An Orange Christmas

Pastor Kim Gilliland
Christmas Eve
SCRIPTURE: Luke 1: 26-38 and 2: 1-20
But Mary pondered all of these things and treasured them in her heart.
Luke 2: 19 (NIV)

WHAT COLOUR IS CHRISTMAS?

Christmas is almost here. It is a magical time. It is a time of celebration. It is also a time of colour. Malls and stores have been festively decorated for weeks. We decorate our houses and adorn our Christmas trees with brightly coloured ornaments. We put coloured lights on our houses. Many people have special Christmas clothes and Christmas sweaters and all of them are colourful. I love this season. I love the celebrations and I love the colour.

One of the neat things about Christmas is that many of the colours actually mean something. If I asked you to think of the colour red, what you would you think of when it come to Christmas? And what about green? Next is white? How about blue? Then there is purple; what about purple. And pink? All of these colours help us to celebrate Christmas each in its own unique way.

But have you ever noticed that there is one colour that is rarely used at Christmas? Can you guess which one that is? What colour do you hardly ever see at Christmas? That colour is orange. I challenge you to look long and look hard to find anything that is orange that is associated with Christmas. Will there be any orange wrapping paper under your Christmas tree this year? Will you be wearing any orange clothes – unless it’s a really tacky Christmas sweater? The other night when I was out for a walk with my dog, I purposely looked for orange lights. Almost every house was lit up with many, many lights. The number of lights that I passed that night must have numbered in the tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands. But I don’t think I saw a single legitimate orange Christmas light anywhere. I did see a couple of places where a red light and a yellow light were close together that made them look orange but they weren’t.

A PRECIOUS GIFT

But there is one place where orange shows up at Christmas. That is with Christmas oranges. Christmas oranges: we don’t often use that expression any more but where I grew up, Christmas oranges were always part of the Christmas celebration. I remember Christmas morning when I was a boy. My parents didn’t have much but they always scrimped and saved so that my sister and I would have a lush Christmas. We always opened the presents before breakfast. Once the presents were all opened, we’d move to our stockings that were filled with candy and cookie. And right down at the very bottom of the toe of my stocking, there was almost always a Christmas orange.

Christmas oranges were not the usual garden variety oranges that we bought at the Dominion Store. They were small – probably clementines or Mandarin oranges. And the really cool part of them, besides the fact that they were super sweet, was that the peel came off very easily. If you were careful, you could take it all off in one piece without getting bits of orange peel stuck under your finger nails. I loved those Christmas oranges. They’re commonplace today but when I was growing up, there were a real treat.

That brings me to another story. Many of you knew my father-in-law, Bernie Wiseman. Bernie wasn’t just my father-in-law, he was a friend and a mentor. Bernie grew up in an outport in Newfoundland, a place called Little Bay Islands. Currently there are two churches, a school that has two students and one teacher. The last industry, a crab processing plant, recently closed up not long ago leaving the island jobless. It is so remote and difficult to serve that back in 2013, the provincial government began offering families $250,000 if they would just pack up and leave. Some took the bait but about 100 hardy souls declined and still live there.

But back in the twenties and thirties when Bernie grew up there, it as a bustling community with fisheries and logging and all kinds of things going on. But even then, the people were poor. Bernie once told me that they didn’t notice when the Great Depression came along because nothing for them really changed. Everyone else just went down to their level. But as long as they had kerosene for their lanterns and wood for their stoves they were quite content.

Because they were poor, they didn’t do much gift giving at Christmas. If you got new article of clothing, that was great and it was probably sewn or knitted by your mother. But Bernie always remembered one Christmas and he spoke of it to me often even though he was only six or seven at the time. He didn’t know how it happened. Maybe a supply ship came to the company store and unloaded a few boxes of clemetines. Who knows? But that Christmas morning, in the bottom of his stocking, he found an orange, a single orange.

Bernie had heard of oranges before. He’d seen pictures of them but never before, in his entire life, had he ever actually held one or even seen one. And now he had one in his hand and he wasn’t quite sure what to do with it because he only got one and that was the only present he received that year for Christmas.

Bernie told me that it took him a couple of days to get started but he remembered going to a quiet corner in the house and slowly peeling back the peel to reveal the orange inside. He remembered being surprised that the orange could be divided into sections. This was a marvel. And then he ate the first section and he could never remember ever tasting anything so delicious. He didn’t know how long it took him to eat it but he ate it slowly, savouring every piece, especially the last one because he didn’t know when he would ever see such a wonderful gift again, this rare and sweet and precious gift.

I think about that and I think about how we lavish gift upon each other every Christmas. We have so much and we give so much because we can. And we expect so much, maybe sometimes too much. But what a difference it would make if we could savour what we receive this Christmas as much as Bernie savoured his Christmas orange?

