Sunday, December 28, 2014

risk and obedience make a holy family

Solemnity of the Holy Family
28 December 2014
Christ the King Topeka
Daily Readings

Families are changing - they're changing so fast!  Divorce and remarriage.  Reproductive technologies.  50% of children born out of wedlock.  Smaller families.  Same-sex marriage.  The delaying and forgoing of marriage. Fewer young people going to Church and preparing their hearts, minds and bodies for the sacrament of marriage.  I don't list these factors to rant or judge, only to mark how quickly family life is changing, and there is no going back.  There was a time when every family was expected to conform as closely as they could to the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph that we hold up and celebrate during this beautiful Christmas season. That day is long gone. Today the family is being defined moreso by innovation than by tradition.

Yet we need family more than ever.  That is human.  Humans desperately need families.  That never changes.  There is not enough love in the world, and our world is especially hurting from the lack of the unique, intense and life-giving love that is at best within families.  We need families, and we know it.  Our desperate attempts to redefine families shows that we can't afford to give up on families.  To give up families is to give up on ourselves.  For it is true that blood really is thicker than water, and the shedding of Jesus' blood for us shows that He wants His body the Church to be a family, real brothers and sisters to each other.

This homily is not about judging or disparaging any family, but about doing whatever we can to strengthen families.  Jesus is mercy, and woe to us if we do not love each other as He commanded begin at our weakest points.  The Church is not in the business of judging families.  But she can not shy away from promoting the example of the holy family as a family that can inspire and change any family for the better.  When we celebrate the Holy Family, we're not trying to go backwards, but to bring the Catholic tradition, experience and teaching forward to bear on the crisis of the modern family.

Again, this homily is not about disparaging any family, for Jesus himself wants to visit every family, and to be born there, especially during Christmas when families draw closer together in love.  Jesus was not afraid to be born into a messy situation, conceived in scandal and born a messy filthy situation. . He is more than happy to be born today in the midst of our messy, smelly and dysfunctional families.  He is not afraid to visit us, if we are not afraid to welcome him as we really are.  Jesus was not born in a palace in conservative security, nor according to an ideal script. He is more eager than we can imagine to visit our families during this holy season.

In celebrating the Holy Family today, we celebrate that the concept of a family has to begin somewhere. We can't invent the definition of a family or pull it out of the air, and if the word family can mean anything eventually it will mean nothing.  We celebrate and imitate the Holy Family, then, in order that our own families will grow stronger and stronger. For as goes the family, the basic building block of society, so goes the dignity of human persons, the destiny of the world, and the salvation of souls.  The Holy Family is something we fail to celebrate then, at our own peril.

What makes the Holy Family holy is their obedience to the Lord's will.  They Holy Family is a perfect example in this.  The Holy Family can certainly be considered non-traditional.  They are the most unique family in history - Joseph is only the foster father of Jesus, and His mother is a virgin.  You don't get any more non-traditional than that.  But what makes the Holy Family most unique, however, is their obedience to God's will.  The Holy Family endures the scandal of a child conceived before they lived together, and then the risks of being homeless at the worst possible times.  The Holy Family is a mess at times, just like our own families are a mess, but in the midst of it all they trusted in God's will.  They risked everything out of obedience to what  God was asking of them, and that is what made them Holy!

The Holy Family took a huge risk to bring a child into the world.  They are an example of sacrifice and generosity in having children.  They responded to God's desire to bring a child into the world through their family.  If Mary and Joseph were focused on their own plans for their family, they would never have become the Holy Family.  Oftentimes having children entails the risk of submitting ourselves to a plan much different and bigger than our plans.  Mind you again I'm not disparaging families that make heroic sacrifices that I'll never make in order to raise the children they do have.  I have a deep sympathy as well for those families trying to have children but who can't.  I'm not promoting irresponsibility in having children at all.  Still, the example of the Holy Family inspires us to be less afraid of children, and to not ask first whether a child fits into our plans, but whether God wants to bring a child into the world.  The Holy Family said yes to God's will, and was not afraid to bring a child into the world.  There was great risk in this, but also incomparable joy.  We see all around the world societies that fear children, are slowly but surely contracepting themselves out of existence.  Mind you, the Holy Family because of Mary's perpetual virginity only had one child, but still they challenge us to sacrifice and generosity in having children.  A healthy society is one that welcomes and celebrates children.  A healthy Church does as well. Very few people regret having more children.  Christmas is above all a time to celebrate children, that they are not a drain on the time and resources of adults, that they are not an inconvenience, but they are gifts from God that take us away from selfishness and remind us of who we really are.

