Advent 1 C - Dec 2 - Homilies


ADVENT 1 C – DEC 2 -HOMILIES
 
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Thomas O'Loughlin

Introduction to the Celebration

Today we begin Advent. This is the period when we prepare to celebrate the coming of the Christ among us two millennia ago, but we also believe that he is coming among us now and so we have to be prepared to receive him, and we know that he will come again at the end of time and we have to prepare the world for his coming. Everything we do as Christians is related to these three comings. So let us reflect on how it is because he first came that we are here at the Eucharist today; gathered now we ask pardon of our sins that we might be prepared for his second coming in this Eucharist; and as a community let us pray that we will be ready to stand before him when he comes again in glory.

Gospel: Lk 21:25-28, 34-36

The apocalypse discourse of Luke’s gospel (i.e. what we often think of as his version of the ‘Synoptic Apocalypse’) runs from 21:8 to 21:36. What we have here are two parts of that section, and from the point of view of the liturgical understanding of scripture what is omitted in today’s reading is as important as what is included:
Verses 25-28  This is a unit concerning the parousia of the Son of Man
Omitted Verses 29-31 The parable of the Fig Tree — on how close in time is the parousia
Omitted Verses 32-33 On the timing of the parousia
Verses 34-36 Conclusion of the whole apocalyptic discourse.
The stress in the reading is on the final coming of the Lord in glory, while omitting any references that could be understood in apocalyptic terms, and which could give rise to millenarian questions. This careful avoidance of an apocalyptical framework in the reading indicates that such speculation should have nc place in the homily or in the overall presentation of this Sunday’s theme which is the Final Coming of the Christ.
 
Michel de Verteuil

General Comments
The gospel readings for Advent each year invite us to meditate on the mystery of waiting, and they do it by presenting us with stories of great people who knew how to wait.
On the first Sunday, Jesus himself is the model as he taught his followers the spirituality of “waiting in joyful hope”.

The passage is clearly in two sections, verses 25 to 28, and verses 34 to 36.
You must interpret verses 25 to 28 in the light of your experience, times when your world or the world of your family or other community collapsed. Allow the dramatic language to express this experience, making sure that you recognise the double movement of collapse and rebirth.

If you decide to meditate on verses 34 to 36, the key will be to identify concretely the meaning of “that day”, a time like the one in verses 25 to 28. Then you will get a feel for the teaching of Jesus.

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John Littleton
 
Reflection 

The word Advent, from the Latin adventus, means ‘an arrival’ or ‘a Coming’. Specifically for Christians, the arrival or coming to which we refer is the arrival of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, our Lord and Saviour. He is the perfect fulfilment of God’s plan for our salvation. The liturgical season of Advent focuses on our waiting for his glorious arrival at the end of time. But it also focuses on our recalling the many centuries for which God’s people waited before the Messiah’s birth in Bethlehem more than two thousand years ago.

As Advent begins, we are invited to embrace the sense of waiting for Christ’s arrival. Advent is about waiting and we are the people who are waiting. However, if our waiting is not to become tedious and futile then it needs to be purposeful. Thus we are encouraged to use Properly our time-of-waiting by preparing in hope and expectation for Christ who is coming.

The word of God teaches us that, if our waiting is not to be in vain, we need to stay awake because we do not know precisely when Christ will come. He often comes when we least expect him. This is particularly true regarding the moment of death for many people. Hence it is necessary to remain attentive and alert while preparing to meet him in life and in death. This involves listening and watching for him so that we do not miss his arrival. We do this by preparing our souls for God’s judgement as we do penance in atonement for our sins.

Paradoxically, while we wait for Jesus our Saviour to come to us — whether at the end of our earthly lives and the end of time, or as we commemorate his birth in Bethlehem — he is here already. We meet him in word and in sacrament, especially as he shares his life with us in a unique way whenever we celebrate the Eucharist. We also meet him in the encouraging and hopeful words spoken to us by other people when, for instance, we are disillusioned, broken-hearted or depressed. We meet him in the sadness of those whose lives have been devastated by violence, illness and grief. And we meet Jesus in the Church and its teaching because the Church is the Body of Christ.

