This guest sermon was submitted by Reverend Don the Revelator, Universal Life Church Minister. All ULC Ministers are invited to contribute their own sermons for consideration/publication. To submit a sermon, please email it to email@example.com.
When I was in my early twenties, I became fed up with the blatant materialistic culture of the United States. With a close friend at my side, I left on a journey in search of truth. My operating rule was that if it didn't fit in my backpack, I didn't need it. After some eight months or so, winding our way ever southward, we ended in up in the tiny town of Valle de Angeles, Honduras.
Located a few hours from the Honduran capital, Valle de Angeles sits high up in the cool, piney mountains. Upon arriving, we found a mission run and staffed by a 7th Day Adventist church from the U.S. They took us both in, fed us, and gave us a safe place to stay. It was certainly more than we could have hoped for. I volunteered to help them as a carpenter, and my companion volunteered as a registered nurse.
Valle de Angeles is a hand-to-mouth coffee growing region, dependent upon the subsistence laborers who tend the coffee bushes, harvest the bright red beans, and sun-dry them. The people I met worked hard, long hours just for enough money to stay alive. It was in this community where I learned the meaning of Christmas.
The Meaning of Christmas
Christmas Eve, 1977, found me visiting the home of a poor single mother and her blind 5-year-old son. Although my Spanish improved later in life, on that particular night we did the best we could. Spanish-English dictionary in hand, we talked and she brought in two cups of steaming hot chocolate milk. Sitting on the dirt floor of her one room house, the mother told me her son was a singer with a special gift.
At her beckon, his beautiful and clear voice rang out as though he was performing in a grand European concert hall. The experience was stunning, and although it was almost 40 years ago, I have never forgotten this performance. The love between mother and child was palpable, and their graciousness overwhelmed me. There was no pile of presents in their home, no wreath on the door, no turkey in the oven, and no bright lights decorating the outside. It was just a blind child singing beautiful Christmas songs to 3 admiring adults sitting on a dirt floor.
Life expectancy in this region of Honduras is below global average. Malaria, unsanitarydrinking water and the crushing weight of abject poverty take a heavy toll. However, for this moment in time, all was suspended and we became collective celebrants in the wonder of Christmas. The hope of resurrection, reflecting upon God's glorious grace for mankind, and sharing this gift given to us by a child.
For many years afterwards it became my tradition on Christmas Eve to attend a celebration at the poorest church I could find in my area. Looking into the faces of the worshipers and seeing the hope of God's grace, the rapture of His love upon the faces of the celebrants as they shared with each other the joy in the birth of the Son of God - this to me is the meaning of Christmas.
As the years passed, my ritual of connecting with others on Christmas Eve became less frequent. However, I always make an effort to locate that one church on the poor side of town. Sometimes I make it, sometimes I'm busy with my own family. Regardless, I often think of those hopeful faces, frozen in time in my mind's eye. Because of these experiences, I never have gotten caught up in the corporate aspect of the holiday. To this day, I credit my trip to Honduras all those years ago for teaching me the true meaning of Christmas.