Thanksgiving @ Christmas

Poinsettias are indigenous to Mexico. In 1828, the American ambassador to Mexico, Dr.Joel Poinsett, whose hobbies included botany, discovered the plant and sent samples home to the USA. According to Mexican tradition, a little girl wanted to bring a gift to Jesus on Christmas but could find only weeds. After bringing them to the church, the weeds bloomed-- guess what kind of flower they produced? So that's where poinsettias and Christmas first connected (thanks for the info, Mr. Internet).

I love the idea that at Christmas God can take a humble offering of love and transform it into something beautiful for all to enjoy. Our Sanctuary is decorated with many plants given in memory or honor of loved ones (thanks, Trudy!). While we spend so much time and effort at this time of year to buy presents for others, do we take time to consider the gift of love given by God to us each Christmas? What Gift Can We Bring is found in our United Methodist hymnal, #87. It's not a Christmas hymn-- but when I read the text, I think of the little girl bringing her gift to Jesus:

What gift can we bring, what present, what token?
What words can convey it, the joy of this day?
When grateful we come, remembering, rejoicing,
what song can we offer in honor and praise?

Give thanks for the past, for those who had vision,
who planted and watered so dreams could come true.
Give thanks for the now, for study, for worship,
for mission that bids us turn prayer into deed.

Give thanks for tomorrow, full of surprises,
for knowing whatever tomorrow may bring,
the Word is our promise always, forever;
we rest in God's keeping and live in God's love.

This gift we now bring, this present, this token,
these words can convey it, the joy of this day!
When grateful we come, remembering, rejoicing,
this song we now offer in honor and praise!

The hymn helps us to see how we can respond to God's gracious gift of Jesus: "when grateful we come... give thanks for the past, now, study, worship, mission and for tomorrow..." This Sunday and next Thursday night, we will hear scriptures from the Old Testament, both of which have been interpreted by Christians as pointing the coming of Jesus. They anticipate a future of deliverance from evil, liberation from oppression, and justice for all, especially the poor.

As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, may the poinsettias of our Sanctuary remind us to give thanks to God for what God has given us in Jesus Christ. May they also challenge us to bring a gift to God at Christmas as a response to what we have received from God. I look forward to giving thanks to God with you this Christmas, particularly Christmas Eve-- our services are 5:00 (family service), 8:00 and 11:00 (traditional services). As a way of sharing your love of God, and God's love for everyone, who can you invite to worship with us?