So our waiting for the Lord’s coming is not in a vacuum. During Advent, we remember the centuries of waiting for the fulfilment of God’s promise to send the Saviour. We remind ourselves that we are awaiting his glorious return at the end of time. Nevertheless, the Saviour is here already. But unless we stay awake and alert, listening for his word and watching for the signs of his presence, we will not recognise him as he enters our lives. If we do not familiarise ourselves with him now, how will we recognise him when he comes at the moment of death? The season of Advent provides us with the opportunity to wait for the Lord’s arrival by rejecting sin and by preparing our hearts and lives to accept him when he comes.

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Homily Notes 

1. On this first Sunday of Advent the church's thoughts are con­centrated not on the coming of the Lord in Palestine two mil­lennia ago, nor upon the new liturgical year, but on the Second Coming at 'the end of time'. What do we mean by this curious phrase: 'the end of time'?

 2. Approaching this theme in a homily presents three difficul­ties. First, it can easily be heard as apocalypticism. That is, it seems to the hearers that there is a direct link between some breakdown in the world order now (either in the social order, the realm of justice, peace, or some vague threat from a mon­strous other) and God's action of punishing or letting every­one get what they deserve. In this scenario, everything going wrong is actually a bizarre proof that Christians are right and that the more disastrous things get the more it shows that God is in charge for he has already written the script. An ex­ample of this is the position of many American fundamental­ists on the problems of climate change: no use doing any­thing about it, it is part of God's plan to punish the world for not being 'saved'. Such ideas are far from the perspective of most Catholics, but there has been an enormous growth in Catholic apocalypticism since the 1980s and many people in any average congregation will be disposed to hearing today's gospel, and any talk about the end times, in such millenarian terms. It is significant that the two sections of the discourse that are most explicitly part of the apocalyptic tradition are omitted today: clearly, apocalypticism has no place in Advent preaching.

3. Second, there is a danger that speaking about the end times is not about the consummation of the universe, but a finger­wagging exercise about the religious equivalent of what some cosmologists call the 'Great Crunch'. Whatever we say about the them end times must be clearly part of God's plan. Hence it is part of God's loving plan for the universe and so must be appreciably part of the good news. There has been a curious double think about this: God is love, but if you don't love, then God holds a stick! Such presentations are necessar­ily false: the coming to completion of the creation, the king­dom, is the completion of God~ s loving plan. It must be pre­sented as analogous to the end of year party, not the end of term exams.

4. Third, there are few areas of our faith where we know less, where our language is more strained, and where our images are less precise. Ironically, the fact that there is so little we can say about the Consummation has actually left a gap which imagination has filled to overflowing, and not always with a profound outcome.

5. Here is a possible approach to the question. First, the 'End of the World' has two meanings. There is the very obvious one of the cosmos coming to an end or the whole created order being radically transformed by God. The second meaning of the end of the world is the end of the world I as an individual inhabit: my world will come to an end at my death. In regard to the first meaning we have no information whatsoever within revelation as to when the universe will cease (this is a point worth making as there have been, and still are, many who engage in 'scriptural mathematics' using the Book of Daniel and the Apocalypse of John to find out how long more the world has got!). On the second meaning of the end of the world, my death, we are in a different situation: I may not know the day nor the hour (and am glad that I do not know this), but I am certain that I am going to die. Whatever happens in the future of my life, good things or bad things, I know that it will end. That end will be my end time, my es­chaton.
 
6. Whichever meaning we use, there is a common feature: at The End we must not imagine a giant chasm, but the figure of the Logos who shares a human nature with all approaching him as their priest, prophet, and king. Christ as King stands at the end of time gathering all the fragments of each of our lives, and of the life of the whole cosmos, and refashioning that existence so that nothing is lost. He gathers and refash­ions our life so that as a new creation this existence, my life, can be presented to the Father.

