December 13, 2015
I heard a story about a man in one of the high price shopping malls like our Medicine Hat Mall. The man caused quite a commotion among those doing their Christmas shopping. He would sit by a beautifully decorated fountain near the mall’s food court and would talk to people who would relax on the benches next to him. He wasn’t offensive, not really. In fact, there was a certain kindness and sincerity about him that drew people to him.
But he was not good for business. He would ask people why they spent so much money for Christmas, and why they allowed themselves to become so obsessed and stressed over this tinseled holiday. Sometimes he would tease, “We like our Christmas with a lot of sugar on it, don’t we?” Then he would say, “Christmas is about hope and love, isn’t it? The best gift we can give is to give kindness and compassion to each other. Why don’t you forgive or reconcile with family or friends you’ve lost over the years? The Spirit of the Christ child should embrace the entire year, not just Christmas.”
Many of the people who listened to him would nod in agreement. Some decided to quit shopping for the time being and go home to be with their families. Others went and bought an extra toy or some clothes for charity. Some even left the mall to find a quiet place for a few moments of prayer.
Soon, word got out to the store managers about this man. They had security escort him from the premises. They realized that he wasn’t really hurting anyone, but he had to go, they said. He was ruining everyone’s Christmas.
If John the Baptist were to appear in our time and place, he probably would go to a mall during Advent and say the same type of things as the man sitting near the fountain. He would talk about the coming of Christ and about God becoming one of us. He would shake us out of our Christmas routine and syrupy feelings with the notion that peace on earth to all people of good will means forgiving those who have offended us. He probably would remind us that we say “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” when we say the Lord’s Prayer, and then tease us by asking us whether we mean it.
The preaching of John the Baptist would not be conducive to the Christmas Spirit. His only concern would be preparing the way for the Savior. He would warn us that all the other things that we busy our lives with, particularly at Christmas, are secondary and superfluous to the reason for the celebration.
Christmas has come to the furthest corner of the world for good, I hope. I saw Christmas lights and Christmas displays in a public square even in a communist country like Vietnam. It’s good for business for sure but it’s also good for evangelization. At least some people wonder why Christmas and what it is all about. That could lead them to know the Savior of the world and set their sight on eternity.
Thank you for praying for me during my absence. I spent the first week around hospitals doing checkups. They found nothing except some small deterioration at my spine that could cause my back pain. For now they can't do much to fix it. From the second week on, I went to a clinic run by the Friars of St. John of God. They helped me stretch my back, my neck and gave me therapeutic massage, laser treatment, taping therapies, acupuncture, etc. I felt better but the problem remains. It will take a long time to get over it. I guess I have to live with it and learn to do stretching, yoga and exercises every day. Few things I learned over there: (1) many people are sicker than me; (2) many people are poorer than me; (3) many people pour out their service better than me.
MARANATHA! COME, LORD JESUS.