Christmas Comes Once A Year

Christmas comes once a year”  

“And every man must have his share”  

 “Only poor Willy in the jail, drinking sour ginger beer”  

-Famous limerick that plays on the radio in Guyana, South America at Christmastime 

I think I’d rather be in a jail in Guyana hanging out with Poor Willy rather than being accosted by the incessant ads and other claptrap during the crass commercial Christmas season. That is, if the jail does not subject its inmates to Christmas hype. That would be cruel and unusual punishment!   

There are, however, those who practice the true spirit of Christmas, the reason for the season. Again this year, the Marrazzo family will serve the homeless on Christmas day. People who have nowhere to go for Christmas will have a place to go where they can get a good Christmas meal and fellowship with others. At a recent shared meal for the homeless and those in need, the pastor of the Morrisville United Methodist Church announced this event, letting the guests know they have somewhere to go this Christmas if they don’t.  

The Christmas meal will start at 3 p.m., Christmas day at a warehouse tailored for the meal at 125 Lincoln Ave., Penndel, PA.   

In the church bulletin at my church this past Sunday was a printout of an article by Professor Kevin T Bauder of Central Baptist Theological Seminary entitled “The Three Christmases”. 1. The commercial holiday. 2. The cultural holiday and 3. The Christian Christmas, which celebrates the incarnation of Jesus Christ. The professor gives a brief history of the commercial holiday, which “by the end of the twentieth century, it had become devoted to the acquisitive spirit. It is a day that plays upon covetousness…’ Bauder seems to think this Christmas is inherently bad. The cultural holiday, he says, is not inherently wrong, but Christians must be careful to not let it overshadow the Christian Christmas, the real reason for the season. Of course, the professor thinks the Christian Christmas is spot on!  My pastor said, as an example, we would not have a Santa Clause come to the church. 

The “shared meals” are about sharing with others. The commercial Christmas is about greed. The commercialism started late 19th century. Over time, the giving of gifts degenerated from the giving of gifts to the expectation of getting gifts and even as low as demanding gifts. Some guests at the shared meals demand they get everything they want and even hog the food. The free meals are for the homeless and needy, not the homeless and greedy!  

The Marrazzo Christmas meal is an oasis in a desert of incessant ads and jingles, clichés that wear on the nerves. It’s good to know that beyond the surface glitter there is something noble. 

Christ was born in Bethlehem to save us from sin and to show us the way – to become more like him. Jesus healed the sick and lame and helped the downtrodden, accepting them for whom they are, a creature made in the image of God. 

Christmas is not just about a baby in the manger. It’s about Jesus coming to earth, being one of us, suffering like humans, being tempted but, being perfect, he had victory over sins on our behalf. It was the gift given graciously out of mercy for our fallen state. 

Columnist Cal Thomas puts Christmas in perspective: 

Christmas is not just a one-time celebration, but a reminder of why Christ came to earth that we should hold dear all year long. It’s not just an isolated moment. To adapt lines from an old love song, Christmas is not just a moment’s pleasure, but a lifelong treasure. God is not a distant concept; he is ever present. 

God is found in all creation. He didn’t make the earth and people then go off to a distant cloud like the pagan gods of old, but he is alive. 

“The heavens declare the glory of God;
  the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
  no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
  their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
  It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
  like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
  It rises at one end of the heavens
  and makes its circuit to the other;
   nothing is deprived of its warmth. 

The law of the Lord is perfect,
  refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
  making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right,
  giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
  giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure,
  enduring forever.
The decrees of the Lord are firm,
  and all of them are righteous. 

They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the honeycomb.
By them your servant is warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
But who can discern their own errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
innocent of great transgression. 

 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
  be pleasing in your sight,
  Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” 

-Psalm 19 

To learn more about the homeless in Bucks County, PA , the meals and a closer look into who the homeless really are, read “There Are Homeless in Bucks County; A Journey With The Homeless”, by yours truly. 

Enter The Reformation

In a recent blog, I wrote about how the pilgrims did not go to America from England for religious freedom for the first time, but they had that in Holland and that they left Holland because they got sucked into the worldly, materialistic ways of the Dutch at that time.  

Before the Reformation came to the Netherlands in the mi-16th century, the Netherlands were not an independent country, much like America was in the colonial days before we kicked England out of our country. For a while, the Habsburg Dynasty of theocratic Catholic Spain gave the Dutch a lot of autonomy.  

As the Netherlands got richer, Spain wanted a cut. The Catholic theocracy was also nervous about the Reformation blooming in the Netherlands and started clamping its grip on the Dutch. The people of the Netherlands rebelled, and there was much bloodshed, persecution and war. In time, Spain lost and had to leave the Dutch alone, much as was the case in the American Revolution. 

The first influence in 16th century Netherlands was from mainly from the Anabaptists, a belief that was popular with the Dutch then.  Later Calvinism took root. The Calvinists, who were persecuted by the Catholics from Spain, fought back, and destroyed Catholic churches and images as well as their ideas. They took them down much like Bruce Lee took down the secret, evil fortress in Enter The Dragon. 

In the 17th century, the Netherlands became a hotbed, a strong fortress for the Reformation. 

Today, sadly, the imprint of the Reformation in the Netherlands is only a shell, symbolism over substance. 

