Christmas Eve Sermon (2021)

Christmas Eve
Texts: Luke 2:1-20;
Isaiah 9:2-7

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“Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” Now it’s our turn . . . to treasure the words of the marvelous Christmas story and ponder them in our hearts. In the age of Caesar Augustus, one of the most powerful emperors in human history, God sent a baby, born in terrible poverty at the fringes of the mighty Roman Empire, to be a Savior King. Two thousand years later, what could that possibly mean?

Mary undoubtably didn’t think it meant that her little baby boy would grow up to be executed by the Empire on a cross. For two days after that awful Friday, which we now call Good, she had some incredible hard pondering to do . . . until on the third day she experienced her precious baby boy risen from the dead. Now, what did it all mean!? Looking back on the whole scope of things, from Christmas to Easter, it began to become more clear that her wonderful baby boy was a completely different kind of king, one who truly turns everything upside-down.

What kind of king? I’d like to share you with a Christmas story written by a friend. As a frame for this story, I’d like to first have us recall some words of Jesus from just before his passion, his last words of teaching in Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus tells us to picture a King judging all the nations in history by the criteria of how they responded to those who are hungry or thirsty, who are strangers or imprisoned, who are naked or sick. He tells the just nations, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me’ (Matt 25:40). Let’s ponder these words from Christ the King, as we listen to “The Christmas Story of Rosalinda,” by my friend Father Mark Dean (Staff at King’s House Retreat Center).

Once upon a time, long ago before there were such things like scotch-tape or scissors, there lived a little girl by the name of Rosalinda. She was called Rosalinda because she was famous throughout her village for her ability to grow beautiful flowers . . . especially roses. During the summer people would come from all around just to see the beautiful flower gardens of Rosalinda.

However, our story does not take place during the summer, but rather during the winter, when there is snow all about and there are no flowers to be found anywhere. No flowers at all . . . except for the rose plant that Rosalinda placed in a pot and kept growing in her room. This rose was her favorite flower, for its beautiful orange and red petals reminded her of the beautiful summer sunsets she loved so much.

One day while Rosalinda was down at the town well, fetching water, some strangers came into town with astonishing news. They told everyone around that they were on their way back home after having visited the newborn King who was to be the Savior of all peoples. This newborn King, whose name was Jesus, was not too far from the village where Rosalinda lived. When Rosalinda heard this surprising news, she rushed home full of hope and joy. She, too, wanted to go visit the baby King and bring him a gift. But alas, what gift could she give a King? She had nothing that she could really call her own to give . . . nothing, that is, except her rose! “Yes!” thought Rosalinda, “I will give my most beautiful rose as a gift to the baby King.” With this in mind, she cut the beautiful rose from her plant, put it in her apron pocket, and was on her way.

As Rosalinda walked along the road leading out of her village, she heard the sound of someone crying. Following the sound she came to a little boy who was sitting in the front yard of his home. In his lap he had a doll made out of a corncob.

“Why are you crying?” Rosalinda asked the little boy.

“I have made this corncob doll for my sister,” replied the little boy, “and I have made hair for the doll out of corn-silk, but I can’t get the corn-silk hair to stay on the doll. And without it, the doll looks ugly!”

It was true. Without the corn-silk hair, the doll did not look so beautiful. But how could the little boy make the silk-hair stick to the doll’s head? Remember, this story takes place before there was scotch-tape or scissors.

Rosalinda thought to herself, ‘I know how to fix the boy’s doll.’ “Give me your doll and I shall fasten the corn-silk hair for you,” said Rosalinda to the boy. She took the rose out of her pocket, and broke off three sturdy, sharp thorns. With these thorns Rosalinda fastened the corn-silk hair to the doll, and gave it back to the boy. Now it was a truly beautiful doll. The little boy took the doll with delight and joy in his eyes. He quickly ran off to proudly give the doll to his sister.

“Well,” thought Rosalinda, “my rose no longer has its three sturdy, sharp thorns. But that’s okay, it is still a beautiful rose without them, and besides, the baby probably won’t miss the thorns anyway.”

Rosalinda continued on her journey to find the baby Jesus. Going along a little farther, Rosalinda heard a very sad, mournful song. She looked up, and there she saw a mockingbird sitting on the stone wall beside the old olive tree. The mockingbird was singing a very sad song.

