because he is not “better than” them, in terms of social class or wealth. 

Moreover, the most powerful beings in creation, angels, announce his birth to hard-working shepherds. 

Thirdly, he comes for the purpose of saving us from something we all know well, sin. 

Our conscience is living proof that each of us are flawed, imperfect beings. 

And if Jesus’s birth can help us be better, then that is great news indeed!

This was the twofold gift of the shepherds. 

The news about Jesus’s birth was trusted to them, 

and they were told where to find him so they could go and sit see it for themselves. 

I don't know which was more impressive and impactful? 

Was it the host of angels singing in the vast sky of the dark night in the Hill Country of Judea? 

Or was it the visit to the Manger in a stable behind the inn where the king of kings laid in a bed of straw?

 The sights and sounds of the night must have almost placed them into sensory overload.

2000 years later we still receive the greatest gift ever. 

Our observance is vastly different, however. 

We decorate with the gold and silver due a king. 

But we seem to downplay the humble reality of Jesus’s entire life. 

Even our artistic telling of the story are probably a distortion. 

Mary and Joseph are never recorded riding a donkey to Bethlehem 

because our sensibilities for the virgin mother of God won't let her walk to Bethlehem like she probably did. 

And the even the scene of the manger was not the sanitized perfection with the glowing shaft of light and halos surrounding the Holy Family.

And yet, despite our whitewashing of the setting and the scene, the gift is the same: 

the son of God the father who created us was born to a woman. 

And he was sent to do what no sinful mortal could accomplish, 

so that every person who ever lived could have a new relationship with God. 

And in a world as broken as ours, that is a precious gift. 

That there would be a way to know and be known by God. 

So that we could have the assurance of being OK in this crazy messed up world. 

And that his love for us even extends our life beyond the grave.

Not only was the birth of Jesus the greatest gift ever, but he keeps giving of himself as we take part in Holy Communion. 

In, with, and under, the bread and wine in the sacrament, is the body and blood of Christ. 

Of which he freely gave up when he hung on the cross. 

But even before that he gave it to his disciples at the Last Supper so that they would always have him near and with them. 

And if you are baptized and believe he has done that and that he really is present in that meal I invite you to receive that gift to night as well.

On this Christmas Eve we finish the season of advent when we await the Lord's appearing. 

Tomorrow is the day of his birth 

when the ultimate gift is delivered to the world. 

Joy comes to the world! 

But the world doesn't all know about the gift yet. And that's where you come into the story. 

You get to be that modern day Angel choir 

that goes out into the dark and broken world 

to declare the gift of the Savior, Christ the Lord! 

May each of you be blessed to tell it on the mountains, hills and everywhere. 

And that all who hear you will come and see that which they have been told. 


So that all may adore him, Christ the Lord. Amen.