Again, this homily is not about judging any family.  There is one holy family - all the rest of us are striving but falling short.  There is no room for judging families.  I'm not saying either that we can or should go back to the way families used to be.  What I am saying is that every family can and should make progress in holiness by seeking the will of God, and becoming unafraid of sacrificing for a mission beyond their control or imagination.  The Holy Family is not a measuring stick - they are an inspiration!  May Jesus' entry into the Holy Family help us this Christmas season to see how desperately He wants to visit our families in a powerful way!  Amen!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

no Christmas without Christ's Mass!

Christmas Eve 2014
Christ the King Church Topeka
24 December 2014
Daily Readings

O come let us adore Him!. Christ the Lord!

What does it mean for us to adore the Lord?  It can only mean one thing.  It means that the reason we have come together in such a profound way on this most beautiful night is to fall in love again.  We have come to adore, confessing first that we have fallen out of love with God, and we need this night to fall for him again.  We need to fall madly, completely, hopelessly in love with the one who shows us in the circumstances of Bethlehem to be desperately in love with us.  The scene of Bethlehem is too absurd for any kind of lukewarm response from us - the biggest and most invincible person imaginable, the one through whom everything was made, the one for whom the entire universe is but dust, the one who doesn't need any of us for anything, shows his ultimate power in allowing himself to be made small.  Irresistibly small.  Helplessly small, begging us to take care of him.  Our Lord at Christmas desperately wants to break through our fear and indifference.  He shows that he is ridiculously in love with everything that it means to be human, especially the weakest parts.  Knowing that we have the amazing capacity to resist love and to fall out of love and to fear love, even rejecting the depth of his love revealed on the cross, Christ comes as a baby at Christmas, begging us to take care of him, pleading that if he comes poor, naked and helpless before us that we might no longer fear him.  Do not be afraid, the angel tells Mary.  Do not be afraid, the angel tells Joseph.  Do not be afraid, the angels tell the shepherds.  Do not be afraid of this baby!  God is desperately in love with you.  Yes you!  He loves every circumstances of your life - do not be afraid to let him be born in your heart right where you are at this moment, and to fall in love with Him too!  Come, let us adore Him - Christ the Lord!

Tonight we rediscover as well what it means to be a human person.  For not only have we fallen out of love, we have also forgotten who we are.  Our smart phones make us capable of so much more - we are busier than ever, but we are horrible at keeping things simple.  We are worse and worse at communicating, and at falling in love and being in love and staying in love.  To be a human person is to be known and loved and desired beginning at our weakest point.  We do not become persons by growing up and gaining the freedom and intelligence to create our own reality, as good as these things are.  No, we become persons by remembering where we came from, and by remaining small and poor and vulnerable.  We become persons by staying like children, by keeping things simple, by entering into the adventure of discovering reality instead of the temptation of controlling it.  By remaining poor and vulnerable and dependent, we are able to always fall in love, stay in love and be in love.  So we have come tonight not only to fall again in love, but to rediscover who we truly are.

When we remember who we are and fall in love, we participate as well in the remaking of our poor world from the inside out.  So tonight is also a night chock full of hope.  The sign of a baby born of a virgin means a new creation has dawned on the earth, a creation stronger and meant to last longer than the first creation of everything from nothing by a virgin Father.  Jesus is born of a virgin mother in Bethlehem as small as possible, and walks every second of his life with humility taking the lowest place, and having special care for the poor and vulnerable, to show us that our world is being remade by the one who alone has the power to recreate it,  beginning with the weakest.  Whenever we make ourselves small through sacrificial love, then, we participate with Him in healing our world from the inside out, and this recreation of the world never loses momentum and hope.  It starts small but ends big. It starts weak but ends strong.  It starts in poverty but ends in riches.  It embraces death but rises to everlasting life.  Caesar's kingdom that reigned in power when Jesus was helplessly born has been reduced to nothing.  But Jesus' kingdom that started with a helpless baby born to poor parents in the cold in the middle of nowhere, is still gaining strength, and His kingdom celebrates Christmas with exceeding joy throughout the whole world.

