The Real Christmas List


It is Advent.

Now sometimes it’s complicated, needs to be studied, assessed, debated, dissected and interpreted.  But… sometimes, it just is what it is… right there in black and white.  Clear as day.

You might feel that today’s Gospel message from Matthew is neat and tidy in that manner.  Jesus said to his disciples that you never know precisely when he, the Son of Man, would return and so it’s best to always, and I mean always, be prepared.  Jesus cites some fairly terrifying examples to make the point: two men out working in a field and suddenly one is gone.  Two women grinding at a mill and then just like that, one disappears.  It sounds more like a “Twilight Zone” episode than a Gospel reading.  In any event, we don’t know when that precise moment will come, so we need to be prepared.

Advent is about preparation, so we would certainly do well to heed this warning.  We must be prepared.  Simple.  But life happens.  We have our work to do, our challenges, our disappointments, our joys… and so we can get distracted by all that.  We can forget.

Don’t forget!  Do you want to be the star of a “Twilight Zone” episode?  Tie a piece of string around your finger, write the words “it could happen at any moment” on a post it note and stick it to your bathroom mirror, put an alarm on your phone… heck, it’s so important and this particular Gospel is so incredibly clear about it, get a big black tattoo with Matthew 24: 37-44 on your left forearm so that you never, ever, ever forget.  Done.

But wait…

Advent is about preparation.  Preparation for the coming of the Son of Man.  We just had Black Friday and tomorrow is Cyber Monday.  We have to get ready for Christmas, we have to decorate, make plans, buy gifts, do all those thing we have to do to get ready, to be prepared, right?

Yesterday, I watched my neighbor hang some Christmas lights out in front of his house and it occurred to me that although I love Christmas lights, they are a poor representation of the true light that Jesus brings into the world and into our lives.  Advent and all those things I mentioned about preparing for Christmas are poor representations of what it really means to prepare for Christmas.

So… you can take that string off your finger, pull down the post-it note, delete the alarm on your phone and for goodness sake, get that ugly tattoo on your arm removed (I mean, what were you thinking?).

True preparation in this season calls for quiet reflection… consideration of the true light that entered the world.

It is Advent.

Today, instead of going home to prepare a shopping and to do list for Christmas, why not go home are prepare a… let’s call it a “Real Christmas List”?  It might include a few of these items:

Make a true confession for all of our sins, including those we have been unwilling to say out loud or admit, maybe even to ourselves.

Contemplate our charity and generosity to those who have less than we do.

Consider whether we make judgements about others when Jesus is quite clear on the matter of whether we ought to do that or not.

Think about all of the relationships in our lives that need mending.  Those who we need to forgive.  Those to whom we need to ask for forgiveness.

Be honest with ourselves about whether we kind of like being overly busy this time of year or even just in general because sometimes that is easier than taking a step back and really focusing on our prayer life, our relationship with Jesus.

Now that is a Christmas list.  That is being prepared.  And that is Advent.

The Real Christmas List



A children’s homily.

Once upon a time, there was a baker who made bread, muffins and fresh cookies every single morning before anyone else in town even woke up.  He was always busy mixing eggs, milk, flour and sugar together into delicious treats which he sold in his small bakery shop on Main Street.

On one particular morning, he realized that he had run out of eggs.  He was quite concerned, so he decided to walk all the way to Farmer Pete’s place to try to get some fresh eggs.  As we walked along the path, he decided to take a shortcut there.  He went off the road and into the woods, but that was a bad mistake because he did not notice that there was a very big hole in the ground… and he fell into it.  It was deep and quite dark inside the hole and so he could not climb out on his own.  Not knowing what else to do, he began to scream: “Help, help… I have fallen into a hole in the ground!”

Eventually, there was someone who was walking by and who heard the cries for help.  It was Mr. Turner.  Mr. Turner was very busy and in a great big hurry… but he decided to find out what all the fuss was about.  As he approached the side of the hole, he looked down inside and saw the baker.  “Hello down there, good sir.  What seems to be your problem?”

The baker said: “Oh, thank goodness I have been found.  Can you please help me?”

Mr. Turner stated: “Well what a terrible predicament you have found yourself in.  This is a bad spot of luck indeed.  I am very sorry for your troubles and would most certainly do anything at all I can for you.  I shall help you.”  And with that, Mr. Turner walked away.  He left, leaving the baker all alone and still stuck in the big hole in the ground.

After some time, Mrs. Finch happened to be passing by and she heard the baker’s screams for assistance.  Looking into the hole, she said: “What seems to be the problem?”

Discouraged, the baker replied: “I have taken a very bad fall and could use some help.”

Mr. Finch noted: “Well that is bad indeed.  I will help you!”

No sooner had she stated this than Mr. Finch ran as quickly as she could to Farmer Pete’s place and asked if he would bring some rope to help a man who had fallen into a deep hole in the ground.  Farmer Peter and Mrs. Finch threw the rope into the hole and the baker tied it around his waist.  He was immediately pulled up and out.

Mr. Turner expressed his sorrow that the baker had fallen into the hole.

Mrs. Finch actually did something about it.

Mr. Turner used words only.  Mrs. Finch, along with Farmer Pete, did something too.  They used actions.

You see, there are words – the things we say – and there are actions – the things we actually do.  They go together and both are important.  But all the words in the world without any actions don’t actually mean all that much.


Words and actions go together and both are important.  When we all come to Mass, we experience together both words and actions.  And they are both important.  But all the words in the world without any actions don’t actually mean all that much.  That why our Mass has both.

The first part of the Mass is called the Liturgy of the Word and this is the part that is filled with a lot of words.  There are four different readings: the first is a story about God and his special people, the second is a prayer we usually sing, the third is a lesson about Jesus and the fourth, called the Gospel, is an actual story about Jesus himself.  These words are important because this is how we learn about our faith.

If this first part of the Mass was all there was, then it would be too bad.  We would be missing out on quite a bit.

The second part of the Mass is called the Liturgy of the Eucharist and this is about actions.  Here are some of the actions that take place in this part of the Mass:

  1. Some people bring gifts up to the altar; these include ordinary bread and wine.
  2. The priest says some special prayers and the Holy Spirit turns that bread and wine into the actual body and blood of Jesus.
  3. Everyone who has received their First Communion walks up to the front of the Church and receives Communion.

In our Mass, we have both words and actions.  And then based on what we all learn from the words we have heard and prayed and the gifts we receive from Communion, we are all sent out to live as children and disciples of Jesus.

So, we could all go out and be like Mr. Turner… and talk, talk, talk… but do absolutely nothing… or we could use words and actions like Mrs. Finch and Farmer Pete and actually help others and live the way Jesus taught us.  There are words and actions.  Both are important.  Just like in our Mass.