God's Greatest Treasure

Rebecca Sheridan
Friday, December 24, 2021
Luke 2:1-20

    When our first child was born, Rich and I drew up our first will and bought life insurance for the first time.  We’re both pastors, so we probably think practically about these kinds of things more than a lot of people our age, but no matter your age, it’s still a sobering reality to see your net worth and your life’s monetary value in dollars on paper.  I know, roughly, what my inheritance is worth.  But of course, if you were to ask my family and friends what I’m worth to them, they wouldn’t answer in terms of dollar amounts or what they look forward to getting from me when I’m gone.  I’m worth much more than just numbers on a page or money in the bank.  And I hope I pass down many valuable things that can’t be counted to my children, my family members, friends, and parishioners, too, of course!
    We hear the story of Jesus’ birth in Luke every year, but have you ever wondered why it starts with the detail of Emperor Augustus’ Roman census?  The Romans conducted a census about every five years, and like Luke tells us, required men and their families to return to their ancestral homes to be counted.  So Joseph travels with Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem.  The Romans used the census primarily for tax purposes.  As with many governments throughout history, those with the least, like Mary and Joseph, were required to pay the most.  There was no travel expense reimbursement for Joseph and Mary to travel to Bethlehem.  To Rome, Mary and Joseph and their new baby boy were just numbers on a page with dollar signs on their heads to fund the political machine.  We know that Mary and Joseph brought two turtledoves or two young pigeons for Jesus’ presentation in the temple, which was the sacrifice for those who could not afford a sheep.  We know that Jesus was laid in a manger, an animal feeding trough, because there was no place for them in the inn.  On paper, Mary, Joseph, and their baby Jesus weren’t worth a whole lot.  In monetary terms and in social class, they could have easily been passed by and overlooked, just another baby, another mouth to feed.  But of course, we know differently.  
We know that Jesus is God’s greatest gift to us. Jesus is our greatest treasure, not because of his net worth, but because he has the power to heal and to save us when no one and nothing else, including our wealth, social status, and success can.  Jesus is God’s sign to us that WE are of infinite worth and value to God, no matter who we are, no matter the size of our inheritance or bank accounts.  Tonight, we give thanks and rejoice that all of us, as we look around this room and walk out this door into the wide world, are God’s precious creation and worth it.  God in Christ gets into the mess of our lives to save us because we’re worth it!
    God sends his most precious only begotten Son to be born, to live among us, and even die for us so that we might know, without a doubt, how much we are worth to God.  You can’t count or register or measure that worth.  The sign outside on our church lawn says, “You matter to God, you matter to us,” and we truly mean it, especially this Christmas.  Jesus is that sign for us, good news of great joy for ALL the people.  Jesus is God’s sign that we matter to God.  From the lowly shepherds living in the fields to the mighty kings from the East who will come bringing gifts to worship the newborn King, God shows us tonight in the gift of Jesus his son how much he loves every single one of us.  Mary treasures all of these words and ponders what they might mean in her heart.  May we, too, treasure the greatest gift the world has been given, for to us a son is born, to us a son is given.  Amen!