Some years ago I watched a television program called
“Northern Exposure” about the adventures of a small town,
nestled so quietly somewhere in Alaska. It’s not on TV
anymore. I was often amazed at the character of the town
radio disc jockey. He always seem to say something thought
provoking and full of meaning; something that got right to
the heart of things. For example, his philosophy concerning
the moose or elk that roamed the town streets freely, as cat
and dogs do most of the time. He gave those moose and elk a
status of importance and respect, because as he saw it,
they were there first. It was their tradition to roam
about freely. He always had a wonder of the meaning of life
and events and people, especially this event we are about to
prepare for very soon, the birth of the infant Jesus.
Of course, the day after Thanksgiving kicks it off as
shopper’s streak to the malls and stores at the break of
dawn to cash in on specials and promotions.
guess I also think about the wonder of this event in our
lives each year and reflect on it’s meaning for me.
Christmas will always be tradition to me, of how my family
used to celebrate it as I was growing up, and the traditions
that the family I am a part of now. Like most folks, I
enjoy the Christmas tree, the lights, the presents, the
manger scene, the toys for the grandchildren, and sometimes,
but rarely (in this part of the country), a snowfall.
Midnight Mass, in my faith expression, is always so
beautiful. The choir sings so magnificently. The
church decorations are beyond words to describe. So,
all in all, I feel pretty good about Christmas (except that
it seems to come so soon). It is a joyous time of the
year, almost like a new experience each year.
But then I look beyond the realm of where I now am,
and so close to me I am given the vision to see another
Christmas, yet one not so really new. And like
Ebenezer Scrooge, I am led to places where I do not cherish
to go and beyond visions I would rather not share, except
that they are so close to me; perhaps to all of us.
Come with me as this vision unfolds:
This year is no ordinary year for Christmas. It will
take much courage, and faith, and the hearts and hands of
many strangers to reach and touch the many hurting people in
our country these days, to even see Christmas as something
to celebrate. So many are without an income, without
jobs, without homes, and without much of a promise of any
change anytime soon. Those are just a few of the
realities we face these days, aside from the constant threat
of terrorism, the existing wars, and potential danger of
other wars to come about. People are afraid, they feel
insecure, confused, and many just plain feel helpless.
And I am quite confident that this has all stemmed from a moral
breakdown in almost all venues of society in this country; from the
family on up and including our government. The lack of
concern about what government is suppose to be is alarming
itself. What use to be a government of the people, by
the people, and for the people is taken to be almost a joke
by our leaders these days. But despite all of that,
despite all of the ills of this country and the world, we
still have to deal with it. We still have to go on
living and functioning and being present to the needs of
each other, and most importantly, we have to realize,
perhaps more than even before, that THIS IS GOD'S WORLD, and
God knows what is going on, and God has a plan, and God's
plan is one of hope and better things to come, than one of
doom and gloom. How can I be so sure of that?
Because God is all good, God is all loving, and we are his
children, and He cares for us. And if we cling to Him,
we will be ok.
We will still have to suffer and be
sick, be homeless, be without a job, without an income, but
God will give us everything that we need, that is, the inner
strength and the courage to deal with what might possibly be
in store for us in 2013. And rest assured my friends,
what is in store will not be pleasant. We are going to
have to get off of our butts, and to start looking at the
reality of what is going on in this country. Nothing
is going to get better if we just sit on our laurels. Things
are only going to get better if we get involved in the
process of putting God back into this country. As for
me, if that means offending some folks, then that will be
their problem. There will be more of this
homily/sermon, extended into the new year.
Imagine if you will - our soldiers across the world,
especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, away from family and
friends, in a desperate effort to defend our country against
terrorism to liberate and rebuild a nation from the clutches
of dictatorship, and thousands have died, and many more will
for that effort.
Imagine if you will – outstretched hands
pleading for a warm blanket, and what little child would
have benefited from such a gesture some two thousand years
ago? – little soiled hands reaching for our pumpkin pie and
whipped cream, and we respond: “That’s for tomorrow!” and
our vision would reveal a homeless person with us saying,
“Cover you naked body fool; you’ll catch yourself a death of
a cold.” If only we would have known that the cold and the
streets and the lack of food was his/her death. If only we
would have given them some clothes.
Betrayed by disguise and ourselves revealed, we must
contend with a heavier burden. Still entranced by this
vision we venture on. She is dying of cancer or
another dreaded disease, and we fail to comfort her and her
family in their sorrow and loneliness; we misunderstood our
teenager’s pain and never bothered to look back when he said
he hated God (or whatever title one gives a Supreme Being).
Oh well, Christmas can’t be perfect, at least not for
everyone. They don’t really want so much, now do they?
Or is it that some don’t want to give so much as a “little
bit?” So we turned the vision off.
The crib! Look at the crib! The
baby! Look at the baby! – for there in that amazing
scene, in the form of a helpless child, we see the
tenderness of God. That same child will be helpless
once again when his life is snatched from the cross, and
once more we will look upon the helplessness of God.