We Are Therefore Christ’s Ambassadors

At the shared meal last Saturday at the Lutheran Church of God’s Love in Newtown, PA for the homeless and those in need, the pastor and two other hosts sat at our table to get to know us and were open to our concerns. They also socialized with the other guests. We were warmly welcomed and made to feel at home.  

There are other churches that hosts the meals who also warmly welcome and socialize with their guests, such as the Second Baptist Church of Bristol, Harriman UMC, Restoration Church, Calvary Baptist, Saint Marks AME in Newtown, and Calvary Full Gospel. 

There are other churches, however, that at some point became a bit callous towards the homeless and those in need. The Levittown Salvation Army Community Center is one of them. Most recently, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, the guests were herded in and out like cattle!  The guests had to wait in a long line, like the soup line people had to wait in during the Great Depression in the cold to get into the meal. Finally, a few minutes after the six pm. set opening, guests were herded in. It took a while, as the host took people’s names. A host that one former Salvation Army volunteer nicknamed “Queen Latifah” escorted the party I was in to assigned seats, as she did others.  

It took some time for most guests to sit down and eat. I must have been after 6:30 when they could start! Yet, about 7 p.m., AHTN rounded the herd up to get in the bus. The queen parroted the order that it was time to go, quite augustly and vocally. You would think that AHTN would give the homeless riders more time to enjoy their meal! 

After experiencing abrupt rudeness and condescension repeatedly from the queen years ago, I stopped going for quite some time. I heard there was new leadership and that maybe the new leaders would put a leash on the queen, a member of a spurious aristocracy. As evidenced at the Thanksgiving meal, the status quo is pretty much still in place. I don’t plan to go back to the meals.  

The Levittown Church of God is another church that does not treat their guest right. Although we who come to the free shared homeless and needy meals appreciate being fed, some of us expressed outrage with the attitude of the host, namely the pastor, at a meal there back in February, 2019. Some people, including myself, have decided not to go back there. 

We he opened, he bragged that the church itself provided the meal.  “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.” Matthew 6:2.  

“Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; A stranger, and not your own lips.” Proverbs 27:2  

The host started taking up table cloths, chairs, and even tables not much past 6:30 p.m., as people were still eating. The meal is scheduled to run from 6 p.m. until 7 p.m. Guests were not let in until 6:05. One of the guests asked if the meal was supposed to end at 6:30 p.m.   “Don’t you see, everyone is leaving”, the pastor snapped.  Shortly thereafter, as I sat, wiping my mouth with a napkin, the pastor, standing opposite me said something like “hope you had a good meal; we’re breaking it down…”.  As I finished wiping my mouth, he flipped the table, abruptly folding it up, almost dropping it on my lap!    

As we moseyed towards the door, some of the hosts subtly pushed us out, as if we were cattle!  Movin’ movin’ movin’. Keep them doggies movin’. Keep them doggies movin’, rawhide…  Move ‘em out!  

Except for graciously and generously offering the guests food, the hosts did not interact with their guests as they have in the past.  In the past, the pastor and other hosts have reached out to others. On one occasion long ago I talked with the pastor about a problem, which was later resolved. 

Most of the churches that host the shared meals are gracious with their guests and socialize with them. The shared meals are an important ministry, where hosts can reach out to show Jesus to their guests and help people experiencing problems. 

In my book, the shared meals are one thing I write about. 

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” -2 Corinthians 5:20 

Do Not Conform To This World!

The Pilgrims who landed on Plymouth Rock in 1620 didn’t go there to flee religious persecution from England. They already had freedom when they emigrated England and went to Amsterdam, Holland in 1607 and 1608. 

The problem the Pilgrims had in Holland that people, especially their children, were seduced into the mainstream culture there at the time. The kids just wanted to fit in and not be seen as odd. The children ignored their upbringing in the faith. Pilgrims were lured into sinful activities. Many pilgrims abused their new found freedom and tolerance. The Dutch children didn’t read their Bible and the pilgrims’ kids stopped reading their Bibles. They were taken in by their welcome grin! 

In the 1600s, Amsterdam grew in affluence and prosperity, and pilgrims grew along with them. They worked hard and long hours and didn’t make time for God.  Likewise, Christians in America prospered materially, but declined spiritually. In fact, there is a spiritual bankruptcy in America. There are preachers, like Joel Osteen and Creflo Dollar (who lives up to his name), who preach the prosperity doctrine. 

The affluence and prosperity – the worship of the almighty dollar – and diminishing spirituality, is evident during the Christmas season, as the crass commercial hawkers started well before Thanksgiving. Hallmark did some Christmas in July!  In Mel Brooks’ Silent Movie, the executives at Engulf & Devour bowed at the altar of the dollar, an idol set in a golden background, reverently saying “Oh mighty dollar, we pray to thee; without thee we would be in the crapper!” 

Jesus said the root of all evil is the love of money. 

Like the pilgrims in the Dutch city of Leyden, Christians in America are getting seduced by idols. And there are dire consequences. The Dutch, who were originally tolerant of the Pilgrims’ beliefs, became intolerant of them. This is the way the politically correct are today in our country. 

What we need today in America is to anchor to a Plymouth Rock and have Jesus as our rock. 

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” -Romans 12:2