Pastor Jim's past sermons:
A Heartfelt Gift
Sunday, January 6, 2019
Isaiah 60: 1-6
Matthew 2: 1-12
Links to past sermons can be found at the bottom of this page.
He could hardly believe that it was a new year already. The Christmas season with all its hustle and bustle had come and gone; and, for the most part, everything went off without a hitch. Only one more little celebration and then he could look ahead to the season of Lent. So, pastor John Perkins sat back in his desk chair, trying to decide how he wanted to handle Epiphany Sunday. It was never easy because it was the same story told year after year.
Let’s see, John thought to himself as he stared at the blank computer screen. I could talk about the meaning of the three gifts. Let’s see, gold for kingship, frankincense for priesthood and myrrh for sacrifice. John started typing, but after a few minutes, he erased everything on the scree. That’s not going to work, he thought to himself. I have to go at this from a different angle. I guess I could talk about how to recognize God’s activity in the world. The wise men saw the star and they knew that God was up to something. So, what clues can we find to figure out what God is up to in our world. That’s got some potential. I’ll mull that over for a day or two and see what comes to mind.
“Morning pastor.” It was Anthony Davis who stuck his head in the door of the pastor’s office. Anthony was a fairly new member of the church, jumped right in with both feet. He quickly got involved on the property committee.
“Hey Anthony, what are you doing here today?” “Just came to take down the Christmas decorations. Sunday’s the first Sunday of the new year.” “That’s right. It’s Epiphany Sunday.” “Epiphany? What’s that?” “That’s when we celebrate the wise men coming and giving their gifts to Jesus.” “Sound’s good. Listen, I’ll be all around the place taking down decorations if you need me.” “Ok, thanks Anthony.”
When Anthony left, John got down some books from his shelf and began working on his lesson for Sunday School. It was about a half hour later, when the phone rang.
“Good morning. Riverdale Presbyterian Church.” “Pastor?” “Yes?” “This is Betty Hunsucker.” “Oh, good morning Mrs. Hunsucker. How are you doing today?” “Well, not so great; but, I guess I’ll make it.” “Well, I’m glad to hear that. Is there something that I can do for you today?” “I wanted to know if I could bring up the bonnet today?” “Of course you can. It just wouldn’t be Epiphany Sunday without it.” “Ok then, I guess I’ll be there in about an hour. It takes me a little while to get going.” “Well, would you like me to come and get you. It might make it a little easier for you.” “No, no, I’ll bring it up the way I always do.” “Ok, I’ll be on the look out for you. Bye.”
When John hung up the phone, he leaned back in his chair and smiled. Mrs. Hunsucker, what would this Sunday be without you? “Holy cow,” John said as he jumped up out of his chair. Quickly he ran out the door of his office. “Anthony where are you,” John yelled, hoping his voice would reach throughout the whole church.
“I’m in the sanctuary,” came Anthony’s muffled voice. John ran to the sanctuary, threw open the door and yelled, “Stop!” “What’s wrong,” Anthony asked as he was removing the last string of lights from the Christmas tree. “Please tell me you haven’t done anything to the manger scene,” John pleaded. “No, I haven’t gotten to it yet. It’s next on my list. Why?” “You cannot take apart the manger scene until after church on Sunday. Take down all the other decorations; but, please, make sure you leave the manger.” “But why?” “Mrs. Hunsucker is coming and the manger has to still be set up.” “I don’t understand.” “She is coming to put the bonnet on the baby Jesus.” “Baby Jesus wears a bonnet?” “Well, yes, in this church he does; but, only for Epiphany Sunday. Look, every year, Mrs. Hunsucker sews a little bonnet. Well, it’s more like a little hat, but she calls it a bonnet. Anyway, she sews it and a couple of days before Epiphany Sunday, she comes to the church and puts in on the baby Jesus.” “Every year? How long has she been doing this?” “It’s been something like 64 years.” “64 years, that’s a long time.” “Yes, it is; so, you have to leave up the manger scene.” “Ok, but why doesn’t she put the bonnet on before Christmas?” “Well, the story goes that a long time ago. The manger scene used to be set up outside. So that people could see it as they walked up and down the street. One year, when Mrs. Hunsucker was walking along with her two year old daughter, the little girl said, ‘Mommy, baby Jesus looks cold.’ So, Mrs. Hunsucker, who had recently made a little bonnet for her daughter, decided to make one for baby Jesus. Well, she didn’t get it finished in time for Christmas; so, she asked if the manger could be left up until Epiphany. That way, she had time to finish the bonnet and put it on baby Jesus. She said it was her gift to the newborn king. Well, a tradition was started and from then on, she has been doing that every year.” “Wait a minute. She makes a new bonnet every year.” “Yep, and it’s the same every year, dark green velvet with gold silk trim. Apparently it takes her several weeks to make it because every stitch is hand sewn.” “Well, why doesn’t she just use the one that she made last year?” “Oh, because that is another tradition. It’s turns out that on that first year, shortly after Epiphany Sunday, a baby was born to a young family in the church. So, instead of putting the bonnet away in a box, Mrs. Hunsucker gave the bonnet to the new baby. And, so, every year, Mrs. Hunsucker gave away her bonnet to the first baby born, that year to a family in the church.” “Wow, I guess that bonnet’s been pretty special.” “Yeah, it’s been quite the hot commodity in this church. The story goes that one year, two mothers were expecting at the same time. Apparently in the days leading up to the births, both mothers could be seen walking up and down the street, hoping to move things along so that they could be the first to have a baby.” “Are you serious?” “I don’t know if the story is true or not; you know how these things get a little stretched over time; but, I do know that Mrs. Hunsucker’s bonnet sure does create a lot of excitement in the church. As a matter of fact, when Claire and Ted Pence came by a couple of months ago and told me they were expecting, the first thing Claire wanted to know was whether or not anyone else was expected. So, Claire already has her eye on this year’s bonnet.” “Wow! Well, I’m glad you said something to me before I took down the manger.” “I am too. As a matter of fact, I’ll bet you that Mrs. Hunsucker is on her way. Come with me and I will show you how important this is to Mrs. Hunsucker.” So, the two men walked out of the sanctuary and out of the front door of the church. When they got to the sidewalk, John turned and looked down the street. “Yep, there she is. On her way.” “Where?” “Right down there. She just turned off her driveway and is coming down the sidewalk.” “Why is she walking and with a cane?” “Well, she is 92. I suppose the legs just don’t work like they used to.” “No, what I mean is, why doesn’t she get somebody to drive her.” “Oh, I’ve tried. Others have tried as well. Every Sunday, her daughter drives her to church; but, not today. Mrs. Hunsucker won’t let herself be driven. She makes this walk every year.” “That’s ridiculous. At the rate she is going, it’s going to take her forever. I’m going to go and help her.” “Be my guest.” So, Anthony quickly jogged down the sidewalk until he caught up to Mrs. Hunsucker. “Mrs. Hunsucker, good morning, why don’t you let me help you. Ow! You hit me.” “Out of my way sonny or I will hit you with my stick again. I’ve been making this walk since before you were a twinkle in your momma’s eye. If the good Lord’s willing, I will make this walk again.” “Ok!” So, shuffle step by shuffle step, the two of them walked along. John, who saw what was happening could only stand back and laugh. It took awhile but eventually Mrs. Hunsucker made it to the front door of the church. Then she walked in and made her way to the sanctuary where finally came to a stop in front of the manger. For a little she just stood there looking down at the baby Jesus. Then she said:
Baby Jesus, Baby Jesus
I don’t have any gold, or frankincense, or myrrh
and I’m pretty sure that I’m not too smart
but I give you what I have
this bonnet and my heart.
Then handing her cane to Anthony, she leaned down and with two hands, she put the bonnet on baby Jesus. Then she began pinched the edges all around the top. “Hey, you know what,” Anthony whispered as he leaned closer to John. “The way she pinches the top of that thing, it sort of makes it look like a crown.” “Well, sonny he is a King isn’t he,” Mrs. Hunsucker said, whose hearing by the way was still exceptional. “Uh, yes ma’am he is.” “So, pastor,” Mrs. Hunsucker said as she stood back up, “any babies coming along.” “Actually, Claire Pence thinks that she will be the first one this year.” “Oh, good, I like that girl. Well, I’ll see you all on Sunday.” “Goodbye, Mrs. Hunsucker, we will see you then.” When he sat back down at his desk chair, John couldn’t help but smile. Who needs gold when you can give your heart, he thought to himself. Hmm, now that sounds like a sermon.