Uncle Clellon was a bit of an oddball for example as a lifelong bachelor farmer, he ran irrigation pipes to dry fields, but never saw the need to pipe running water into the house. Sill, every Christmas Eve, the Purdues, Sanders, Simms, Scotts, Greys, Harolds, and Hendrix families gathered in a five room home. The restroom was outside, down a small path just beyond the sheds. Uncle Clellon rarely spoke. His strongest rebuke began with a soft word like “honey”or “baby”. “Honey, don’t tease the bull, that barbed wire will not stop him.” Every year, Uncle Clellon gave each child an envelope “season’s greetings from the Springfield State Bank” Inside we found five clean, crisp, two dollar bills. Ten dollars was a small fortune or a ten year-old in 1976. Even today a two dollar bill reminds me of Uncle Clellon. Every Christmas Eve, Clellon carefully selected a cedar tree from the farm, nailing it to two boards and placing it like a fragrant offering in the largest room. Ruth, John and I retrieved the ancient dimestore lights and ornaments from an old hat box in the attic. When the last car pulled down the lane, we feasted, sitting all over the house. We dozen children sat on the steps or floor. There was no room at the table as seven families best dishes took each place. The children ate last- my grandmother’s rule! Most of the gift giving involved homemade jelly, county ham, hand-crafts and inexpensive toys. After gifts, the city dwelling uncles moved out to the bonfire while the farmers saw little reason to be cold. The wrapping paper burned with strange colors and GI-Joe boxes popped and then retaining their shape turning into orange embers. The dishes were washed with well drawn water heated on the gas stove. Finally, desert, coffee, and goodbyes. Mom called the farm “down home”. It is strange that 31 people went “down home”- when all the houses we traveled from, enjoyed central heat and hot running water.
I intend to tell you about what made Uncle Clellon odd: Uncle Clellon never unwrapped a present. Once,when I was maybe seven, Ruth-Ellen and I grabbed sandpaper hands forcing his fingers like clumsy puppeteers to tear open his gifts. Uncle Clellon indulged our playful fun with genuine laughter. What Uncle could resist our seven infectious yea-rold laughter? Still, most years mom or I found wrapped gifts gathering dust on the unplayed piano. Uncle Clellon paid the light bill, cut down the tree, carried his mom to grocery, built the bonfire, and filled elleven envelopes with cash, yet, somehow he could not unwrap his Christmas gifts.
Will you unwrap the mysterious of God laid in the manger?
You may sing the songs, light a candle, kneel, feel the sentiment, and make a lovely Snapchat memory near the stable, but and not unwrap Christmas. Unwrapping takes some effort. Unwrapping Christmas moves us past the bows, the food, the presents, the parties, the stockings, and beckons us to stable, where the word is made flesh- where the Creator comes as child. .
Come, let us unwrap the Good News of great joy for all people. Come open bring your soul to the Silent night, Holy Night, calming your striving in the presence of Love’s Pure Light. Hear the Heavenly host sing Alleluia to our King. Will you move through the lovely trappings to experience the love of God, laid in the manger?
This Holy Mystery sleeping in a cow’s feedbox, is not as easy gift to unwrap. You will not understand Jesus in One Holy night. Jesus calls all disciples to take on his yoke and learn his ways. Disciples follow- learning Jesus’s way. Perfect Love exceeds systematic theological boxes and surpasses easy explanations. It will take all your life and then some of heaven to understand the depths of God’s that becomes so vulnerably human among us.
Rueben Job speaks of this Holy night, “Were we left with just the creation and the sacred texts ,we might feel God is distant, uncaring and unapproachable. When Jesus appears as the revealer of this transcendent God, God becomes near, loving, approachable. Now we know that God understands us and we can begin to understand God.” (A Guide to Prayer for All Who are Seeking God.
If we had stood where the shepherds stood, without benefit of electric lights, we would see the glories of the heavens. They saw the stars dancing around the Creator of the Stars. Listen, for the angels singing. “Do not be afraid; for see–I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day a Savior, who is the Christ, the Lord.” Come sing with the angels. Come adore the glorious love of God that shimmers in heaven dwelling in the Carpenter’s son. Come see Jesus- on earth as in heaven. Come hear God’s longing that “on earth peace and goodwill” might take hold!
Oh pause your unwrapping of lesser and adore our Christ. Come with the shepherds and sing lullabies to the newborn king. Unwrapping this Holy Mystery is not quick and easy. We must will leave our commerce and entertainment long enough to make a Sabbath-giving journey to the manger. Come let us, gather in small groups encouraging each other as did the shepherds; “come let us go and see who this Jesus is?” Will you explore Jesus his style, his attitudes, and his words? Will you unwrap the Gospels or leave God’s gift of love and life unexplored?
Oh Come let us come adore. Let us ask, “what child is this?”. Let us ponder with Mary all the stories of Jesus. Let us open the Sermon on the Mount, the woes against spiritual bullying, the healings, the tables turned over, Jesus’ touch, Jesus’ attitude, Jesus’ meal with the “sinners”, the crucified God, Easter… Let us unwrap the Gospel ( Good News) so this child may become our Redeemer, Renewal, Revival, Reconciler, Re-Creator, and Restorer.
Tonight, we remember how the Jesus story begins humbly in a manger. Will you unwraps the mystery- Cosmos, Creator, Faith, Hope, Love, Charity, Welcome, Empathy, Acceptance, Charity, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Generosity, Faithfulness, Self-Control, Humility, Mercy, Justice, Faith, Hope Love, The Word, The Way, The Truth and The Life reside in those tiny pinkish brown fingers. Oh Come let us adore the Christ. Oh come let us, sew this Holy Treasure into our living, let us ponder this miracle in our hearts. God is with us. Amen.