The readings for today were somewhat intimidating for me. I always feel that way when I read Revelation – the messages in that book are overwhelming to me – they are frightful and gives one pause as to which outcomes will be the true ones. The gospel is similar in that it describes what it will look like when “desolation is at hand.” The description is not a pleasant one rather the results of a “wrathful judgment” when the “roaring of seas and the waves” perplex people and they die of fright. However, the gospel has a very different ending as Jesus enjoins his followers to “stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.”
In just a couple of days we will begin Advent, the time of coming. Within a month’s time, we will be celebrating Jesus’ birth and the beginning of our redemption. It was just a couple of weeks ago that the readings focused us on the Commandments and directed us to love – love of God, love of one another. In between these two, here in the US we honored our deceased and we honored our Veterans. These all seem connected to me – the command to love, the evidence of those who loved and gave their lives, and the expression of God’s love for us in the birth of his Son. These signs and events are significant because it helps us to understand today’s reading in the context of the whole. Suddenly they are not so scary to me, rather a directive that I live these commandants so I will “stand erect and raise my head.” I do know that it is the grace of God that redeems us and the gift of Jesus that makes it possible.
Yet, I know we are given opportunities to fulfill these commandments and we choose whether to notice those opportunities and to act. I have felt so many of these lately that I need to share. For the last few years I been aware of Operation Christmas Child and thought I should do it. However, this year I actually received an email about it and knew it was time for action not reflection. I shared my thoughts with my wonderful daughter-in-law and we decided that one of our Friday nights together would be filling eight of these boxes (for the eight of us – four children and four adults) instead of games or other activities that we usually do on Fridays. We discussed it with the kids and they were psyched – we all started gathering items. She took the girls shopping and they picked out a special toy for someone their own age (it was a challenge at first for the 4- and 6-year old to realize they were picking out these special toys to Give not Keep!). We had discussed that to have them be part of the giving and not just the packing that we would ask them to contribute something from their piggybanks. When I arrived, my 6-year old granddaughter had already taken two dollar bills and two quarters out of her bank. As we discussed what it cost to send these, my 14-year grandson thought for awhile about the total cost ($56) and said he could give $15 – we were all shocked and said $5 would be wonderful. We adults also put in our money and the other girls came down with more single dollars – more than the $56 was on the table in no time. Friday nights are always my favorite , however, this night was particularly important and heart-warming. And it started more in motion. . .
Our box for a 2-4 year old boy was a little scant – we had gathered more “girly’ things. I offered to pick up some items the next day before we returned the boxes to the Boystown church on Sunday. As I entered the parking lot to shop for these, I passed a man standing with a cardboard sign. I’ve seen such things before at the edge of this parking lot but today this man had a family sitting on the grass behind him. My heart immediately went out to all of them – I thought of the bag of bread I had bought at the discount bakery – I stopped the car gathered one of the big loaves and a few singles from my purse and jumped out to give them an offering from my heart. As I moved my cart through the store, I picked up the items I needed for the box, yet the family outside nagged at me. I put birdseed in my cart and thought, “if I worry about feeding the birds, certainly I can buy some groceries for this family”. I was then on a mission – what else could I put in my cart for them – high protein, non-perishables – I filled the cart and as I left the parking lot, stopped my car once again. This time instead of just a loaf of bread, I brought out three bags of groceries. They were so grateful, the children immediately began looking in each sack to see the food. I left in tears . . . thankful for the opportunity to take action, to do and not just reflect on what it means to “love others.”