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The following sermon was preached for the children of Bethel Lutheran Church, St. Louis, on December 24, 2013. 

Many years ago God createdchristmas the heavens and the earth, forming woman and man from God’s own image.  God loved the earth and all its creatures very much, and gave all living things a very special gift – his love, protection and faithfulness.  This gift was so special that its light shone upon the earth, and the world was at peace.

The man and woman really liked God’s gift, but wondered if there was anything better than the gift.  So they climbed up a tree in the garden and ate some fruit that God had said was off limits.  God was sad, and put some rules in place on how the world could receive God’s gift of love, protection, and faithfulness.

For many years, people did their best to follow God’s rules to get this most special gift.  Abraham and Sarah welcomed many guests, Isaac was bound on the mountain, Ruth cared for her mother-in-law Naomi.

At one point, there was a group of people who thought that they could live without the gifts that God gave to the earth, and they turned their back on God’s rules.  Darkness fell over the earth, where people did bad things to one another and no one looked out for each other.  This made God very sad, because God knew he needed to punish the people for their bad behavior  so that they would learn from their mistakes.  God sent a great flood, protecting Noah and his family because they were people who followed God’s ways.  After the flood, God was even sadder because our God does not like to punish people.  So God made a promise to the world that he would never again bring a flood to punish people for their bad choices.  God gave the world a rainbow as a sign to help remind people of that promise, and of the gift of love, protection and faithfulness that God has always been trying to give the world.

giftboxGod really wanted to help people receive the gift of love, protection, and faithfulness, so he came up with a list of 10 special rules that would help people get the gift.   Moses shared those rules, called commandments with the people.  While the commandments are helpful, sometimes it was hard for the people to follow them.

Throughout the years, over and over again, God kept coming up with new ways for people to receive that most special gift of love, protection, and faithfulness.  People tried to get the gift for themselves, but a gift this special we cannot get for ourselves.  It has to be given to us.

God really wanted the world to have this special gift.  God gave the most special gift to the world through his son Jesus.  When Jesus was born on Christmas and placed in the manger, the gift of love, protection and faithfulness came to earth to be shared among all people.  There are no more rules or commandments required to receive this extraordinary gift.

When Jesus came to earth, he showed the world how special this gift really was.  Jesus spent his life helping people who down on their luck, healing people who were sick, and helping people make friends with others.  When Jesus went to the cross, he took the struggles and hard times of our life and wore them as his own.

Jesus is with us when we have good days, and when we celebrate special occasions like birthdays and holidays.  Jesus is with us when we have bad days, like when we get bullied in school, struggle with homework, or fall down and get a scratch.  Jesus is with us when we make bad choices, forgiving us so that next time we can make better choices.  Jesus is the strength within us to make good choices, and is the spirit that helps us do nice things for our family and neighbors.

God has always wanted us to have this special gift of love, protection and faithfulness, so God brought it to earth through Jesus so that that every person can share this amazing gift.

poinstettiaOn Christmas we give gifts to one another not because we need more things, but we give gifts because when we do nice things for others, we show God that we are thankful for the gift of Jesus.  In a few moments our church family of Bethel will give each of you a poinsettia.  When you look at it, remember that Bethel gave you this gift as a way to show God how thankful we are for the gift of Jesus.

This is the true meaning of Christmas: God loved us so much that God gave us the greatest gift of all time – Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas.

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