Saturday Sermon: It's starting to look a lot like Christmas
I have noticed once again that before Halloween arrived, the stores have long been preparing us for Christmas. Christmas decorations of all sorts, trees and lights, an assortment of boxes and bows have found their way to their shelves. We haven't even dined on Thanksgiving turkey and dressing.
Could it be that the world itself just can't wait to celebrate the wondrous gift of God in the babe of Bethlehem? Could it be that businesses long for the good news of the gospel or is it all about the clinking of coins in the cash register? Could it be that the world is tired of transactions and has this heart-felt desire to witness what a gift really is - given in love, no strings attached?
There are some in this world that have made strides in celebrating this wondrous event in ways beyond "things that don't last." They have chosen to treasure the time that gathers families together. They come into God's House to sing songs of joy, to offer prayers for peace and to embrace the Jesus of our faith. They value and nurture the relationships of faith and friendship. They know that the real hope for the troubles and turmoil of this life is found in the Jesus who will journey from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, in God who does not disappoint. This is the believers' witness to an unbelieving world to a world that gets caught up in its materialistic fervor.
The simple fact is Advent and Christmas as seasons have not arrived as yet in terms of the liturgical year. And we still have Thanksgiving upon which to reflect and celebrate. It is good to consider the many ways in which we have been blessed by God individually, as a family and as a nation.
And speaking of Thanksgiving, this day was set aside for the people of these United States specifically to give thanks to God for all the good that we enjoy - to direct our thoughts, to voice our prayers, to give thanks to the divine for the immensity of His grace in our human lives.
Even the poorest of our nation fare better than the poor found in third world nations lacking the huge safety net provided through churches, charitable organizations and our own government.
We have a multitude of freedoms that unfortunately many take for granted. And while we may complain about the motives and effectiveness of the leaders of this nation, we possess the right and obligation to freely elect them.
When we sit down with family and friends at our Thanksgiving table, it will be to feast on many rich and tasty things (and probably too much of it).
And when we have had our fill, we may move to a living room and watch the football game and perhaps drift off to a nice nap.
Some, however, will hear the call of the malls and market places to do their Christmas shopping even earlier than the year before.
In our rush for Christmas to arrive, let's slow down a bit. And take time and care as you ponder all that has been entrusted to you by God and use it to do good.
Remember that when we come into this world that we leave much the same way - with empty hands. Everything that passes through our hands really belongs to God.
Appreciate the relationships of faith, family and friends.
Use your time well to honor the God of our salvation and to help those in need.
And yes, before you know it, Christmas will be here.
The Rev. Herb Beyer is pastor of Tri-County Cooperative Ministries, ELCA.