First Sunday after Christmas- Fr. Chris- December 31, 2017

December 31, 2017

I want to share with you an essay from the New York Times on December 24, 1983 entitled “The Gift Behind the Gift” by Gregg Easterbrook.

The most splendid Christmas gift, the most marveled and magic, is the gift that has not yet been opened. Opaque behind wrapping or winking foil, it is a box full of possibilities. An unopened present might be anything – gems, crystal, oranges, a promise of devotion. While the present is unopen, it can rest under the tree to be regarded and speculated upon at length, becoming whatever the recipient wishes.

Opening the present, by comparison, is often anticlimactic – no matter what the contents. For once opened, the gift passes from the enchanted realm of promise into the constrained reality of material possessions. Then it begins to impose terms on its owner – terms like sizes, warranties, colors, maintenance, accessories, storage space, assembly, extremely thick books with instructions… Open a gift and, like the vacuum in a coffee can, the possibilities whoosh away, never to be recovered.

So it is that Christmas Eve is the best part of Christmas. Compared with the clamor and urgency of the day itself – the schedules to satisfy, the near-strangers to pretend to be close to, the post-gift frenzy to compare windfalls – Christmas Eve is serene. It is the moment, still and expectant, when the warmth of the season may be felt for its own sake – the moment to light candles and listen for a sound in the distance. It is the moment when the meaning of the day, for those who wonder at it, may be contemplated without distraction from timetables or remote-controlled robots.

If anticipation is the essence of Christmas, Christmas Eve is the essence of anticipation. All the holiday’s elves and henchmen revel in it. Snow is most beautiful while it falls, noiseless and free: Once on the ground, it succumbs to soot and stumbling tracks. The solitary country house is most beautiful observed from the cold hill above, as it shines out yellow squares of light and firesparks, promising friendship. The smell of Christmas cookies baking can be as satisfying as eating them, the first cup of Christmas cheer as gratifying as the next five combined. Lighting the tree is the finest part by far. Often what precedes is better than what follows, even when, like Christmas Day, what follows is good. The first kiss, clumsy as it always is – first kisses generally have all the grace of two freight trains colliding on a dark siding – can be the most moving. However physically inadequate, it conveys the promise of further kisses, more esthetic or athletic, and the promise of proximity before and after, the companionship that a kiss seals. By that way of thinking, the most excitement available under the mistletoe is not the touch itself, but the instant just before, when she (or he, depending) steps forward to join you there. That is the moment when you know someone else wants to be near you, a moment blushing with what might be.

The original point of Christmas, now better reflected on tranquil Christmas Eve than on the madcap day itself, was to proclaim what might be. Wise men and shabby shepherds alike went to Bethlehem that first Christmas Eve because they hoped what was happening there would begin to elevate humankind – to make us more truly humane and deserving of each other.

So far, it has not worked out that way. But that does not mean the ideal was wrong or the goal unattainable. What might be only elusive, not impossible. Peace on earth and mercy mild are still possible. On Christmas Eve, all things are possible.

I find it funny that we start so early with anticipation in building up for Christmas – even as early as September when school supplies are replaced with a strange assortment of Halloween skeletons and Christmas ornaments. By November 1st, it is full blown Christmas. Then as soon as December 25th comes, we move forward from it as quickly as an unwrapped present.

In our gospel on this first Sunday after Christmas, we do not find a baby in a manger. We do not find the shepherds or wise men to which we have grown accustomed. Perhaps, we mistakenly assume that even our lessons have left Christmas as we hear “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” However, upon closer examination, we see that these words point to Genesis and creation and find the Gospel of John’s own poetic telling of the nativity, of the Word and the Word becoming flesh.

This cosmic setting of the nativity helps place the gift of God’s self to God’s creation into a larger perspective. Unlike a gift wrapped under a tree, the gift of Christ is eternal… eternally hopeful and eternally present. And therefore, we paradoxically experience the living God now and simultaneously anticipate the fullness of God’s gift of grace in the life to come. As the author of “The Gift Behind the Gift” states, “On Christmas Eve all things are possible.” Then somehow through this faith of ours, we live on Christmas Eve while also living on Christmas Day and Easter morning and everything in-between. No, the world was not made perfect that first Christmas day, but the fullness of God’s love broke into the world and made all things possible and continues to fill us with anticipation.

Yes, the gift behind the gift is about more than a baby. It is that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being… And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”

Service Schedule

Sunday Services
8:00 a.m. Holy Eucharist, Rite I
9:15 a.m. Christian Formation
10:30 a.m. Holy Eucharist, Rite II

Weekday Services
Wednesday 12:00 p.m. Holy Eucharist


St. Paul's Episcopal Church
5373 Franz Rd
Katy, Texas 77493
(281) 391-2785

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