7. The Good News is that the end is not a crunch, but the glorious figure of the Lord.

8. The end is the gathering of all the little pieces of our scattered and fragmented lives, all our joys, all our collaborations with the grace of God, all the goodness we have sought to create, the peace we have fostered, the reconciliation that we have sought, the acts of kindness and mercy, the attempts to wit­ness to the truth in the face of falsehood or injustice. All these scattered actions are gathered into a new existence that the Christ can offer to the Father in the Spirit.

9. The word 'End' is a word with many sad connotations for us: the end of a relationship, the end of a film or a moment of en­joyment, the pain that is a common part of the ending of a life. We look forward to the consummation, the completion of the universe; Thus can we read in the gospel: 'then [we] will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is draw­ing near' (Lk 21:27-8). 

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Scripture Reflections

Lord, great tragedies befall us from time to time:
* we lose our job;
* a spouse proves unfaithful;
* we discover that one of our children is on drugs;
* we fall into a sin we thought we had overcome.

These are moments of great distress. It is as if the sun and moon and stars are no longer there in the heavens. We feel as if we are drowning, the ocean and its clamorous waves overwhelming us. The powers of heaven have been shaken and we are dying of fear as we await the future which menaces us.
But, somehow or other, that moment, terrible as it is, brings its own grace:
* we find we have more courage than we thought;
* our family finds a new unity;
* we forgive a long-standing hurt.
Jesus comes into our lives with power and great glory.
We have learnt now that we need never panic.
When these things begin to take place, we can stand erect, hold our heads high,
because a moment of grace and liberation is near at hand.

“It was a time when we felt happy and proud to be Haitians.” President Aristide, reflecting on his presidency, November 1991
Lord, we thank you for the times when oppressed people can stand erect
and hold their heads high because a moment of liberation is near at hand.

“After one time, is two time.” Trinidad saying
Lord, at one point in our lives we felt that good times would never end.
We lived mindlessly, looking down on others who were less successful or less virtuous.
We thank you for bringing us to our senses:
* we fell sick;
* we fell into a sin we thought we would never commit;
* one of our children got into trouble with the law.
It was Jesus warning us to watch ourselves,
and reminding us that the day of reckoning is always sprung on us like a trap,
for it comes down on every living person on the face of the earth.

Lord, make us aware of how our minds have been coarsened
by over-indulgence and being too much engrossed by the cares of this life.
We know that what counts in life is to be able to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.

Lord, we sometimes think that, as a church community,
we are exempt from the ups and downs of institutions.
But the day of crisis is sprung on us suddenly like a trap,
just as it comes down on every group on the face of the earth.

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ILLUSTRATIONS: 
 
1) A. J. Gordon was the great Baptist pastor of the Clarendon Church in Boston, Massachusetts. One day he met a young boy in front of the sanctuary carrying a rusty cage in which several birds fluttered nervously. Gordon inquired, "Son, where did you get those birds?" The boy replied, "I trapped them out in the field." "What are you going to do with them?" "I'm going to play with them, and then I guess I'll just feed them to an old cat we have at home." When Gordon offered to buy them, the lad exclaimed, "Mister, you don't want them, they're just little old wild birds and can't sing very well." Gordon replied, "I'll give you $2 for the cage and the birds." "Okay, it's a deal, but you're making a bad bargain." The exchange was made and the boy went away whistling, happy with his shiny coins. Gordon walked around to the back of the church property, opened the door of the small wire coop, and let the struggling creatures soar into the blue. The next Sunday he took the empty cage into the pulpit and used it to illustrate his sermon about Christ's coming to seek and to save the lost -- paying for them with His own precious blood. "That boy told me the birds were not songsters," said Gordon, "but when I released them and they winged their way heavenward, it seemed to me they were singing, 'Redeemed, redeemed, redeemed!'"
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2) Jesus came to save humans from being rat packs feeding on each other instead of sheep feeding with each other. This was never made so clear than in the recent "Black Friday" images of people stomping on each other and fighting it out, all done to the musical background of Christmas music.