JESUS – A PRECIOUS GIFT

God gave us something special at Christmas. Into the world he sent a baby. All babies are special but there was something about this baby that was even more special. There were hints of that specialness in the first reading this evening; the proclamation of the angel Gabriel to Mary that she would become pregnant and bear a son and that his name would be Jesus which means “God saves”. This baby, Gabriel said, would grow up to be a king whose kingdom would last forever.

And then there were the angels who sang to the shepherds on the hillside and told them about this special baby that they would find in Bethlehem. At that same time, a star appeared in the east and was noticed by some wisemen who, sometime later, journeyed to Bethlehem to find Jesus. This truly was a special birth. Jesus truly was a special baby. Through him, God would reconcile the world to himself and open the gates of the kingdom so that all who put their faith in Jesus Christ may enter in and spend eternity with him before the throne of God.

God gave us a gift in Jesus. And that gift is as rare and sweet and precious as Bernie’s orange. And like that orange that Bernie received for Christmas, the gift of Jesus is unique. There is no other child like him. There is no Saviour like him. He is Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us. Rare and sweet and precious.

As Luke wrote: “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the fields keeping watch over their flocks by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone round about them and they were terrified. But the angel said unto them, “Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour who is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign to you. You shall find the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

One thing I’ve never really understood was what the angel meant when he said that the baby would be dressed in swaddling clothes. I have to admit that I’m not at all sure what swaddling means. So tonight I’m going to give it my own meaning. Tonight swaddling means orange. Something rare. Something sweet. Something precious.

And may all of you have a very merry orange Christmas.

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

We come to you, O Gracious God, on this Christmas Eve to give you all of the praise, honour and glory that you deserve. You have come to us to live with us. You are Emmanuel, God-with-us, the divine incarnation. You are our highest blessing and our greatest gift.

We are thankful for what we have in this life. We are also conscious of those who have less. We remember, especially, those who are without employment and those who though employed, are not able to make a living wage. We remember those who struggle below the poverty line to make ends meet. We also give you praise for the generousity that it shown at this time of the years by those who are blessed with abundance. Remind us, once again, that it really is more blessed to give than to receive.

We pray for those who do not understand or appreciate the true significance of this day, who do not place their faith in Jesus but, rather, rely on the things of this world which will only rot and decay. What you offer to us, O God, is from everlasting to everlasting. It is your priceless gift of love and acceptance in your heavenly Kingdom.

Holy God, in every challenging situation, we need to seek your wisdom, your way of doing things, and your deliverance and salvation. You have a solution to every problem and a perfect pathway through every circumstance. Enable us to discern and perceive your direction and leadership so that our decisions will be sound and successful. We set our hearts to be fully committed to you and your way of doing things in all areas of life.

O God of Bethlehem, we give you thanks for coming here to earth and becoming one with us. You made it possible for all people to be saved and enjoy the assurance that is ours through faith. When we were without hope, you saved us. Although a lifetime of thanksgiving and praise would not be adequate for what you have done, accept our words of thanks and our offering of praise and help us to fully comprehend the abundant measure which is our blessing from you. Amen.

WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE

December 24, 2017 / Christmas Eve

SCRIPTURE

Isaiah 9:2-7; Psalm 96: 5-10; Luke 2:1-14; Titus 2:11-14

CALL TO WORSHIP

Let us praise God as long as we live;

Blessed are those whose help is in the Spirit;

Christ’s reign will last forever;

Praise God, O my soul.

PRAYER OF APPROACH

Praise God, O my soul. Praise God for the redemption that is ours in Christ. Praise God that love glistened from a stable in Bethlehem. Praise God that in amongst the rude and ordinary things of Creation, a Saviour was born to shine light into the world. Shine that light upon us now, O God of Love. Fill us anew with your Spirit and with the new life that you have promised. Praise God, O my soul. Amen.

PRAYER OF CONFESSION

The desserts shout for joy and the rocks sing your praises. But we have been guilty of falling away. The road that you set before us is straight and easy to follow. But there are times when we choose another path. We prepare our homes for Christmas but we forget to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Christ Child. We bake and cook our feasts but we put the hungry out of our minds. We ensure that there are many gifts under our trees but we neglect the needs of the poor. Convict us, forgive us and place our feet firmly upon the way of Christ. Amen.

ASSURANCE OF PARDON

Gods love is shown most clearly and profoundly in Jesus who was born at Bethlehem. He gave his life as a sacrifice for us that we may receive the gift of eternal life. By his wounds we are healed.

DEDICATION OF OFFERING

We come to you with our offerings, O God, meagre though they may be compared to the abundance with which you have blessed us. In faith, we turn to you and ask that you would bless us and our gifts. Amen.

COMMISSIONING

The love of Christ is shown in this world by the way we love one another. May God’s compassion and peace be with us as we share the Good News of salvation.

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