Christmas 2018 12-25-2018

December 23rd, 2018

Wally was big for a first grader. Everybody loved Wally. No bully, he was the gentlest of souls. Wally was a friend even to the smallest kids at school.
When the school staged its Christmas play, Wally wanted to be one of the shepherds. But the teacher directing the play had a larger role in mind for Wally. Wally was cast as the innkeeper. Wally practiced and practiced, but became more and more nervous about his lines.
The night of the play, everything was going beautifully. Then came the part where Mary and Joseph knocked on the door of the inn. Wally answered the door right on cue and gave his line.
“What do you want?”
“We seek lodging,” came the response.
“Seek it elsewhere, the inn is filled,” Wally replied, with just the right touch of brusque annoyance.
“But, sir, we have tried everywhere, we have come a long way, and we are very tired.”
“Go away,” Wally properly commanded. “There is no room in my inn for you.”
“But sir, my wife is with child. Don’t you have a corner where we can get out of the cold?”
That’s when it happened. Wally broke his icy stare and looked at Mary. There was a long silence. The audience became nervous and uneasy. Everyone thought Wally had forgotten his lines.
“No, be gone,” the prompter whispered.
“No, be gone,” Wally said halfheartedly. Joseph sadly placed his arm around Mary as they began to move off the stage. Wally couldn’t stand it any longer. Big he was, cruel he could never be. With big tears welling in his eyes he gave a performance never to be forgotten.
“Wait, Joseph, don’t go!” Wally cried. “Bring Mary back. You can have my room and I’ll sleep in the cold.”
A few people thought Wally had ruined the Christmas pageant. But most knew better.
Wally the reluctant innkeeper embodied the spirit of our Christmas celebration, expressed so eloquently in Isaac Watts’ beautiful hymn: “let every heart prepare him room.” The reality is that Christmas is a challenge to us and our values and our dreams. Just as Joseph is challenged by God to welcome the child into his home and heart despite the difficult circumstances, God challenges us to welcome his Christ into our everyday lives and allow the child to transform our hearts and homes in his peace and justice.
If you are ready to take up the Christmas challenge, then let me leave you with a few words as a special reminder to you:
“It is Christmas! It is the most wondrous feast – the birthday of the One who came to show us a God of love. How beautiful are the feet of those who walk the extra step across a room to greet someone with whom they have had differences. How beautiful are the feet of those who step beyond the material gifts and appreciate the heart of the giver. How beautiful are the feet of those who move about in the kitchen making the special foods and serving the guests who gather. How beautiful are the feet of those who not only go to church services but who also fully participate by greeting others joyfully, praying and singing heartily. How beautiful are the feet of those who walk into homeless shelters or places with little comfort to bring some of their own abundance.
Yes, how beautiful are all those feet who walk with the good news this day, with the intention of love in their hearts, for they are living the message of the One who came so long ago. The Christ of abundant love, born over two thousand years ago, lives on in us. As our feet take us near and far, let us continue to be the Christ to one another.
I close:
Divine Messenger,
We will carry the good news of your abundant and abiding love to all we meet and greet today, tomorrow, forever.” Amen

A Thought Before Christmas 12-23-2018

December 20th, 2018

There is a story that comes out of India which tells of a beggar whose great hope was that he would meet the king. Then, he dreamed, alms would be given him unasked and wealth scattered all around him in the dust. One day, the king’s golden chariot came into the village and actually stopped where the beggar stood. The king saw the poor man, got out of the chariot, and walked with a smile toward him.
The beggar was ecstatic. He felt that good fortune had come his way at last. But instead of giving him anything, the king held out his hand and said, “What do you have to give to me?” The beggar was confused and undecided. Then slowly, he took from his loaded knapsack a single grain of wheat and gave it to the king. The king made no move to give him anything in return. Disillusioned and dejected, the beggar walked to his bare room. At day’s end, he emptied his bag on the floor and was surprised to find a single grain of gold among all the other grains of wheat. He wept bitterly and thought: “If only I had the heart to give the king my all.
The beggar found only a single grain of gold in his bag because he had given away only a single grain of wheat. If he had given more, he would have received more.
A few weeks before Christmas – in the midst of money being tight, and the normal Christmas rush and pressure – we have many things to give – Let us not be afraid to give them. How about these:
1. Remember an old friend
2. Call or write to someone who has lost someone through death
3. Give peace
4. Forgive an enemy
5. Set differences aside in our families
6. Give of yourself – a small bit of quality time
7. Perform an act of kindness
8. Offer a few sincere thoughtful words of encouragement and affirmation.
9. Give love
and guess what, Christmas will be forever! Wouldn’t that be great!

Remember You Always Walk With God 12-16-2018

December 15th, 2018

A few weeks before Christmas, a woman who lived in a New York apartment building found a greeting card taped to her door. “Merry Christmas from the custodial staff”, it said.
“How nice”, she said to herself and promptly forgot about it. A week later she came home to find another card taped to her door. It was the same message, “Merry Christmas from the custodial staff”. But this time stamped right in the middle in big red letters, were the words, “Second Notice”!
Many of us are terribly forgetful. We immerse ourselves in our daily tasks of life as we must-we can forget almost anything: birthdays, anniversaries, appointments, our bank balance, our glasses. You name it, we forget it. We make lists so we won’t forget and then we forget the list.
But our forgetfulness isn’t limited just to the little things. We forget the big things as well; who our real friends are, what really matters in life, who loves us, who needs us, what we were made for. We just forget.
I believe that is why we need to gather here – week after week; to help each other remember who we are, remember what really matters, and remember that we aren’t walking this long road alone. We’re walking it with the Lord who is right at our side.
And what is this Lord like who walks at our side? Does God walk with us as a critic? A police officer? A judge? Or maybe just an impartial observer? In fact the Lord is none of the above.
The Lord walks with us as a partner and mentor who wants to see us succeed and who understands that it’s going to take us a while. Now what more could we ask? How can we not celebrate and rejoice as today’s liturgy urges us. How can we not be confident and hopeful and put all fears behind us. After all, God is with us and for us!
And there’s still more. Having God walking with us as partner and mentor gives us the opportunity to be in close conversation hourly. With simple words like, “Well, Lord, what do you think about this?” Or, “Lord can you help me see this clearly?” Or simply, “Help, Lord, I can’t do this one alone.” Those are the kinds of words that partners and friends speak very often.
All of that is what we have to come together here to remember. First, remember to rejoice and forget all your fears because God is with us. And second, remember to listen to and talk to God about the real stuff of our lives because God cares more than anyone else…and God knows the way home.
I would like to close by sharing with you my idea of what God’s special Christmas card would say to each one of us;
“Remember what you’ve seen me do”, says Jesus. “…the blind see, cripples walk, lepers are cured, the deaf hear, and dead men raised to life”. If you’ll let me, I’ll do the same for you”, he says. “I’ll heal what is sick in your spirit, if you’ll let me”.
“I’ll open your eyes and your ears so that you’ll know what really matters so you’ll know that happiness and peace are available to you everyday, even on the worst days. I’ll show you that and let you experience that, if you’ll let me.
“I will not insulate you from adversity, challenge, or pain. But I will always see you through them, and never let you come to ultimate harm. I’ll take you by the hand, and raise you up; I’ll help you to walk and I’ll walk with you until your journey is complete, if you’ll let me.
“All that is my promise to you, my solemn pledge. And I will not take it back”, says the Lord. We have a lot to rejoice about today! Don’t we!!