Our sentimental - yet always cynical - culture likes to start singing Christmas carols the moment Thanksgiving turkeys come out of the oven. But listen carefully: You're hearing a lot more choruses of "Jingle Bells" and "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" than carols like "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" or "O Little Town of Bethlehem." The world wants, the world needs, to celebrate Christmas. But the world does its best to keep Jesus out of it. 

Perhaps the first "Christmas carol" Christians should sing, in keeping with the theme of "Advent," is the Willie Nelson special "On the Road Again." As stores keep having cut-rate sales and on-line deals; and as holiday partying, parades, and posturing swamp every level of our lives: it is good to stand back and look at the bigger picture. What is the purpose for which Jesus came into this world in the first place? 
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3) Wait and Watch

Our text concludes with the counsel, "When these things come to pass, stand up and lift up your heads, for your redemption is drawing near." That's been the experience of Christians for all these years. Whether they are in exodus, or in exile, we are not alone.

 Our four year old grandson has provided me a wonderful illustration of this. His mother was going to go away for a couple of days. The night before she left, as she was in the two boys' room to hear their prayers, she told them she was going to go away, and asked if in their prayers they would like to ask God to protect her on her journey. 

Jesse, the six year old, thought not. But Luke, the four year old, prayed this prayer: "Dear God, if buffaloes or bears, or other mean animals, come near mommy, can you handle it? If you can't, just call on Jesus."

Luke attends a Nazarene preschool. I suspect that is where he got he got that accent. But the words are universally Christian. There is a new covenant now, a new promise, since Christmas, that he will be with us, "Lo, I am with you always till the end of the age." That's our hope. There is a way of living with that hope. It is found in two words that are always associated with Advent: wait, and watch. 

Mark Trotter, Collected Sermons, CSS Publishing Company, Inc.
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4) An Advent Promise: Goodness and Mercy Will Win

As some of you know, Fiorello LaGuardia was mayor of New York during the Depression, and he was quite a character. He would ride the city fire trucks, take entire orphanages to baseball games and whenever the city newspapers went on strike, he would get on the radio and read the Sunday "funnies" to the children.

At any rate, one bitter cold winter's night in 1935, Mayor LaGuardia turned up in a night court that served the poorest ward in the city, dismissed the judge for the evening and took over the bench himself. After he heard a few cases, a tattered old woman was brought before him, accused of stealing a loaf of bread.
She told LaGuardia that her daughter's husband had deserted her, her daughter was sick and her grandchildren were starving. But the shopkeeper, from whom the bread was stolen, insisted on pressing charges. "My store is in a very bad neighborhood, your honor," he said. "She's got to be punished in order to teach other people a lesson."
The mayor sighed. He turned to the old woman and said, "I've got to punish you," he said. "The law makes no exception - ten dollars or ten days in jail."

But even as he spoke, LaGuardia was reaching into his pocket and pulling out a ten dollar bill. "Here is the woman's fine," he said, "and furthermore, I'm going to fine everyone in this court room fifty cents for living in a city where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat. Mr. Baliff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant."

The following day, the New York Times reported that $47.50 was turned over to the bewildered old woman. It was given by the red-faced store owner, some seventy petty criminals, people with traffic violations and city policemen - and they all gave their mayor a standing ovation as they handed over their money.

That's how it will be with God's world. Just when it seems that all hope is lost, and goodness and mercy shall never win, the Great Judge will come to set things right, deciding for the hungry and the meek of the earth. Yes, there is also an Advent promise for the nations of the world in perplexity and distress: "Look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

Erskine White, Together in Christ, CSS Publishing Company
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5) When the Play Is Over

C. S. Lewis said that when the author appears on the stage, you know the play is over. This is how he understands the doctrine of the Second Coming of our Lord. It means that he who has begun a good work will bring it to the best conclusion of which he is capable. After all, no one has ever claimed that this planet earth was intended to exist forever. In what is called by scientists "the second law of thermodynamics," it is clearly predicted that the energy supply of this planet will eventually come to an end, which means that a conclusion of life as we know it here is inevitable. The concept of the Second Coming merely affirms that such a conclusion will be purposeful. The drama of history is not going to just fizzle out or end in a whimper! It is going to come to the kind of climax that he who conceived the drama wants for it.

