A Christmas Eve message will have a flavor all its own. Because of the relaxed nature of the evening, the sermon is often directed toward the child in all of us. Hence, the following ... JM
NEW ORLEANS (Christian Examiner) -- My friend Annette loves to pass along to me her assignments. Her Mississippi church frequently invites her to give a talk on this or that, and she messages for my take on that subject. She uses nothing I do verbatim, but I suspect some of my responses provokes creative ideas in her.
Some of the most interesting pieces on our website were instigated by Annette.
The other day her message said: "I have to explain the Christmas story to children ages 4-11 in my church. Help!"
I began by assuring her that I am not the best one to ask about this. I'm fast approaching birthday number 75 and my youngest grandchild becomes a teenager in February. Furthermore, women explain things to children better than men do. But always eager to assist, I jotted down a few thoughts for her. And that's when something occurred to me.
All the people sitting before the pastor on Christmas Eve will be children.
Some will be old children, with white heads (or bald ones), while others will be younger parents and adult singles. And there will be "children children" by which we mean toddlers, preschoolers, the whole bunch. But the thing to keep in mind is that everyone sitting before the pastor is either a child now or has been at one time.
Childhood is one thing we all have in common.
As I did the stream-of-consciousness thing with Annette, jotting down random thoughts on what she might tell the children, an old story came to mind.
Now, my first thought was to discard that tale as too old, too familiar and thus of little value.
Then, something occurred.
To little children, there are no old stories. Everything is new.
And this story is one of the best, even for those hearing it for the umpteenth time.
Dad had stayed home that evening. His wife and children were attending the church's Christmas program and they had wanted him to go with them, but he was tired and looked forward to a quiet evening in front of the fireplace. He did not make a point of this, but the truth is he had little use for religion. That Christmas stuff is all right for children, he supposed, but Santa and Frosty and Rudolph and Baby Jesus in a manger, well, he had put all that away when he became a man.
Suddenly, Dad realized he had a visitor in the house. A bird was loose and flying around. Perhaps it had come through the door when he brought groceries in earlier. Or through a window. But here it was, flitting from room to room, looking for a way out.
Quickly, Dad opened the back door and using a broom, tried to drive the bird out. But the little guy flew into a back bedroom. Dad went in and swatted at it, driving it into the hallway. Then, the bird flew right into a closed window, and was momentarily stunned. "Poor stupid thing," Dad thought. "I'm trying to help it, if he would just let me."
For the next five minutes, the frustrated man followed that bird throughout the house as both became exhausted. All the while, Dad kept thinking, "If I could just make him see. I'm trying to help. I don't want to hurt him. Everything I'm doing is for him."
Suddenly, something occurred to him. "If I could become a bird, I could tell him in his language. But that would be the only way I can get this across to him. I'd have to become like him."
At that moment, a light dawned on him. "That's the point of Christmas, of Jesus being born in Bethlehem. God was becoming one of us in order to speak to us, to get His message across."
At that point, the bird flew out the door, and Dad closed it. Then, he went into his room and changed clothes and drove to the church. He arrived just in time for the beginning of the Nativity play. His family was delighted to see him.
It was the best Christmas ever for Dad and his family.
Scripture says, "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).
Jesus said, "He who has seen me has seen the Father. I am in the Father and the Father is in me." (John 14:9-10).
"God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself" (2 Corinthians 5:19).
In the opening of the Epistle to the Hebrews, the anonymous writer begins by telling how the Heavenly Father spoke to mankind for ages through prophets and such. "But now, in these last days, He has spoken to us through His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds" (Hebrews 1:1-2).
Joe McKeever is the retired director of missions for the Southern Baptist churches of Metro New Orleans. He is a popular cartoonist and speaker. His ministry website is at joemckeever.com