by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster
It was a birthday party.
Father Peter W. Nielsen, III, invited children and adults attending St. Peter Church's Children's Service to sit on the steps and carpet at the altar to hear the story of the birth of Jesus. The young girl we know as Mary, the Mother of Christ, Father Peter said, was fourteen when a messenger from God appeared to her and said she would have a son who was to be called Jesus.
Pausing in his narrative, told in language the smallest child could understand, Father Peter asked who acted as a messenger for God. A small girl, no more than four, said it was an angel. Asking then about the word, 'prophet,' those listening learned angels and prophets deliver messages from God to his people.
The story, so well known, came alive.
Shepherds saw the sky above them fill with angels, as numerous as the stars. They sang the news of a baby born to a virgin. Lonely men, hungry for hope in a world filled with trouble, heard them. Rejoicing erupted in shouts of joy and dancing as the multitude of angels faded, leaving the shining stars they knew so well.
Together, the shepherds left their flocks to find the child. In the presence of the sleeping baby they told Mary and Joseph what they had seen, gazing with awe and hope at the child so recently born.
Jesus, Father Peter, said, brought the gift of salvation to humanity.
Thirty three years after his birth Jesus invited his friends to a meal. He told them to continue to share the bread and wine in remembrance of him, sharing these gifts with everyone.
Adults and children gathered close to the altar, watching as the meal was prepared for them. All raised their cupped hands and took the bread and drank the wine. The youngest, less than two years old, put the bread into his mouth and sipped from the silver cup.
As this gift was given to us, so what we do for others are gifts given to Jesus. These gifts say, “I love you.”
In the dining room we sang happy birthday. The cake was cut. Father Peter asked children and adults to share how they love others this next year. What gifts, time or things, do you give? Each is a gift given to Jesus.
How do you say to Jesus, “I love you?”