The Greatest Gift of All
These readings are traditionally used during the Christmas Day service in many liturgical churches.
Homily for Adults
The Jewish people were waiting for their Messiah for a very long time. In fact, they had not heard from a prophet of God for four hundred years. Were they now ready to hear directly from God? Most of them missed the Christmas message, but s select few were given a direct revelation from God.
Can we imagine how excited the shepherds were when they heard a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” (Luke 2:14)
The shepherds could not have fully understood all that the angels were saying, but they did not sit idly by:
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. (Luke 2:15-16)
The message to the shepherds is a universal message. The angles trumpeted God’s greatest gift to all of us. How do we respond? Does the Christmas message escape us today?
If we have received God’s message, then we, like the shepherds, will have cause for a great celebration:
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (Luke 2:20)
There was more to follow of which the shepherds could not ha aware. The Apostle Paul, looking back on the Christmas message in the light of the resurrection, wrote:
When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4)
When Jesus was born into the world, Judaism had degenerated into a system of rules and regulations to follow. When the earthly ministry of Jesus was revealed, the Jewish religious leaders were not prepared for his message of rebirth. Christmas is about rebirth. It is about a saving grace that transcends all of our human understanding about pleasing God alone through what we do.
If we are to celebrate Christmas, then we must celebrate the goodness and loving kindness of God. This is the true gift of Christmas.
Homily for Children
Gather the children together up near the altar. Give them a chance to settle down and feel comfortable.
Homilist: Do you enjoy getting gifts at Christmas?
Homilist: Do you like unwrapping them?
Kids: Of course!
Homilist: How can you tell that a gift is yours?
Kids: It has my name on it.
Homilist: Would you like to wait a little while before opening your gifts?
Homilist: What would you do with a gift when it has been opened?
Kids: We would look at it and maybe play with it!
Homilist: What if you got the Greatest Gift of all time and your name was written to it? Would you not unwrap it?
Kids: No way!
Homilist: Now remember that you have to send thank-you notes to everyone who has given you a gift.
Kids; Yeah, we know. But what about that gift you were talking about? What kind of gift is it?
Homilist: It is a gift from God.
Kids: Wow! What is it?
Homilist: The birth of His Son Jesus who came to the earth for us.
Kids: Oh! The baby Jesus.
Homilist: Why is His birth important?
Kids: Because He came to save us?
Homilist: Yes. Do you think everyone who knows about this gift should unwrap it?
Kids: If their name was on it.
Homilist: Everyone’s name is on this gift!
Kids: What do you mean unwrap it?
Homilist: Take it out of the box and play with it.
Kids: Jesus wants to play with us?
Homilist: Yes, and after we do we should send Him a thank-you note.
Kids: Can you send a note to heaven?
Homilist: He is listening to us and He is always with us. If we just say we are thankful He would hear us.
Kids: Oh! When should we thank Him?
Homilist: Every day. Wouldn’t it be sad if someone didn’t open God’s gift?
Kids: No way. They have to open it.
Homilist: I want to read a verse from scripture to you:
Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:4-8)
Homilist: Do you see that grace is a gift of God?
Kids: Yes. But do we really have to send God a thank-you note?
Homilist: Let me read you this scripture:
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10)
Homilist: God needs us to thank Him with our mouths.
Kids: Can we do that now?
Homilist: Yes, and at each new day we need to thank him for the greatest gift of all.
Obviously, this homily is not a script to be memorized by the children. It will not do the homilist any good to memorize it either, because at some point our listeners are going to take off on a tangent. What is desired is a dialogue with the children. They are a fearsome force to face, but with patience, listening carefully to what the children may be saying, and waiting on the Holy Spirit, some good may emerge. We must have courage and place ourselves entirely in the hands of the Lord.