Christmas! How do you help people to engage with a familiar story in a way that is enjoyable and meaningful? This was my attempt from our Christmas Celebration service on Christmas morning.
To re-tell the Christmas story, I produced this acrostic, based on the phrase Gift of Love:
Immense surprise of Mary
Fear of Joseph
Travelling a long way
Only place left
Feed trough for a cot
Lots of angels
Vision of a star
For the service, I jumbled up the phrases and got people to rearrange it into the right order, and then retold the story using them:
Gabriel visits – which leads to the
Immense surprise of Mary – which causes the
Fear of Joseph – who doesn’t know what’s going on, until he gets a visit from an angel. But then, there’s more fear, as he and Mary have to go
Travelling a long way – all the way to Bethlehem. And there, the
Only place left – is with the animals. Which means that when Jesus is born he gets a
Feed trough for a cot – which leads to
Lots of angels – which leads to
Overcome shepherds – first they’re overcome with fear at the angels, and then they’re overcome with joy at the sight of Jesus. Meanwhile there’s a
Vision of a star – by the wise men. Which leads to Jesus getting some
Eastern visitors – who give him presents of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
But, now we’ve got them in the right order, we can see that they spell out the point of the story
Jesus is God’s gift of love!
That then led onto my talk:
Who enjoys trying to work out what your present is when it’s wrapped up?
Soft and squishy – clothes. Hard rectangle – book or dvd. A box that rattles – chocolate maybe? biscuits perhaps?
And then there’s the other presents aren’t there? The ones where you can’t work out what it is from looking at it, or feeling it. The ones where you think it might be one thing and it turns out to be something different.
The first Christmas present was Jesus being born as a baby – God with us, born in a stable.
And that was a very unexpected present, a present that people thought might be one thing, and turned out to be another. He was a baby, but he was also extraordinary. He was God with us. And because of Jesus, we can always have the present of God’s love and help.
Christmas was God’s big surprise. Even though God had told people that he was going to come, to show people how much he loved them. Even though God had told people to watch out, no-one was expecting the present of God’s love in the shape of a baby.
But that present showed that God loves us, invites us to become part of God’s family, and shows us that things with God are more unexpected, surprising and amazing than we expect.
The best presents are the ones that don’t come in wrapping paper. The best presents are the love and care that our family and friends show for us. The best presents are the things that we can give that show our love and care. And the best present of all is the love and care that God shows for us in that unexpected present, Jesus.
But, like those strangely shaped presents, if we leave them in the wrapper then we might know that there’s something exciting – but we won’t know what, we won’t know how exciting.
We’ve been given the gift of Jesus. But we need to accept that gift, to take that strangely shaped present of God’s love and allow it to shape our lives. And the promise of God is that he will be will us helping us and that his present of love never runs out. There’s always more to discover, always new things to find and do.
So, I’d like to invite you to come up to the manger, to take a gift of love from it; a small chocolate heart, that you’re very welcome to eat, or give to someone else if you don’t like chocolate. But, come and receive God’s gift of love.