If You Are Waiting for Christmas…

(Homily delivered on the Second Sunday of Advent; December 7, 2014 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Waldorf, MD)

In the name of One God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

“Happy Holidays!”

“Season’s Greetings!”

“Merry Christmas!”

Yes friends, it’s that time of year and the discussion resumes…what is the appropriate greeting for the season?

After all, you don’t want to offend anyone. I mean really… what if they don’t believe in Jesus? You could scar them for life or something if you say the wrong thing!

This week, my wife Ann extended a greeting of “Happy Holidays” and was then subject to the tirade of you ‘blankety blank’ liberals and your ‘blankety blank’ political correctness. It’s Christmas, not Happy Holidays or Season Greetings!

The more I thought about this, the more it got under my skin.


We raised four kids at our house. I am known to have specific ideas and expect things to go a specific way.

I know, right?

Our kids knew this about me. They knew that when the world was upset ever so slightly, the soapbox was coming out and I was climbing up on it.

More than once I heard them say, “Oh boy, get ready!”

This unique experience should not be limited to our children. I want to share with you some personal raves.

At this point, it would be perfectly acceptable to look at your seat mate, shake your head and mutter outloud, “Oh boy, get ready!”

Let’s try that…

I’ll say, “You know what really bugs me?”

And you turn to your neighbor or the person sitting near you, shake your head and say, “Oh boy, get ready!”

Okay, are you ready…

“You know what really bugs me?”
Now y’all do your thing…


Actor Kirk Cameron is on the crusade to put Christ back into Christmas.

I occasionally listen to American Family Radio, an ultra-conservative point of view. They have been promoting Kirk Cameron’s new movie, Saving Christmas.

[A personal note: I am anything but ultra-conservative but listening to their views can give perspective and reminds me that we are all entitled to our views and opinions.]

In the promo for the movie from his website, kirkcameron.com, Mr. Cameron is pictured on a mound of commercial things associated with Christmas. He has a little sneer on his face. He has a 3 foot candy cane reared back behind his head ready to slay the commercialism dragon and is poised to complete the mission of putting Christ back into Christmas.

I am not picking on Kirk Cameron per se. I will admit that there are parts of his personal theology and mine that are worlds apart. I think my dogma has more merit and he thinks his does. I can respect that because, you see, we all live our lives in line with our own passions and beliefs.

“But, you know what really bugs me?”
[You do your part]

Two things…well three things really but we’ll come back to number three.

The first thing that bugs me about this is that it assumes, in its broad brush stroke, that Christ is no longer in Christmas across the land and somebody better do something about that.

The second thing that bugs me is you gotta pay to go see the movie. It’s not the paying necessarily. I am not against movie theaters generating revenue and profit. People work at movie theaters and depend on those jobs to feed their family and so on. Nothing wrong with that.

But if the intent is true ministry, if it is to get us to thinking about this holiday in a more holy and spiritual way, should we really have to pay to get in? And then, what happens to any profit realized by the showing? Is the profit being used to further the Kingdom of God? That is not clear.

Okay, rave over. But, I do want to talk about that first point a little more. You know, the one about putting Christ back into Christmas.

 

In our gospel reading this morning, we hear this…

“Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”

Let me say that again.

“Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”

Not coincidently, today we light the second candle of Advent, the candle of preparation. The first candle is the candle of hope and the second, the candle of preparation for the arrival of the Christ Child.

The word preparation means “Get Ready.” Not “Oh boy, get ready.” But instead, GET READY!”

But, what does that really mean?


 

Minneapolis social worker Cathy Heying noticed a growing trend among the homeless and unemployed folks she served for nearly a decade at St. Stephen’s Catholic Church.

“At least twice a week, someone would mention car trouble” as a reason for missing a job interview or not getting the kids to day care,” says Cathy. “I thought if I could offer car repairs, I could prevent these problems.”

So in 2008, with little more automotive experience than tinkering with her own motorcycle, Cathy signed up for a mechanics program. After two years of juggling a full-time course load and a part-time job, she received an associate’s degree in auto technology.

Then she opened The Lift, a nonprofit garage offering affordable car repair for needy people. “I had no mechanics, no volunteers, and only a few tools,” says Cathy. She operated from a bay in a friend’s garage. But she made it work.

