3rd Sunday of Advent
December 16, 2018
St. Mary Parish, Pylesville 9:30 and 11:15am
Theme Christmas Trees
In recent years, theme Christmas trees have become rather popular.
Years ago, most Christmas trees would have a variety of ornaments, lights, tinsel, and garland – but they didn’t usually have a single theme. Today, you can see many theme trees in stores like Valley View Farms in Cockeysville.
I’ve seen Christmas trees with an NFL theme – maybe with Ravens logos or with helmets and footballs. There are trees with a gingerbread theme.
There are trees decorated with animals – some with all dogs or all cats. There are trees with a Nascar theme or a Star Wars theme.
And, of course, there are trees for coffee lovers – with a Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks theme. So, lots of possible themes for our Christmas trees!
All Good, But…
Now, these theme trees are fun and enjoyable, but I’ve got one caution.
Christmas is not just about my favorite style of decorations. Instead, every year in Advent, including today’s Advent gospel, John the Baptist proclaims the true meaning of what we are celebrating.
John calls us to focus on something or Someone new. He reminds us that this Season really celebrates Someone – spelled with a capital S – Someone who is far greater than any of us.
So, Reclaim These Customs
And so, what I suggest is that in these days of Advent, we try to reclaim what Christmas is really all about.
Many of our customs are good. And I believe that we can allow them to speak of what Christmas really means.
For example, let’s send Christmas cards that speak of the “good news.”This is the heart of John the Baptists’s message in today’s gospel.
The passage says, “[John] preached good news to the people,”the news that “one mightier than I is coming.”I like Christmas cards that proclaim this good news, and then some of our other customs can define this.
So, let’s understand the lights on our Christmas trees as speaking of the light and presence of Jesus. The prophet Zephaniah in the first reading says: “The Lord is in your midst; you have nothing to fear.”
Saint Paul in the second reading repeats the same idea: “The Lord is near.”So, let’s understand our lights as proclaiming the presence of the One who is the light.
And then, let’s allow our Christmas carols speak of our joy in the birth of Christ. Once again, the prophet says today: “Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!”
And Saint Paul says: “Rejoicein the Lord always.” So, we sing carols and are joyful because of the birth of Christ.
And then, let’s allow our hospitality in this season speak of peace. Saint Paul says it so well today.
If we realize that the Lord is with us, then “the peaceof God will guard our hearts and minds.” So, our hospitality toward others in our homes or workplaces or schools will not be superficial but will speak of the peace that is possible through Christ.
Finally, let’s allow any gift-giving that we do to express what this Season is really all about.
We could give an Under Armour hoodie or a Fitbit or National geographic DVDs or an American Eagle shirt or a PlayStation game console and on it goes. There are so many things we can give, but what is important to give?
That’s really what all the people in today’s gospel are asking John the Baptist. They all ask: “What are we to do?”
And John’s answer, to each group, is the same: be fair, just, compassionate, and charitable. That is the real gift we are to give to each other.
Because being fair, just, compassionate and charitable is really the gift of self. And when we give of ourselves, then we are doing exactly what God does for us at Christmas in giving us his Son.
Then we have captured the real meaning of this season.