Christmas Eve B’23
24 December 2023
Luke 2.1-20; Titus 2.11-14
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
North Little Rock, Arkansas
The Rev. Carey Stone <+>

Alleluia. Unto us a child is born; O come, let us adore him. Alleluia!

In one of my finer moments as a seminarian at Virginia Seminary, I was tasked to give a children’s sermon on St. Nicholas Day. I had them all gathered around me on the floor in front of the altar. A number of adults were dressed as Santa’s elves who accompanied the children to add a festive flair. I retold the legend of St. Nick’s many good deeds and how he was assisted by children to be his helpers in distributing toys. It was then to get to the punchline and here it was: “Children, you too can be helpers of Satan!” A collective gasp arose throughout the congregation sucking all of the oxygen out of the church. Then there was a deadly silent pause which was broken by the elfin Sr. Warden, who took one step forward and said, “Folks you’ve got to look over him, he’s in training!”

Naturally I was delighted the other day to discover a piece in the New Yorker magazine called “Letters to Satan.” As it reads, “Yes, due to inadvertent misspellings and poor penmanship, each year letters intended for Santa are sent to Satan. Always in the market for the souls of innocents, Satan will often take the time to respond.” Here are a few examples:

Dear Satan,

I am Daniel and I love you. I want an Xbox for Christmas.

Daniel, Age 9

Dear Daniel (Am I getting your name right? You only mentioned it twice in your ten-word letter),

Again, with the age. Why must I know that you are nine years old? How does this information benefit me in any way? And yet, I digress.

I’ve gone ahead and wasted five minutes of my life Googling this “Xbox,” and I suppose I’m left with one question: Why? This game “Grand Theft Auto” indeed seems quite fun, but why waste your days sitting in front of the TV when the sun is shining outside—where, incidentally, there are many actual cars to be stolen. If you want to steal a car at gunpoint, punch innocent bystanders, and pick up prostitutes in your stolen ride, by all means, young man, get out there and do it! I know I don’t get all the current newspapers down here (really just the New York Post), but I don’t remember reading about any shortage of cars, guns, or hookers. -expletive-, Daniel, get out there and live!

Your Friend,

Satan, Older Than Eternity

Dear Satan,

I just want my mommy and daddy to get together.

Stephen, Age 11


You’re over ten. Stop telling people your age. It’s childish!

As for your mommy and daddy, I’m sensing some passive aggression in your letter. Maybe it’s my own -expletive-, but it feels as if you’re blaming me for their separation. While I did, in fact, put Vicki from accounting in front of your father to tempt him, I did not have your father lie so unconvincingly to your mother about “working late.” I may be guilty of having that snake trick Eve, but there are some snakes that I don’t control.

But I feel bad. I’m going to send you something called an “Xbox.”




Dear Satan,

All I want for Christmas is world peace!

Molly, Age 4

Dear Molly,



Based upon the events of 2023 that last letter was particularly poignant – no to world peace. 

It’s always my joy each year to bring the baby Jesus down the center aisle and to place him in the nativity scene in front of the altar. This year, I cannot help but see another scene juxtaposed with it, one from a news article with a photo of a model baby Jesus wrapped in a Palestinian scarf and lying in a pile of rubble. Not only is there no room for him in the inn, there is not even room for him in Bethlehem. Due to the ongoing war an unprecedented action has been taken by the Israeli government – Bethlehem has been closed to worshippers and pilgrims for Christmas.

Once again, there is no room for the Prince of Peace. Once again, Jesus is crowded out by a war fueled by a longstanding and murderous sibling rivalry. Let us continue to pray for an end of war, and for the peace of Jerusalem, for what is that prayer but a prayer for the return of the Prince of Peace, to come and “rule the world with truth and grace and make the nations prove the glories of his righteousness.”

The prophet Isaiah foretold this: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness on them light has shined…  For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire. For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

We all look for that Great Day sometime in the future when all evil will be totally vanquished by God. How all of that will be worked out is far above my pay grade. In the meantime, it seems to me that God’s strategy is changing the world – one life at a time.

Throughout history, whenever a person made room in their hearts to receive the Prince of Peace their lives were forever transformed. One of the chief examples of this, particularly at Christmas is Mary, a low middle class if not outright poor, teen-ager who opens herself to the message of the angel and becomes the “Theotokos” the mother of God.

Saul, the original middle -eastern terrorist on his way to kill more Christians saw of vision of the Christ on the way to Damascus, and became Paul, his greatest spokesperson.  Florence Nightingale, after receiving the Prince of Peace lifted her lamp to make night rounds for the battle wounded, and helped establish the modern nursing profession.

Oskar Schindler opened himself to the Prince of Peace and through savvy and shrewdness, saved the lives of hundreds of Jews during the holocaust.

St. Paul in his letter written to Titus proclaims the invitation from the Divine:

“The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all” 

This invitation of salvation didn’t come like most people back in the day thought it would; it didn’t come with a voice of thunder and cracks of lightening, or with a full battalion of soldiers – it came in the middle of the night in the cries of a baby – lo, a Sovereign wrapped in swaddling clothes.  God spanned all the distance of time and space to become Emmanuel – God with us. 

Jesus has drawn near to us, now we are invited to draw near and worship him, and follow him. The God that once was small enough to be held now holds everything together, and invites us all to be held in God’s loving embrace.

While there may be no Christmas in Bethlehem this year, Christmas can happen anytime or anywhere we have the grace to open our hearts to God. Let every heart prepare him room! Amen.

<Leaving heaven’s hallowed halls, he landed in a cattle stall, to bring salvation to us all.>