“Why is your song so sad?” Rosalinda asked the bird.

“Oh, woe is me, woe is me . . . .” replied the mockingbird, repeating herself as mockingbirds often do. “The wind has torn my nest, yes torn my nest, and now I must weave it together again, yes I must weave it together again, or I shall have no home at all when next the wind blows. But to weave my nest I must have a green supple, twig, yes a green supple twig. Alas, it is winter, yes, it is winter, and there are no green supple twigs to be found anywhere in the land, not anywhere in the land. And so I shall lose my home, yes I shall have no home. . . ,” mourned the sad mockingbird.

“But I know where there is a green supple twig,” thought Rosalinda to herself. She reached into her apron pocket and took out the rose. She broke off the blossom, and handed the long, green stem to the bird.

“Here, bird,” said Rosalinda, “here is a supple twig. You may weave your nest together with this.” The bird was surprised and delighted to receive the rose stem! “Oh thank you! thank you! thank you!” sang the mockingbird as she set about repairing her nest.

“Well, now my rose has no beautiful green stem.” thought Rosalinda to herself. “It isn’t quite as beautiful as it was at the beginning . . . but at least I still have the most beautiful part of the rose to offer the baby King.” And so Rosalinda continued on her journey.

Some time later Rosalinda was passing by a house, and she could hear a woman’s voice coming from the house. It sounded like she was softly singing a lullaby. Rosalinda looked in and saw a woman holding a baby in her lap. The woman was rocking the child and singing to it, saying, “Hush, hush, . . . it will be all right. . . .” In the woman’s eyes there were tears.

“Is this the baby Jesus?” Rosalinda whispered to the woman.

“No” replied the woman. “I don’t know who this baby Jesus is that you seek, or where he can be found. This is my daughter, and she has a terrible fever. The doctor was here, and he said that the only thing that can cure my daughter is some tea made from a rose. But it is now winter, and there are no roses to found anywhere. And so I fear my daughter will not get better.”

Rosalinda did not even have to think about what to do. She reached into her apron and brought out the rose blossom.

“Here, take this,” she said to the woman. “Here is a rose to make your child better.” The woman could hardly believe her eyes! She began to weep again, but this time for joy, as she took the flower from Rosalinda and went off to make tea.

Rosalinda continued on her way, but now she was very sad. “I no longer have any gift to give the baby Jesus,” she thought. “What shall I do now?” Rosalinda was so sad that she had nothing left to give that she hardly noticed where she was going.

And so it was that she came upon a group of people, all gathered around a woman holding a baby. This was the baby Jesus. All around the child people had left their gifts for the newborn King. There were baskets of bread and cakes, there were newly made blankets, and even exotic gifts like gold and silver. Many wonderful and beautiful gifts . . . but Rosalinda had no gift to bring. She had traveled so far, but without a gift, she felt she could not come to the King. And so she sadly decided that she must return home.

But then the woman with the child turned to Rosalinda and smiled at her. She motioned for Rosalinda to come close and see the baby.

Hesitant and shyly, Rosalinda came near. She looked down to where the baby lay, and suddenly she let out a gasp! For there in the baby’s chubby little fists was a rose! . . . a rose exactly like her rose! It had three sturdy sharp thorns, a long, green supple stem, and a beautiful blossom of orange and red petals.

“Why are you so surprised?” the lady asked Rosalinda.

“The rose!” said Rosalinda. “It looks exactly like the rose I was bringing to this child, but it cannot be. For I gave the rose thorns to the little boy with the corncob doll, and I gave the rose stem to the bird with the broken nest, and I gave the rose blossom to the mother with the sick child. How can this be my rose?”

“But did you not know,” replied the lady, “that whenever you give a gift, whether it be to stranger or to friend, that you give that same gift to the Christ Child?”

And so it was that Rosalinda gave her gift of the rose to the baby Jesus. And did you know that even today we still give gifts to the Christ Child in the same way! . . . As we give gifts to the least in Jesus’ family. Amen

Paul J. Nuechterlein
Bethel/Bethlehem Lutheran Church,
Muskego, WI, December 24, 2021

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