Perhaps that baby is saying, “Don’t
look at me; they remain with you still; their soiled hands
won’t go away; their empty stomachs aren’t getting filled;
his pain is still with him; she finds no comfort, but only
sorrow in her loneliness, in her cancer. Did you pass out
the blankets so they would be warm? Don’t look at me, look
at them, “. . . for whatsoever you did to the least of my
brethren, you did unto me.” Perhaps we wonder, “Is there no place we can escape to
where we won’t have to see this vision?” The vision is
over. Reality bids, but it is not a vision nor a dream.
It’s real! It’s real for all of us. It won’t go away, not
even at Christmas time. So we ask, “What do you want for
us to do Lord?” and perhaps He responds, “Open your
hearts and not your heads, so that you may know the true
meaning of Christmas!
My dear friends, time passes on. It always does. Time
knows no special day, no holiday. It does know of love and
comfort, giving and forgiving, and sharing and compassion.
Perhaps the answer is to give the gift of who we are; of the
joy of being really present to each other, whether here at
home or far away in Iraq;, Afghanistan, or wherever - to be
full of the Spirit of happiness and gratitude, of wonder and
laughter, and of peace. Perhaps, to be all of this everyday
of the year – that they might know who He is, perhaps this
is to experience Christmas! Blest with the presence of a
loving God who is with us today and all days to come after
it. The gift of the Infant Jesus. He is with us, Emanuel,
that through his eventual death and resurrection, we will be
a light of this real life to come. His journey as King has
become our journey as servants. His gift of Himself – our
giving of ourselves. What a wonderful gift in the life of
Yes, we call it Christmas, and we describe that Christmas in
a thousand different ways, and it’s meaning is felt so
deeply by people of all walks of life of many different
expression of faith. Like a seagull sweeping down upon
the ocean is the vastness of this happening. Even from
Santa Claus and toys, sliced ham and cranberry sauce, to
white wafers of fresh snow – is the awesomeness of this
great time. Children from all over the world
anticipate it. People stop at some point to embrace
Emanuel (Hebrew for God is with us).
Yes! being an invitation to a deeper spiritual
awareness and experience, Christmas takes us beyond concerns
of ourselves to a new understanding of “God is with us.” We
don’t just extend greetings to those most dear to us. We
embrace all of humankind – for we all belong to the Master’s
Family. Perhaps that’s why we include and take ownership of
the poor, the homeless, the imprisoned, the abused, the
depressed, the shut-ins, the elderly, the sick, the dying,
the lame, those who do not know of God, or perhaps don't
believe in Him. Christmas is not just an event then. It is
an experience, an opportunity to understand what each of us
is all about. Perhaps it is a time for growth in our own
particular faith, a tremendous leap of faith. Doesn’t it
only make sense that Christmas is to be lived in joyful
worship among God’s people? That it is to be celebrated
with high hopes of peace and love of all of humankind, that
peace may reign supreme?
Perhaps it is about the heart. Is it a giving
heart? Is it a heart that reaches out with genuine
love and concern for others, especially those less fortunate
than us? Hearts that are so full of that baby’s Spirit
that we too can perform miracles? That we have the
love to reach out and touch? That we can touch
everyone, knowing that as we do touch those who are hurting,
those who need encouragement, and those who need a loving
embrace, that the Infant Jesus, our King, our God, is with
December 15th, 2012
Night” by Josh Groban
A Christmas To Remember
They are waiting for that day -
When Santa will bring them toys,
Guessing what might they get -
Those fortunate little girls and boys.
Some others look forward to less –
There is no Santa Claus for them,
Toys are the least on their minds –
Their broken lives need to mend.
Beautiful clothes they always wear –
Name brand only will they know,
Never to worry if they don’t fit –
While others go naked out in the cold.
People shopping for Christmas gifts –
Many family and friends for whom to buy,
Never thinking of a different fate –
Not everyone has a job on which to rely.
Christmas lights strung all over the house –
Drivers passing by, they are so bright,
The only light is a flickering candle –
Hiding their faces while parents fight.
Tucked into bed after end of day –
Pillows soft and blankets warm,
Kisses on their foreheads, saying good night –
All is safe, no fear of any harm.
Bullets flying in many directions –
Innocently striking a small child down,
Gangs roaming the streets at will –
While the poor little body waits to be found.
Put an angel on top of the tree –
Watch the lights flicker and blink,
Feel the warmth from the fireplace close –
Hot chocolate is prepared to drink.
Homeless person on the street corner –
Holding cup out to passerby’s,
Maybe a nickel or a dime will drop in –
Shivering in the cold so teary-eyed.
These pondering thoughts come to me –
As this Christmas season draws near,
Times have changed for so many folks –
Things aren’t like they were last year.
The one thing that is constant each year –
Is that Christmas is about a holy birth,
The coming of the Christ child for all who know –
That God loves His children all over this earth.
No matter the scene, be good or bad –
This event we celebrate the 25th of December,
Times have changed for many like no other -
And this will be a Christmas to remember!