Saturday, December 10, 2011

Keep Christ in Christmas

A man named John was sent from God.
He came for testimony, to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light,
but came to testify to the light.

We are all very well aware of the many attempts of stores and government officials to sterilize Christmas, to take Christ out of Christmas and make it kind of a secular holiday.

There was a recent news story in providence Rhode Island about the Governor who
PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Carolers singing "O Christmas Tree" crashed Rhode Island's Statehouse tree lighting on Tuesday after Gov. Lincoln Chafee unwrapped a holiday hubbub by calling the 17-foot spruce a "holiday" tree.

City of West Palm Beach officials refer to the city’s 35 foot tree as a holiday tree.
“It’s a holiday tree because it’s the holiday season and we want to be respectful for everybody’s views and respectful for what they celebrate this time of year,” said City of West Palm Beach Parks and Recreation Director Christine Thrower.
This has been something that is going on around the country and spreading year after year.

Now I don’t mention this to cause frustration or discouragement but just as a reminder that we are blessed with the Freedom of Speech in this country.  We can all “Testify to the light” as John the Baptist did.  We can help put Christ back in Christmas.

How do we put Christ back in Christmas?

Well this is more of a practical reflection of ways that may help stimulate your own creativity.  Here are three ways to “Keep Christ in Christmas”

The first way comes to us through the prophet Isaiah:

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
to announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God.

If you have been confirmed, you have been anointed to do these very things… to bring glad tidings to the poor, heal the broken hearted, set prisoners free… Do you bring glad tidings to the people in your life, in your home, in your work, running errands?

Do you bring glad tidings wherever you go?  Think about it.  When you drive to work on these dark cold mornings and you walk into see your fellow workers… Do you bring glad tidings?  When people encounter you are they better off for having met you that day?  Or think about coming home from work.  How do you treat your family?  Do you bring glad tidings?  Or do you come home, tired, irritable, cranky, impatient, and mean?  If you do then you need to do something different before you come home!  How about the people that you meet at school or running errands?  Think about the young kid at the gas station, the waitress at Outback, the worker behind the counter at Wal-Mart.  Do you bring them tidings of comfort and joy?  Or maybe you work at a retail place and people are franticly running around trying to cross those gifts off of the lists… Do you take the risk of reminding them to slow down and remember what Christmas is all about?

How do you treat people that you encounter throughout the day?  Are they better off for having met you?  At your confirmation you have been given the grace and the power to bring glad tidings, to bring comfort to the broken hearted, and to set prisoners free.  Do you use this grace to “Keep Christ in Christmas?”

Second, Listen to the words from today’s readings form St. Paul to the Thessalonians:

Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.
In all circumstances give thanks,
for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
Do not quench the Spirit.

Keep Christ in you this Christmas.  Listen to these words on this “Gaudete” Sunday.  Yes, “Rejoice” Sunday (By the way a good way to remember the difference between Gaudete for Advent and Lautare for Lent is – “L” Lautare for Lent).  These words are so moving, so wonderful, and so powerful – REJOICE ALWAYS!!!!!!!  Pray without ceasing!  In all circumstances give thanks!  Wow!  This is preparing for Christmas.  Is Christ in you?  What I mean by that is are you rejoicing?  Or are you stuck in despair?  Sometimes during this time of year as the days get darker and colder, maybe there is grief at the loss of a loved one, or tensions in the family, separation from loved ones, a son off in war, a daughter across the country… the joy and intensity of Christmas can also intensify some of the darkness.

If you find yourself in desolation or despair or depression – do something to get out of it.  Increase you prayer.  Go to confession.  See a counselor.  Share your struggle with some spiritual wise person.  Get some help.  Exercise.  Rest.  Make a retreat.  Take advantage of what your parish is offering: Christmas concerts, Communal Penance Services, Advent days of recollection, days of reflection.  Get involved in some sort of service where you can get out of your own misery and find compassion for others.  Often the reason we experience desolation is because we have been tepid, lax or lazy in our own spiritual life.  Do not Quench the Spirit!  Find a way to rejoice!

The third way to “Put Christ in Christmas” is to Testify.  This comes to us in the Gospel.

A man named John was sent from God.
He came for testimony, to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light,
but came to testify to the light.

Jesus is the light, and just as John was not the light but testified to the light so can we?  What do I mean by this?  How can we testify to the light?  Well I don’t mean become a Baptist preacher, though that Spirit wouldn’t hurt, but what I do mean is that “We are all witnesses”.  We can all in some ways witness to and testify to the Light and “Keep Christ in Christmas.”

Here are some examples of testifying.  I recently received an email that was an invitation to keep God in our state:

You have an opportunity to vote for the best description to be placed on the new Ohio license plate. If you follow this link http://myplate.ohio.gov/ you can vote.

What is great is you can vote for, "With God All Things Are Possible", the official Ohio State motto.  I love it! While government agencies are trying to squash God, we have a chance to promote Him!

Imagine if everyone responded to this email our license plates could say “With God All Things Are Possible!”

I know another faithful catholic friend, Walter Lazuka, who writes a pro-life message on everyone of his checks.  Everyone that sees his check is “witnessed” to by Wally.  One lay man that in a very gentle and loving way upholds the dignity of life in the womb.

Another friend, Dr. Phil Gigliotti who is a doctor in Parma, witnesses to every patient, drug rep, and staff member that walks into his office.  He has a stack of bibles there and asks if they read the scripture, if they have a bible and if they read it.  If not he hands them one and tells them to read a passage.  How many spiritual lives have been changed because of this medical doctor?

One man that I worked with years ago started his own business in the music and concert industry.  The founder and president, Tom Arko, named it “Eight Day Sound” which is the with the image of the “Last day”, the day when Jesus Christ would come again, the day we long for during Advent.  He does the staging, sound, video, lighting for your favorite concert tours all over the country and the world.  And how many people will ask him: “Where did you get the name Eight Day Sound?”  Each time he can witness to Christ and point to the light in a business that is normally about money.

What I mean by these examples is that we all have thousands of opportunities every day to witness, to testify, to “Keep Christ in Christmas.”

Buy a “Keep Christ in Christmas” magnet from your parish’s Knights of Columbus and put it on your car.  Post the readings from this upcoming Sunday on Facebook.  Make your signature on your email your favorite scripture reference.  Wish people Merry Christmas.  Put a light up Advent Scene in your front yard.  Name your company after something scriptural.  Write something intriguing and meaningful on your checks.  Witness and be the light in every way that you can.

We are all not called to be John the Baptist, but we are all anointed to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the broken hearted, to set prisoners free, to rejoice always, and to testify and witness to Christ.

How will you “Keep Christ in Christmas?”  

2 comments:

  1. Hi Father Mike! We really liked your Homily today. Later in the evening I was talking with my girls about your Homily since they were in CLOW and told them about your 3 great ways to keep Christ in Christmas. It was pretty funny though when I mentioned that the first one was to "bear glad tidings" and tried to explain what that meant. Josie, my eleven year-old asked my why you were talking about tights!! All kidding aside, thank you for the joy you share and the light you bear for us! Gina

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  2. Sunday's Homily resonated with my family. Wow, what a powerful message. I must confess, when Luke 15 was mentioned I had to look it up. The Joy of Finding the Lost, I read and reread the passages. Today a flicker of a light is my heart wanting to rekindle the light of Christmas. Merry Christmas to All!

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