Preached at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, Issaquah
on January 6th, 2013 The Feast of the Epiphany (Year C)
Of all the Treasures of the Christmas season, I particularly treasure the Spirit of Generosity and the Generosity of Spirit that it inspires in people. The very heart of Christmas is giving and receiving tangible gifts. They serve as signs of our relationships; of our affection and love for the recipient. You might even call them embodied love.
We begin the season on Christmas Day, remembering the first Christmas gift: God’s gift to us in Jesus – a tangible, embodied gift of God’s love, all wrapped up in a person like us.
Then we can’t WAIT to get into the act and respond, giving our own gifts of love to our loved ones. We may have started planning and preparing days, weeks, maybe even months earlier – choosing gifts that express our love, that capture our relationship, that make someone’s dream come true, that makes their face light up. And oh, what joy it gives us.
Now, I know a lot of people complain about how commercialized Christmas has become and many will say that it’s all based on greed. But I disagree. I think the commercialism only works because of humanity’s inherent Generosity. Even people who aren’t church-goers or believers or anything get caught up in the spirit of giving, the Spirit of Generosity. But we find that giving gifts to our family and close friends isn’t enough. The Spirit of Generosity grows and expands in us and we are moved to give presents to people that we don’t even know; people we will never see.
Often that Spirit of Generosity expands even further until it becomes a Generosity of Spirit as we give not only tangible gifts – things – but we give our love, our prayers, our very selves; serving others in a whole host of different ways. It is this Generosity of Spirit that brings us together for so many holiday parties and get-togethers; the desire to spend time together and share our lives.
Twelve days later – today – we finish the season of Christmas celebrating the Feast of the Epiphany. This is the day when the magi from the East finally arrive in Bethlehem to greet the newborn king of the Jews. And they come bearing Treasure. It may very well be that our tradition of giving gifts at Christmas comes from this story. In many cultures, THIS is the day that gifts are exchanged, not December 25th.
Today is the day we remember and celebrate that the Treasure of Incarnate Love that God gives us in Jesus is for the whole world. You see, right from the very beginning, Jesus was made known to the magi who were outsiders, the gentiles. And so, it is fitting that on this day, we celebrate the sacrament of Holy Baptism. In just a few moments, we will baptize (names), incorporating them into the Body of Christ and welcoming them into this Community of Faith.
Baptism is, in many ways, about giving. In baptism, we recall the gift of grace God gives us through Jesus Christ. In baptism, Parents give their children into the community, dedicating their lives to Christ. And we give our lives over to Christ once again. As their parents and godparents make promises on behalf of the children, we will renew our own baptismal promises. And we will vow to support the children, their parents, and one another in our lives in Christ.
It is this Spirit of Generosity and Generosity of Spirit that are at the very heart of Christian living; from offering hospitality to working for justice to loving our neighbor to sharing the Good News by sharing our own stories. They give us joy and love and life in abundance bubbling up from within us, like the laughter of a child on Christmas morning.
So, as you go forth from here on this baptismal day, on this Feast of the Epiphany, may you always carry the Treasures of Christmas in your heart:
The Spirit of Generosity and a Generosity of Spirit.