All that would be enough for tonight -falling in love, remembering who we are, joining Christ in hope of building a kingdom of peace and truth and love that will last forever, but those three things are not the final and full meaning of Christmas.  Christmas takes it's name not from the birth that took place in Bethlehem, but from the birth about to take place on this altar.  For as small as Jesus made himself at Bethlehem, he makes Himself smaller and more vulnerable and more beautiful to fall in love with, as he allows Himself to be born on this altar!  We fall in love with Jesus not just by contemplating Bethlehem, but Bethlehem becomes perfectly real at Christ's Mass - when with Joseph we allow Jesus to come under our roofs, and with Mary allow Jesus to be born in the deepest recesses of our heart.  The precise and original meaning of Christmas is what happens to our hearts and minds when we receive the Eucharist at Christ's Mass, for what happens here tonight in Topeka is no less dramatic, no less a falling in love, than what happened at Bethlehem 2000 years ago.  In fact, what happens here tonight is more dramatic than Bethlehem, if any of you, if any of us, humbly accepts Jesus' desperate plea to be born in our hearts.

Do not be afraid, my dearest friends, of this Christ who once came to us as a helpless baby, but who now comes to you even more helplessly at Christ's Mass - in this Eucharist.  There is no Christmas without Christ's Mass.  This is the meaning of Christmas - right here, right now.  The stage is set now for you to receive the Eucharist with greater fruitfulness and devotion than ever.  If you resist Him tonight, in these circumstances, can you honestly say you will ever receive Him?  Do not let this Christmas moment pass with fear or indifference.  Do not be afraid to fall in love tonight, to be visited and changed by this most irresistible of babies, who makes Himself even more helpless in the sacrament of His body and blood.

Come, let us adore Him! Christ the Lord!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Mary rescues Advent

4th Sunday of Advent Year B
Christ the King Topeka
21 December 2014
Daily Readings

Father, are you ready for Christmas?  I do not like this question.  I do not like it at all.  I react violently when I hear this question, because the question fills me with guilt.  I am a priest of Jesus Christ.  I have one job, and one job only, to get ready for Christmas, and for the life of me, I can't get ready.  I can't stay focused on the one most important thing.  So don't ask me if I'm ready for Christmas, unless you're trying to turn me into the grinch.  I do not like the question. Advent has been a mess again this year.  It has not been a season of quiet and prayerful anticipation.  I do not have a perfect Christmas meditation put together yet.  I haven't even begun shopping yet.  I've never heard so many confessions!  Advent has been the opposite of what it's designed to be - it has been noisy and busy and schizophrenic.  It feels like a lot of the Christmas celebrations have already happened.  I'm not only not ready, I'm half confused.  Say an Amen if you're with me!

I'm scared, dear friends, that this Christmas could go by without a lot changing in my heart.  My one job is to be ready for that moment when I receive the Eucharist on Christmas Eve, to allow my Lord Jesus to be born in a new area of my heart that I have never let him touch before!  That's my one job, and I'm afraid of not being ready.  I'm afraid that this will not be my best or most perfect Christmas, that I will approach that sacred mome

nt with as much distraction and doubt as readiness and faith.  What is more, I'm scared that if this year is not my best and most perfect Christmas, when I truly allow the Lord to be born anew in my heart, then will such a Christmas ever happen.

Don't get me wrong.  It has been an amazing Advent, and the Christmas promise is bright.  But I want to have the Christmas of all Christmases, don't you?  I really don't want to celebrate another Christmas without knowing it will be the best yet.  I don't like treading water.  I don't want my best Christmas to be behind me - I want it to be staring me in the face.  But I'm afraid I may never get there.

Again, to have a perfect Christmas is to have prepared deep within us, in a new place, a worthy space for the Lord to be born.  David wanted this for the Lord - he offered in the first reading to build a house worthy for the Lord to dwell in.  Yet the Lord reminded David that He couldn't possibly build such a house.  The only one who could build a house worthy of the Lord is the Lord himself.

This is what we see happening within Mary.  The Lord promised David he would build his own house, and this house was ultimately the womb of Mary.  There's nothing we can do, you see, to have a perfect Advent. There is no checklist to complete that would convince the Lord we are ready for Him to be born within us.  The Lord himself has to build the house, from deep within us, and Mary teaches us how Advent is really done.