Gary L. Carver and Tom M. Garrison
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6) When Everything Becomes "Merely"

Virginia Owens in her book, And The Trees Clap Their Hands, suggests that we lose the wonder of it all, because along the way everything becomes "merely." Things are "merely" stars, sunset, rain, flowers, and mountains. Their connection with God's creation is lost. During this Advent season many things are just "merely." It becomes "merely" Bethlehem, a stable, a birth -- we have no feeling of wonder or mystery. That is what familiarity can do to us over the years.

Owens goes on to say that it is this "merely" quality of things that leads to crime. It is "merely" a thing -- I'll take it. It is "merely" an object -- I'll destroy it. It is this "merely" quality of things and life that leads to war. We shall lose "merely" a few thousand men, but it will be worth it. Within the Advent narrative nothing is "merely." Things are not "merely" things, but are part of God's grand design. Common things, such as motherhood, a birth, a child, now have new meaning. This is not "merely" the world, but a world that is charged with the beauty and grandeur of God's design. It is a world so loved by God that God gave his only Son. What is so great about the Advent season is that everything appears charged with the beauty and grandeur of God. 

John A. Stroman, God's Downward Mobility, CSS Publishing.
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7) Exchanging Our Eschatological Heritage

Neill Hamilton, who taught at Drew University for many years, once observed how people in our time lose hope for the future. It happens whenever we let our culture call the shots on how the world is going to end. At this stage of technological advancement, the only way the culture can make sense of the future is through the picture of everything blowing up in a nuclear holocaust. The world cannot know what we know, that everything has changed in the death and resurrection of Jesus, that the same Christ is coming to judge the world and give birth to a new creation. And so, people lose hope. As Hamilton puts it: This substitution of an image of nuclear holocaust for the coming of Christ is a parable of what happens to Christians when they cease to believe in their own eschatological heritage. The culture supplies its own images for the end when we default by ceasing to believe in biblical images of God's triumph at the end.

The good news of the gospel is this: when all is said and done, God is going to win. 

William G. Carter, No Box Seats in the Kingdom, CSS Publishing.
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8) Sound Theology 

In the Peanuts comic strip, Linus and Lucy are standing at the window looking out at the rain falling. Lucy says to Linus, "Boy, look at it rain...What if it floods the earth?" Linus, the resident biblical scholar for the Peanuts, answers, "It will never do that...in the ninth chapter of Genesis, God promised Noah that would never happen again, and the sign of the promise is the rainbow." With a smile on her face, Lucy replies, "Linus, you've taken a great load off my mind." To which Linus responds, "Sound theology has a way of doing that." 

Charles Schultz, Peanuts, adapted by David E. Leininger

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9) Second Coming and Faithfulness 

During his 1960 presidential campaign, John F. Kennedy often closed his speeches with the story of Colonel Davenport, the Speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives: On May 19th, 1780 the sky of Hartford darkened ominously, and some of the representatives, glancing out the windows, feared the end was at hand. Quelling a clamor for immediate adjournment, Davenport rose and said, "The Day of Judgment is either approaching or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for adjournment. If it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. Therefore, I wish that candles be brought." Rather than fearing what is to come, we are to be faithful till Christ returns. Instead of fearing the dark, we're to be lights as we watch and wait.

Harry Heintz
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11) Preparation for Christ's Coming

Maybe you've heard the story of the little boy who decided to write a letter to God one Christmas. He started out by writing: "Dear God, I've been a really good boy this year." Unfortunately, he remembered that God was all knowing and all seeing and he decided that he couldn't lie to God. So, he crumpled up that letter and started over. This time he wrote: "Dear God, I know I haven't done everything I should have, but I really tried to be good." He stopped and crumpled up that letter, too. It was obvious that he was struggling with what to write to God.

