“I love you.”
Christmas Stamp of Ukraine 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The words were tentative, soft and nervous. They were spoken by a third grader- me.
It was the first time I had ever said them to anyone outside my immediate family.
It was a watershed moment for me.
You see, there was this girl who was amazing. She liked all the things I liked, hated all the things I hated, she was smart and pretty and best of all she liked me. She thought I was funny- and cute.
But I didn’t know what to do about it- I was eight.
I knew that people you liked were kind of like being part of your family. I felt like I wanted to let her know I thought she was awesome- but then I panicked. We were sitting together on the swings after lunch and I just felt the words rising up inside of me.
The words were out of my mouth before I knew what to do.
“Oh, no!” I thought. “What have I done?”
And then- “What if she doesn’t say it back?”
Have you been there?
Lots of rules about relationships.
Don’t go too fast. Don’t go too slow.
Don’t be insulting. Don’t be demanding.
Don’t say I love you first….
So. Christmas! I love Christmas. I love the music.
“Joy to The World! ….
“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing….
“O Little Town of Bethlehem…..
“Angels we have heard on high…..
“O Holy Night…..
“Come, they told me….”
Words and sounds so familiar in this season. I bet as I was saying the words, some of you started singing the tunes.
What’s your favorite Christmas Carol? I have two- My favorite is “O Holy Night”. Mostly because it’s so filled with awe.
“Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices….
O Night- divine- O-o night when Christ was born”.
It’s a poignant reminder that wonder and awe need to be a daily part of life.
Christmas is a time for Joy.
It’s why I also love “Joy to the World”.
“Let every heart prepare him room…”
Joy is kind of tricky. I tried to explain it to a kid last week who asked, “What’s the difference between being happy and being joyful?”
Like I said- tricky.
I was kind of proud of my answer.
“Well, it’s a lot like like happiness- only better.”
“How so?” he asked.
“I think happiness is about being satisfied,” I said. “Joy is about being loved.”
Yeah. Still proud of my answer.
Today’s Christmas. Tomorrow it will all be over. And millions of dollars will have been spent and tons of food will be eaten and people will still be dying of hunger and disease and only have filthy water to drink.
Except that it’s not over. We forget- Christmas is a season. It actually goes for twelve days- it doesn’t end until January 6th. That’s because the church recognizes that it’s not just a day- it’s a season- and sometimes it takes a whole season to get it right.
So we have presents and food and trees and lights- but that’s not what it’s really about. Not really.
It’s about a story. A story that still is being written.
St Theodore had some very important words to add to this story- you probably remember him-
You don’t remember St Theodore? St Theodore Geisel?
The world knows him as Dr Seuss. Remember this?:
He stared down at Who-ville!
The Grinch popped his eyes.
Then he shook!
What he saw was a shocking surprise!
Every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small,
Was singing! Without any presents at all!
HE HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming!
Somehow or other it came just the same!
And the Grinch with Grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so?
“It came without ribbons it came without tags!
“It came without packages, boxes or bags!”
And he puzzled three hours till his puzzler was sore-
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
“Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more!”
And what happened then…?
Well, In Who-ville they say that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day!
And the minute his heart didn’t feel quite so tight,
He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light.
And he brought back the toys and the food for the feast.
And he- HE HIMSELF…!
The Grinch carved the roast beast.
If those aren’t the words and insight of a saint, I don’t know what is….
Today we are here to celebrate.
We’re celebrating something very special. So with apologies to St Theodore:
We’re not celebrating happiness- although happiness is okay- we’re here
-here as Christians to celebrate JOY.
Joy comes when “I love you” is said and it’s felt,
It comes from the feeling your heart will just melt.
Today is the day that we gather to see
Just how much our God loves us-
Loves you and loves me!
He said it in Bethlehem with a babe in a stall,
He said it real clearly “I love-
love you all!”
But the real trick of Christmas- the thing that we lack
Is the courage all year just to whisper it back.
Sometimes we’re shy and sometimes we’re scared
But the love of this God is just meant to be shared!
He’s saying “I love you” with the birth of this baby
And Jesus still tells us- and he doesn’t say “Maybe.”
It’s true and it’s real- we just have to answer.
It’s not time to dawdle- it’s time to move faster!
Remember that third grade kid at the beginning of this? Me?
Well, she said it back to me. And even though things didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped back in the third grade, we’re still in touch. And I still love her..
In fact, she told me she loved me just last week.
And all I can say is it still brings me joy.
Today, we celebrate God saying “I love you.” And it’s meant with deadly seriousness- and complete joy and selflessness. No games.
Today God says “I love you.” And means it.
Always means it.
Even when we don’t say it back.