St. Matthew’s Sermon 12-24-2017 Evening Service

St. Matthew’s Sermon 12-24-2017

Christmas Eve Candlelight Service

Only for Good Little Boys and Girls?

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

Oh yes, I can still remember the Christmases when I was a child; opening the windows on our Advent calendar, one each day; getting more and more excited every day; so eagerly awaiting the Big Day when we would find wonderful gifts under the Christmas tree; usually, if not always, just what I asked Santa for upon our annual visit with him in his special little booth on High street in Pottstown!

But, then, I also remember the stories of how Santa made two lists: one containing the names of the good little boys and girls who would receive the presents they asked for; and the other containing the names of the bad little boys who would not have presents under the tree Christmas morning.

Oh how I would worry that I had not been good all the time throughout the whole long year. Did Santa know about the time I gave mom a hard time about doing my chores? Could he know about the day I left my dad’s saw and hammer out in the rain? And, did my sisters rat me out about that fight I had with them. Oh the worry and the pleas for forgiveness.

Yet, of course, every Christmas morning we would find the crumbs of the cookies on the plate, and the remains of the milk in the glass that we left for Santa the night before, and we would all find our desired gifts under the tree; sometimes to my delightful surprise!

I don’t remember for sure how old I was, but as my mind matured I came to the realization that this whole thing about Santa was a ruse; an attempt at controlling the behavior of little boys and girls. My reasoning was clear and valid; through the entire Christmas season we would hear stories about his great love of children, hear songs about “Jolly old St. Nicolas”, hear his trademark laugh ‘Ho Ho Ho’; and that smile and the bright eyes! There is no possible way Santa could be so cold hearted as to make a list of little boys that wouldn’t get wonderful gifts every Christmas morning! I mean really, have you ever known Santa to be like that?

I don’t think I need to remind you, but I will just in case. Santa Clouse, or Saint Nicolas in English, is a real historic figure. He was born in the town of Patara, in what is now Turkey, in the third century, to wealthy parents, and was set in the way of Christian life and learning early on. When his parents died in an epidemic while he was still young, he remembered the words of Christ saying “sell all that you own and give to the poor”. Nicolas did exactly that and, as we can still see today, his spirit lives on and his memory revived in annual celebration.

As a Bishop Nicolas was a representative of God and as a generous giver he was certainly a loyal follower of Christ. And so we can make the connection between gift giving at Christmas and God the Father’s giving of the greatest Gift, his only Son, Jesus the Christ.

Unfortunately, just as the unconditional generosity of Santa Claus has been hijacked by some to instill control over little boys and girls, some have done the same with the unconditional gift of salvation through Christ to gain control over the beloved children of God. But I cannot accept such a message about God our Father keeping a list of who does and who does not receive the offer of salvation anymore than I can imagine a coldhearted Santa. I mean really, have you ever known God to be like that?

God loves us, God gives generously and unconditionally. God delights in us and in giving to us gift after gift after gift!


Tomorrow morning there will be much joy. We will see the joy on the faces of our loved ones as they open the gifts we give them; and we will have joy in the gifts given us. But in the excitement and bustle of the day I invite you to take a moment to pay attention to the joy you find in the act of giving to others. And then… with that in your heart… imagine the joy God finds in his acts of giving to all of his children!

Merry Christmas! Amen