Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Advent - Waiting in Joyful Anticipation

This is truly a joyful time of the year.  We rejoice at the birth of Jesus, our Savior who was sent into the world by God the Father to free us from sin and lead us to life everlasting in heaven. This is the season for good will toward all people – a time for peace – a time for reconciliation with those with whom we have lost touch - a time for family and friends to gather together across the miles to celebrate and be reacquainted – it is also a time for reflection on the meaning of Christmas and the promise of God’s love for his people that is made manifest at Easter.

We see at this time of year, signs reminding us to Keep Christ in Christmas – on billboards, on car bumpers – I want to tell you of the original “Keep Christ in Christmas” story.

The Legend of the Candy Cane
Once upon a time a faithful disciple of Our Lord, Jesus wanted to make something to help people remember what Christmas was all about.  He thought very hard about what he could do to help people keep the mission of Jesus in mind and what his birth really means to us.

Being a candy maker he decided that he would make a candy to help people, especially children remember Christmas.

He began with a stick of pure white hard candy.  White symbolized the purity of Mary’s Immaculate Conception and the virgin birth of Jesus.  It also stood for the sinless-ness and purity of Jesus. White is also the color of baptism, when we are clothed in a white garment to symbolize how our baptism makes us pure and sinless like Jesus.

The rock hard candy symbolized the rock-solid foundation of the Church, for Jesus told Peter, “Upon this rock I will build my church.”  It also stands for the solid firmness of God’s promise to his people. His promise is never changing, never to be broken.

The disciple then put red stripes on the white candy stick to symbolize Jesus’ suffering and sacrifice on the cross.  Jesus took away our sins through his suffering and sacrifice to free us from sin and bring us to Life in heaven with God the Father.

The candy maker then made the candy into the shape of a shepherd’s staff – for Jesus is the Good Shepherd who lovingly looks after his flock; going out to search for all the lost lambs; carrying them safely back home in his arms.

And if you turn the shepherd’s staff upside down it makes the letter “J” which stands for Jesus – to further remind us of Our Lord and Savior who is the Son of God who became a man just like us – who came into the world this night as a baby; to take away our sins and bring us to Eternal Life in heaven for ever and ever.

The disciple’s simple creation became known as the Candy Cane and it is the original symbol reminding us to Keep Christ in Christmas.
And if this story isn’t true – it ought to be

So, whenever you see a Candy Cane –
W       Think of Jesus who was born on Christmas Day
W       Think of Jesus and the love of God, the Father who sacrificed his only Son to take away our sins and bring us to Eternal Life in heaven
W       Think of Jesus teaching us the Good News of God’s promise of Life everlasting and his great love for us his children.

Keep Christ in Christmas and every other day of the year
W       Keep Jesus, the Christ always:
o        W In your thoughts
o        W On your lips and
o        W In your heart
And let us rejoice and be glad for our Savior (comes) has come.

Deacon Don

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Prayer for Thanksgiving

Heavenly Father, we thank you for all the gifts and blessings you’ve bestowed on us. Not because we are deserving of them, but given because of your never-ending love for us. 

We thank you for all the opportunities of grace in our lives
Open our eyes to new occasions of grace, so we may grow ever closer to you

Help us Lord, in our struggle to do your will as we strive to love one another with your love and see one another through your eyes: as brothers and sisters
Let us be good stewards of your earthly Kingdom as we share its bounty with all your beloved children
Be with us as we care for one another as we would care for ourselves
Stand by us as we see in the suffering of the poor and downcast – your suffering on the cross - move us to act always with compassion, love and mercy
Show us the ways of love that put the needs of others before our own
Guide us on our journey of discipleship as we follow your Son into the promise of Eternal Life

Thank you for this gift of Life now and for showing us the way to your heavenly Kingdom where we will live with you forever and ever.


Peace and Happy Thanksgiving,
Deacon Don

Monday, November 21, 2011

When did we see you, Lord?

Today, a good friend calls to ask us to do an important task for him.  He says, “Visitors are coming who know nothing of our faith; I want them to see Jesus, please show them Jesus.”

What do we do?  What do we tell them? How do we show them who Jesus is?  Where can we take them to find Jesus?

Is Jesus in the great cathedrals?  Is he found in the churches?  Do we see Jesus in small prayer communities?  He tells us that: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among you.”  Are these the places we take our visitors to show them Jesus?

How about taking the visitors to see Jesus where he dwells for those who are “Blessed by my Father?”  He is always found and recognized among those who love, with the love of God.  Jesus is the one who receives the love of God through the acts of mercy and compassion given by those who care for the poor, the disenfranchised, the lonely, those whose basic human needs are met by his disciples.

Jesus is the one who was hungry. . .
            The one who was thirsty. . .
                        The one who was a stranger. . .
                                    The one who was naked. . .
                                                The one who was ill; in need of care
                                                            The one imprisoned; despairing and alone. . .

The righteous recognize and respond to those basic human needs with compassion and love.  They do not seek to find Jesus, but only to love as He loves and live as he lived – with mercy and kindness for all their brothers and sisters.  It is the Way of the Lord - not merely an action, but a life, lived in the Love of God. 

His Kingdom is for those who act as he acted, love as he loved; meeting the basic needs of the poor, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned – A kingdom prepared for those who love with his love - completely, without question, without counting the cost – for in their suffering we see the suffering of our Lord and Savior, the Son of God, Jesus, the Christ, the King and our hearts are moved with compassion and mercy.

Our visitors will find Jesus in the cathedrals, the churches and the prayer communities; there among the faithful who praise Him and give Him glory and honor, but they will especially find Jesus among those who dwell in refugee camps and slums and prisons and alleyways and hospitals – among his suffering brothers and sisters. It is here that they will see the face of Jesus in the face of those who suffer and in the face of those who tend to their needs.

Mother Teresa reminds us that we are to love the poor because “each one of them is Jesus in disguise” In them we can show Jesus to our visitors.  Here is where they will also find him in the love of his disciples, filled with the love of God; doing simple things to serve the basic needs of our brothers and sisters.  Jesus sees each kindness done to “one of the least” of his brothers and sisters as being done for him.  He promises those who do work to help the least with love, mercy and kindness will share in his inheritance - the Kingdom of God.

As disciples, we are not called to solve all the problems of the poor and suffering, but to love them and do what we can to serve them in relieving their suffering.  Again, Mother Teresa tells us, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”  Our love is not measured by how much we do, but by our loving as we would want to be loved.

Our visitors will see in the face of the poor and suffering, the broken body of Christ.  In their face they will see Him on the cross.  In their wounded-ness they will see his wounds. 

The visitors will also see the love of Christ in the faces of those who are “blessed of God”; in their quiet and simple service to the poor, the naked, the hungry, the lonely and the sick – For the King said, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Deacon Don