One of Cathy’s first customers, Linda Granger, was unemployed when her social worker referred her to The Lift. Her 20-year-old pickup truck had a new heater, timing belt, and brakes installed by Cathy and a volunteer for $600 total, which Linda is paying off in $20 monthly installments. The same repairs would have cost at least $1,800 at a typical garage.

“There’s no way I could have afforded it otherwise,” says Linda.

“It’s been a hard journey from social worker to mechanic,” says Cathy. “But compared with other people’s struggles, I have nothing to complain about.”

If you are waiting until Christmas to GET READY and for putting ‘Christ’ into Christmas….. you might be missing the point!

 

On April 19, 1995, Bud Welch lost his daughter in the explosion of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City.

A man named Timothy McVeigh loaded a truck with explosives, parked it at the curb in front of the building and left it to explode at 9:02 that morning.

Julie Marie Welch was 23 years old and she died along with 167 others at the hands of Bill McVeigh’s son, Timothy.

Bud Welch, Julie’s dad, began calling Bill McVeigh a couple of times a week when federal officials announced that Mr. McVeigh’s only son, Timothy, would be executed for the 1995 bombing.

”He’s going to lose his son,” said Mr. Welch, who since the bombing has become an outspoken opponent of the death penalty, a stance that is shaped in large part by his Roman Catholic faith. ”And when we take Tim McVeigh out of that cage to execute him,” Mr. Welch said, ”it isn’t going to bring Julie Marie back.”

You see, Bud Welch recognized a couple of things.

First, in an act of self-realization, he knew that carrying hate for Timothy McVeigh was not going to heal his hurt or bring back his daughter.

And secondly, he saw that Bill McVeigh was about to experience the loss of a child just as he had.

Bud Welch chose a path of forgiveness and compassion beyond perhaps, what we think we might be able to do if we were put in the same situation.

If you are waiting until Christmas to GET READY and for putting ‘Christ’ into Christmas….. you might be missing the point!

 

On August 9th of this year, Michael Brown, an 18 year old boy, was shot by a police officer in Ferguson, MO.

I do not know for sure what happened in the streets of Ferguson that day. But I see what has happened since.

There has been a scarcity of compassion and understanding. Instead it seems, I have seen the mostly negative and not so much positive.

I have seen people experience the feelings and the emotions of oppression and being singled out.

I have been reminded of the angst of my childhood and trying to understand desegregation in grade school and middle school when my classmates were simply classmates. But my parents and grandparents saw them differently based on the color of their skin.

I have seen hatred towards a dead boy and his parents by people who have no idea who this boy was. And worse, don’t care who he was, who he loved and who loved him.

I have seen hatred towards a police officer who now lives with this boy’s death at his own hands, regardless of the circumstances.

I have seen pundits and politicians use this tragedy for their own gain and purpose with no regard for the human life.

And, I fear after all of this is over, little will really change.

If you are waiting until Christmas to GET READY and for putting ‘Christ’ into Christmas….. you might be missing the point!


 

I don’t think we need a movie to put Christ back into Christmas. No friends, a movie is not the answer. And honestly, if we are waiting until Christmas to prepare to live for Christ, well then…

You want Christ in Christmas Mr. Cameron? You want to put Christ in Christmas?

It is not rocket science really. It does not take learned biblical scholars or trained theologians. It can be done by…

• Opening an auto repair facility for the homeless and unemployed

• Forgiving the unforgiveable

• Finding compassion and learning from anger and outrage to work for true change

• Try feeding the hungry in food pantries

• Serving dinners at shelters

• Collecting school supplies for children who cannot afford them

• Opening your heart and your arms to embrace those that need it without judgment, but do it for the sake of love

• YOU fill in the blank for yourself and follow what your prayer and your passion tells you to do to take care of each other.

Prepare the way of The Lord we are told today. You want to live into that sentence? Do you truly want to prepare the way? It is as simple as living as Jesus calls us to live.

Jesus told us to love each other as ourselves. He didn’t say we could exclude anyone. There are no qualifiers. It matters not about living circumstances, sexual orientation, color of skin, religious beliefs or lack of them or anything else. No one is excluded.

Friends, if you are waiting until Christmas to GET READY and for putting ‘Christ’ into Christmas….. you might be missing the point! Amen.

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