Thoughts on Christmas, 2009


I first posted this as “Christmas, 2009” on 20 December – I have updated with a link to an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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It is very interesting.  I provided long-term pulpit supply to three different churches from 1999 to 2005 (Neon UMC(Neon, KY), Walker Valley UMC (Walker Valley, NY), and Tompkins Corners UMC (Putnam Valley, NY).  But during that time, I never had to prepare a Christmas Day sermon or message because Christmas never fell on a Sunday.

In fact, during the time that I have been a lay speaker (since 1991), Christmas has only come on a Sunday twice (in 1994 and in 2005).  It will not occur on on Sunday again until 2011 and in 2016.  It is a cycle that is highly dependent on leap year and the seven-day cycle of the week.

But I suppose that, like it has happened for Christmas Eve (see my comments on “Why All The Shouting?”), this can be a problem and/or a challenge to the lay speaker and the pastor.  Some pastors have taken a very “innovative” way of avoiding the conflict; they simply closed the church – see “Open For Business”.

This year, I will not be preaching on Christmas Day but I will be over at the church assisting with a community breakfast.

Following what I have done these past four years (2005 – “So This Is Christmas”, 2006 – “Does It Matter?”, 2007 – “What Gift Did You Give?”, and 2008 – “The Christmas Miracle”) that I have been blogging, I will post my  thoughts for Christmas Day on Christmas Day.

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There is an article in the Tuesday (22 December 2009) article of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that bears reading – POKIN AROUND: Cut all funding for the poor! Is that a Christian message?

I am not surprised that a conservative would make the decision to seek cutting aid for the poor.  Unfortunately, that’s what conservatives do.  Spending any sort of tax money is wasteful spending, especially when it comes to social programs.  The individual who this article is about makes the claim that

The government taxes you and then decides how your money should be spent to help those in need. That’s not the role of government. In fact, he says, that’s "theft." Politicians look good giving your money to causes they deem worthy. Instead, Wynn reasons, since you are free to directly donate to individuals, churches or non-profits, the government should have no part in this equation, especially in tough times. The task of caring for the poor should be handled by churches and other nonprofits, he says. He mentioned that he personally donates to his church. (from the article)

Somewhere in what I have posted before (I think) are two points – 1) I have heard this before and 2) it is the lower incomes that give a higher percentage of their income to help others.

And right now, with the economy still struggling, the pressure being placed on churches and other non-profits is unbearable.  Our church participates in a community food bank and the number of families, not individuals but families, has increased every week.  The church’s resources are strained to the point of breaking. 

But it is the councilman’s feelings that are the most shocking; for as you read the article, you will note that it is a good thing that he personally donates to his church.  He better, he’s the pastor!  But his decision and his rationale beg the question, “Is his church going to contribute the entire $300,000 that is being removed from the budget?”

Personally, I don’t think so.  It may be that they can’t.  His church may be like our church, with elderly on fixed incomes and many people out of work.  I can’t say because I don’t know the details about the church or what they do in the community.

But who is our brother?  Who is our neighbor?  At what line on a map does our community end?  Should our taxes (which I see as a obligation of citizenship, not theft) go for military purposes only?  We live in a time when individuals are struggling; the health care bill that is about to be passed is a joke but no one is laughing.  From where I sit, it doesn’t matter whether you were liberal or conservative; the only ones who benefited from this were the rich and powerful.  Those in need got the short end, again.

The numbers of homeless and hungry increase ever day yet nothing is done.  How many more people will lose their healthcare or be denied healthcare before the healthcare legislation is put into affect?

We say that we are a Christian nation.  As my pastor spoke this past Sunday, we as a nation are functional atheists.  We speak the words of the Bible and we say that we believe them.  But we don’t do the words of the Bible.  The words of the Bible, both Old and New Testament, speak of caring for the poor, the homeless, the hungry, and the ill.  And yet, the number of poor increases ever day, the middle class gets pressured from both sides, the number of homeless increases and the lines at local food banks get longer every day.  The sick will not be healed.

The words of the Bible speak of compassion and caring.  Each one of the Old Testament prophets challenged the rich and the elite to forsake their god of mammon and power and care for the less fortunate; Jesus spoke of caring for the one soul among the many who was lost.  Yet we quickly tell the lost to stay that way and let us keep our money and our power.

It is two days before Christmas when I write this.  Personally, this is going to be a very bleak Christmas for me but no matter what it is for me, it is going to be a lot bleaker because there are those in the world who do not care for their neighbor.

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