As he sat there thinking he looked up and saw his mother's favorite piece of sculpture on the mantel. It was a beautiful rendition of the Madonna, the mother of Christ. The boy perked up and ran out of the room. He came back with a towel and a shoebox. He walked over, carefully picked up the Madonna, gently wrapped it in the towel, carefully put it in the shoebox and then hid it in the closet. He immediately went back to the table and wrote: "Dear God, if you ever want to see your mother again . . ."
It's time the Church took back Christmas. And we do. Every year we take it back and bring back the meaning and the purpose. The world tries to hold it for ransom each year, with its multiplicity of gadgets and this year's list of must have toys; the world tries to make demands and hold Christmas for ransom but it never works. The birth of the Christ child is just too powerful, even for Wall Street. The sight and the sounds and the remembrance of this child born so long ago changes all the rules. His very presence makes the glitter of our Christmas presents pale in comparison.

Billy D. Strayhorn, Stay On Your Toes
 
11) “Watch the road.”

There is a beautiful anecdote given by Msgr. Arthur Tonne clarifying the message of today’s gospel.  Several years ago a bus driver in Oklahoma reached an unusual record.  In 23 years he had driven a bus over 900,000 miles without a single accident.  When asked how he had done it, he gave this simple answer: “Watch the road.”  In today’s gospel Jesus gives the same advice in several ways: “Be vigilant at all times,” “Stand erect,” “Raise your heads,” “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy.”  This is not only a good spiritual advice for the Advent season but also a safe rule for daily life.  A good football player or basketball player should always concentrate his attention on the ball and the players.  A good student must be alert, awake and attentive, watching the teacher and listening to his or her words.  A good Catholic in the Church must be physically and mentally alert, watching the altar and actively participating in the prayers and songs.  Like the Roman god Janus, who had two faces, one looking at the past year and the other looking into future, Christians during the Advent season are to look at the past event of the first coming of Jesus into the world and expectantly look forward to his second coming in glory.

12) Be patient; be faithful:  

Be faithful. Remember Albert Einstein’s words after the Second World War: “As a lover of freedom, when the revolution came in Germany, I looked to the universities to defend it, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth; but no, the universities were immediately silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers, whose flaming editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom; but they, like the universities were silenced in a few short weeks. Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration for it, because the Church alone has had the courage to stand for intellectual truth, and moral freedom. I am forced to confess that what I once despised, now I praise unreservedly.” We are Christ’s body in the world today. Be patient. Be faithful. It is the message of today’s gospel and Advent.
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13) Would we keep arranging deckchairs on a sinking ship?  

On the night of April 15th 1912, the Titanic hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic and sank.  Over 1,500 people lost their lives in one of the worst sea disasters in history.  A few years ago a magazine recalled the great disaster and asked its readers this shocking –almost blasphemous question: “If we’d been on the Titanic when it sank, would we have arranged the deckchairs?”  At first we say to ourselves, “What a ridiculous question!  No one in his right mind would ignore wailing sirens on a sinking ship and rearrange its deck chairs!  No one with an ounce of sanity would ignore the shouts of drowning people and keep arranging deck chairs!” But as we continue to read the magazine, we see the reason for the strange question.  And suddenly we ask ourselves, “Are we perhaps, rearranging the deckchairs on a sinking ship?  For example, are we so caught up with material things in life that we are giving a back seat to spiritual things?  Are we so busy making a living that we are forgetting the purpose of life?  Are we so taken up with life that we are forgetting why God gave us life?” (Mark Link in ‘Sunday Liturgies’).
 
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14) Who came up with this?

A woman was in the mall doing her Christmas shopping.  She was tired of walking through every aisle of every store to find just the right present.  She was stressed out by the mounting debt on her credit card.  She was tired of fighting the crowds and standing in lines for the registers.  Her hands were full and when the elevator door opened, it was full.  “Great!” she muttered and the occupants of the elevator, feeling her pain, graciously tightened ranks to allow a small space for her and her load. 

