- St. Luke's Dundalk
"Who Needs Christ in Christmas?" by Pastor A.J. Houseman
So in my home congregation, I remember this one skit that our youth group would always do. I’m not going to monologue it here for you, but this is basically the gist: someone is just chilling at home and they get a phone call. It’s from God! God says, “Hey how’s it going? Can I come over in a bit?” And the person is like, “Of course, God! I would love it if you came over!”
So the person starts to prepare for God’s arrival. They are super excited and get out their cleaning supplies. Then they get out the fine china and a super fancy red wine that they have been saving for a special guest, and well really, who is more special than God? They wrap a super expensive gift they just got for God’s arrival. They put out the fancy dinner guest decorations and those new fancy candle stick holders from Pottery Barn. The mood is set.
This whole time that she is preparing for God’s arrival, people keep knocking on the door. The first person was starving and asked for some food. She says, “sorry I don’t have anything for you, this is for God because God is coming to dinner.”
Then someone rings the doorbell and asks for something to drink. She says, “Sorry, I don’t have anything for you. This fine wine is for God. Because God is coming to see me!”
Then someone knocks and immediately when the door opens is coughing like crazy. The person barely mutters that they are ill and need some help. She promptly slams the door in their face and says, “Don't get me sick! God is coming to dinner and I need to be well for God!”
Then someone knocks again, and now she is getting really frustrated because of all of these interruptions when she is trying to prepare for God’s arrival. When she opens the door, there is someone barely wearing anything and shivering from the winter cold. They ask simply for something they can put on to keep them warm. At her wit’s end of frustration she just says, “NO! Can’t you see that I need to prepare for God! Because God is coming here to see me!”
After turning the last stranger away, she finishes what she is doing and then the phone rings. It’s God again. She says, “Oh God! I’m super excited for your visit! I had some interruptions but I am all prepared now.”
And God replies, “I came over four times and you turned me away. When I was hungry, you did not share your food. When I was thirsty, you did not share you drink. When I was sick, you did not take care of me. And when I was naked and cold, you did not share your clothes. For when you do these things to the least of these, you do them to me.”
Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and healing the sick. These are often referred to as the “Matthew 25 things.” These things that Jesus leaves us with and asks us one more time to do before he is handed over to be killed. And it’s how we end our church year.
Advent is a time of watchfulness and waiting. It’s a time of preparation for the Emmanuel, “God with us.” God is coming on Christmas, what will we do to prepare?
In 2013, the American Atheists put up a billboard in Times Square that said, “who needs Christ in Christmas? Christmas is about love, joy, family, friends, giving, and food.” For everyone that just gasped: Yes it was that controversial at the time too.
See they were recognizing something that we, from our faith perspective, would proclaim IS the Christ in Christmas. It’s all that “Matthew 25 stuff” that is the meaning for the season.
This year, Advent is going to be totally different. It’s ok to lament that for a little while. There won’t be festive holiday parties, there might not even be family celebrations, and this year, St. Luke’s will not gather together in person on Sundays for Advent.
But we will still watch and prepare. Prepare for the Emmanuel. Our annual preparing for when God decided to become human, to live among us, to teach us, to share the gifts of love, joy, giving, family, friends, and food with his disciples and with all whom he crossed. He shared this love, joy, giving, friends, family, and food with strangers, sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes, those deemed undesirable and unclean. Those society had labeled unworthy and outcasts. This is the Christ in Christmas.
God is coming. Advent is how we get ready for God to come to dinner. What will you do in your preparations? Get out the fine wines and fancy dishes? Or answer the door?
Our Christmas culture starts the day after Thanksgiving, or as it is becoming more and more: the day after Halloween. We see the stores filling up with decorations, gift boxes, holiday candies, deals on new TVs and iPads. ‘Tis the season, right?
As we enter this time, maybe this year can be a little different? I wonder if because of how different this season will be that it may be a gift as well. A chance to do something different.
What if this year, instead of all of our fancy gifts and parties, we take the time to tell one person each day why we are grateful for them? What if we call the food bank and ask what they really need right now? Or like as St. Luke’s did last week at the Sharing Supper with simple hats, gloves, and sandwiches!
Maybe it can be giving a thank you card to the postal worker, or sending a holiday greeting to someone who needs it.
Preparing for God doesn’t always have to be glamorous. Sometimes it's just the little things like answering the door. Amen.