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: 

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2015/12/24/true-meaning-christmas.html 

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. https://www.amazon.com/dp/172865209X/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_dp_U_.iX9BbZXM6842?fbclid=IwAR0gPVr_CAM7L0hyxu92hll8KTsLWTUmr1nIEamgTnuc_Hi4yDafBYGcMqs 

Free Homeless Christmas Florida Vacation

Different institutions in Bucks County, PA have teamed up to sponsor a free trip for the homeless to Disneyland Florida. The county will charter a special Amtrak train, The Disoriented Express, to take them to Florida. Once there, a chartered bus, To Serve Man, will take them to the Seven Seas Lagoon, where alligators have been known to attack children. Bucks County spokesperson, R.I. Diculous, said this is the county’s Christmas gift to the local homeless. 

At Disney, they will be given a meal – a picnic at The Seven Seas Lagoon. To allay any fears, signs warning about alligators will be taken down. The only signs posted at the time will be “Reserved for The Homeless.” Once the alligators chop down on homeless sitting on the edge of the lagoon, Disney will flash notifications all over the park: “Seven Seas Lagoon is now open.  It’s safe there now; the alligators have eaten and are full.” 

The Soylent Green plant, slated to be built on the site where Stand Down, an annual event for homeless and needy veterans used to be held, will not be ready for Christmas, so to not welsh on a homeless Christmas present, the Disney vacation will replace the Green gift to the homeless. http://levittownnow.com/2016/09/10/program-helps-veterans-need-kicks-off-last-year-current-site/ 

The gift of the plant, the Soylent Green initiative, will give the homeless the honor of keeping Bucks County Green. In this program, the homeless will be allowed to camp, virtually in pristine woods, as they are carried along conveyor belts, past the rotating knives, in extreme comfort, where their mangled flesh is ground into wafers, just like in the movie. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soylent_Green   

In the funhouse, the homeless pass through a diorama of pristine forests, a homeless paradise. Just before they get to the rotating knives, a giant neon sign will flash “THANK YOU FOR HELPING TO KEEP BUCKS COUNTY GREEN.” 

Disclaimer: The Free Homeless Florida vacation and Soylent Green Plant stories are satires in the tradition of Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal, a satire to criticize the heartless, utilitarian attitude towards the poor. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Modest_Proposal 

People should not be made into Soylent Green. We should be just as shocked at the attitude towards the homeless in places like Bucks County as was Detective Thorn (Charlton Heston) in Soylent Green: “SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE!” 

Like everyone else, the homeless have value; they are made in the image of God. 

“And the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living soul.” -Genesis 2:7 

In my recently published book, “There Are Homeless in Bucks County; A Journey With The Homeless”, I discuss attitudes about the homeless in Bucks County, PA.  I focus on my experience hanging out with the homeless in lower Bucks County, particularly with Sandi, who walked alongside me on my homeless journey for almost three years after I became homeless. The book is available on Amazon.com.   

https://www.amazon.com/dp/172865209X/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_dp_U_.iX9BbZXM6842?fbclid=IwAR0gPVr_CAM7L0hyxu92hll8KTsLWTUmr1nIEamgTnuc_Hi4yDafBYGcMqs 

Do We Have A Prayer?

Serenity Prayer

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen.”

There’s a lot of wisdom in that prayer.

Two plus two will always equal four. Mixing vinegar and baking soda will always make a good volcano for a science project. But human behavior cannot be reduced to formulas. As Shakespeare wrote,

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

People have tried to help others with problems, such as addictions and general destructive behavior, but they haven’t always responded the best way. We can only plant a seed; God makes it grow. Whether we realize it or not, God works behind the scenes to, as Larry the Cable Guy would say, get ‘er done, in his time, his way.

We shouldn’t let circumstances, especially ones we cannot change, rule our lives.

Faith healers don’t work. For a laugh, I used to watch faith healer Reverend Ernest Angley perform his tricks.  He’d stand over someone with a malady and chant  something like ” I’ve got your condition in my vision. I’ve got your condition in my vision. Yea-ya, in the name of the Lord…”  Instant healing.

For sure, the Lord can heal, and I for one believe in the power of prayer, but it normally isn’t instant and not through the medium of a faith healer. Christ himself healed instantly when he was on earth, but I find faith healers dubious.

When people find others with deep problems, such as addictions, they think “bring them to the Lord.”

It’s just a starting point, a good one. One thing we’ve talked about in a local 12 Steps program was that people don’t realize that recovering from long term addictions is not quick. In fact, it takes a long time, like the Tortoise who outran the Hare. You can apply this to any sinful behavior. Putting off the sinful ways and putting on the new, Godly ways, as the Bible says, is a lifelong process.

A key to reaching people is to develop relationships with them and show Christian concern. Another way is to minister to people by showing a good example. Actions speak louder than theological words, although theology is important. A short while ago a preacher related a story where he was doing carpentry work and a boy came over and intently watched him. When the preacher asked the boy why he was so interested in watching a preacher hammer nails into wood, the boy said “I wanted to know how a preacher would react when he hits his thumb with the hammer.”

One of the homeless persons in lower Bucks County, PA who has been struggling with an addiction seems to be finally on the way to recovery. People from local churches have been ministering to him relentlessly for more than a year as has his friends. For what seems forever to people who care about him, he went through cycles where he was making progress, but like Sisyphus, the guy in the ancient Greek myth who just about gets the boulder up the hill only to have the large rock roll back down, he kept falling back. Now he’s got his momentum and he may just get that rock up to the top of the hill.

This is where Christian ministry comes in.

Addictions, like any problem that results from sin, is a lifelong battle. It’s like my toenail fungus. The doctor told me I’d probably have to apply medication to fight the fungus the rest of my life.

Believe it or not, despite all the incessant, cacophonous pleas to buy more and more expensive material things for loved ones for Christmas, this is not what the season is all about. Holy crass materialism, Batman! It’s about a savior being born to rescue us from the pit of sin and guide and mold us through a sinful world.

That baby, Jesus, for whom there was no room in the Inn, sacrificed for us, showing true love for those he came to save — a gift from above.

In that tradition, caring people are reaching out and are sacrificing their time, labor and money to help the homeless.  Churches, and individuals, have been bringing gifts to them.

People are helping others by offering events and through gift giving this Christmas season. Some are listed on the Facebook photo. On Christmas day, in Penndel, PA, the Marazzo family is hosting a Christmas dinner for the homeless. Most of the guests don’t have a place to go on Christmas and this is a very thoughtful, gracious thing to do.

As is the case with community meals, it’s not just the food; it’s the fellowship.  It’s not Jeff Dunham’s Walter as a Walmart greeter spouting “welcome to Walmart; get your sh** and get out!”

Remember Christ at Christmas, the reason for the season.  

This can easily be lost in the bedlam of money changers in the marketplace. Decades ago, after the Blue Laws (law that limited what businesses could be open on Sunday), there was a cartoon on the cover of  Pennsylvania Illustrated Magazine that showed a gang of businesses that were now open on Sundays displaying banners that read “WE’RE OPEN.”  There was a sign in front of a church that read “We’re open too.”

Don’t get lost in the throng of the secular, bastardized version of Christmas.

Put Christ in Christmas!