As the doors closed she blurted out, “I think whoever came up with this Christmas junk ought to be found, strung up and shot!”  A few others shook their heads or grunted in agreement.  Then, from somewhere in the back of the elevator came a single voice that said, “Don’t worry.  They already crucified him.”  

15) Sign on a church bulletin board: 

"Merry Christmas to our Christian friends. Happy Hanukkah to our Jewish friends.  And to our atheist friends, good luck.   

16) "We don’t have time for that!”   

Typical of last-minute Christmas shoppers, a mother was running furiously from store to store.  Suddenly she became aware that the pudgy little hand of her three-year-old son was no longer clutched in hers.  In panic she retraced her steps and found him standing with his little nose pressed flat against a frosty window.  He was gazing at a manger scene.  Hearing his mother’s near hysterical call, he turned and shouted with innocent glee: "Look Mommy!  It’s Jesus - Baby Jesus in the hay!”  With obvious indifference to his joy and wonder, she impatiently jerked him away saying, "We don’t have time for that!"
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17) Andrew Greely
 
Background: 

Advent and  Christmas represent a very special intervention of God in the human condition, a revolution indeed because it revealed to us just how much God loves us, one that, as G.K. Chesterton said, turned the world upside down and, astonishingly, when viewed from that perspective the world made sense. God, in the words of the Irish Dominican poet, Paul Murray, loves us so much that if we should cease to exist, he would die of sadness.   

 The Christmas stories reveal to us that God loved Her human children so much that He took on human form so that he could show us how to live and how to die, even walking with us down to the valley of death itself. The stories today tell us that even from the beginning it was not easy to be the special light of the world. Jesus was under threat all his life. The threats would finally catch up with Him as they catch up with all of us. But from Christmas we learn that finally the darkness can never put out the light.

Story: 

When Mollie Whuppi and her friends were in eighth grade, they discovered at one of the parks in their neighborhood a game called women’s softball. It wasn’t really sixteen inch softball like we play in Chicago but smaller softball which is played in most of the rest of the country which is not as civilized as Chicago. Anyway, they liked the game and decided that there should be a women’s team at Mother Mary High School So the first week of their Freshman year in high school Mollie walked into the principal’s office and demanded that their be a team. The principal had yet to learn that Mollie was the boss, so she said. Go organize your team Mollie. We don’t have money for coaches or uniforms or a team bus but we can buy a couple of bats for you. Mollie said that was just fine. She’d be manager and coach too and they’d save money to buy their own uniforms. 

 So, even though she was busy with other things  like being class president and president of the chess club  and chairman of the social action committee – and lots of other things besides, she organized the softball team. Now as everyone knows young women are much more serious about sports then  young men so they practice very hard. Mollie told them it would take three years of experience before they could win city.  

  The first year, they were terrible, the second year they were pretty good and the third year they surprised everyone by getting to the city finals. They had to ride across town in their parents’ SUVs  and the reception was very unfriendly. The crowd booed them. Boys shouted bad words at them. The other team snarled and made fun of their uniforms. But with Mollie on the mound Mother held the others scoreless and hitless for six innings. In the first half of the seventh Mollie hit a home run so going into the last of the seventh (softball games last only seven innings) Mother Mary was up 1-0. Mollie struck out the first two batters. Then she pitched three straight strikes to the last batter. But the umpire, who made no secret of which side he was on, called them balls. Everyone knew that Mollie’s four pitch was a strike too, but the ump waved the batter down to first based. Then the next batter hit a long foul ball – everyone knew it was a foul ball, but the ump called it fair. The tying run scored. The throw from right field was slow but Mollie caught it and ran to the plate to tag the hitter out by a mile. The ump called her safe. The crowds  went wild with laugher. The winners stalked off the field.  

 The Mother Mary players didn’t curse, they didn’t shout. They just cried. All except Mollie. Chill out, she shouted, we’re still on our game plan. Next year we will play them at home and we’ll win, just like we planned.  The players from Mother Mary stalked out of the field chanting, “wait till next year” the battle cry of defeated sports teams and political parties – a hint of the Christian Hope that next year will be better even when this year is the last year of our life.