As we see in the Annunciation, Mary can rescue an imperfect Advent.  She can even save us from a terrible one.  We are not ready for Christmas, nor could we ever be ready, but She is ready, and that is all that matters.  We only need to entrust ourselves to her, and we will be ready too.  What is more, Mary is more excited for this Christmas than she was for the first Christmas, for that same Holy Spirit that once overshadowed her, wants to give birth to our Lord not just in one place, in Bethlehem, but in millions of places, wherever He can find an echo of Mary's great Magnificat - let it be done to me according to your word.  Mary expects this Christmas to be the best yet, and so should we.

Jesus is so madly in love with us, this year more than ever.  Mary is more ready than ever, begging us to surrender to Jesus' being born deep within us, where we have never given permission for Him to be born before.  All of our Advent preparations distill in these final days into the only words that really matter - let it be done to me according to your word.  Lord, build your sanctuary within me, and then come, Lord Jesus, come.  Come and be born in those places where I have lost hope of ever changing.

The perfect Christmas can only happen if we follow the pattern of Mary.  She alone can make us ready.  So it really doesn't matter if Father is ready for Christmas.  It doesn't matter if you're ready.  It only matters that  She is ready.  We will never have a better Christmas than Mary, so entrusting ourselves to Her is the surest path to our best Christmas.  Only she can lead us to a perfect Christmas. Amen.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

hope does not disappoint

3rd Sunday of Advent B
Gaudete Sunday
14 December 2014
Christ the King Topeka

A rose vestment is optional for Gaudete Sunday, the 3rd Sunday of Advent.  Rejoicing is not!  A distinctive mark of any Christian is joy!  It is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.  If we are not joyful people, then we are not living our faith correctly.  We are to be known always and everywhere for our joy, but especially as we turn the corner on this Pink Sunday toward the full celebration of the Christmas mystery!  Sure, this is a time of frenzied activity - shopping days and preparations, unless you're a guy, in which case you surely haven't even started yet.  But our deepest emotion right now, indicated by the distinctive color rose on Gaudete Sunday, is joy!  Our deepest spiritual attitude is joy, because our Lord is near!

Now is the time to intensify our spiritual preparation for Christmas.  We can do this by imagining what my heart would be like, how my life would be different, and what state our poor world would be if Christ had not come.  What if we lived without Christmas?  We might pretend we would have invented Christmas . .but is that true?  What if the world had not welcomed the light who is able to break through the evil and darkness of

our world.  If the world had not received the gift of the only one, who once created the entire universe out of nothing, alone has the power to remake our world from the inside out, what would be our future?  If the Lord had not traveled into our world, would we  have long since stopped traveling to see each other.  If He had not come as the greatest gift the world could hope for, would we have stopped giving to each other?  If He had not chosen to draw close to us, would we have given up on trying to be close to each other.  Jesus is the reason and hope of this holy season.  He is the ground of our traveling, our giving, our drawing together in vulnerability and love.  He is the hope of the world.  He is coming!  Rejoice, then!  Again I say rejoice!  The Lord is near!

Our readings for the third Sunday of Advent are not only full of joy, they also speak of hope!  Alongside joy, hope is the distinctive mark of a Christian.  Hope is that theological virtue, directly poured into our hearts by the Lord so that we can live in expectation.  Hope alone convicts us that convicts us that a tiny, helpless, poor baby born in the darkest hour of the darkest night in the middle of nowhere, is leading to the redemption of the world from the inside out, beginning with me.  Hope is that virtue that sees in the mystery of Bethlehem the small yet perfect beginning of the building of the Kingdom of God that cannot be destroyed like the first creation was, but a kingdom that can only grow stronger and larger and then will last forever.

Hope is different than optimism.  I'm optimistic about a lot of things.  Essentially, I expect things to go well, and to catch some breaks.  Yet hope, which is proper to a Christian, is distinct from optimism.  Optimism persists through some adversity, expecting the good to outweigh the bad in the long term, and that everything will turn out fine.  I'm optimistic, for example, that KU will come back and win even if they're playing badly or are behind in the game.  Pessimistic people are the opposite.  Yet optimism is not the same as hope.  Hope is able to grow where optimism has to admit defeat. As we learn from the mystery of Christmas, hope is born precisely where defeat seems final.  In entering the world in such a small way, Jesus shows his desire to visit our world precisely where all seems lost.  He visits places where darkness, sin, brokenness, pain, despair, loneliness, vulnerability, poverty, and yes, even death have had their say.  Only he can visit these places and redeem them.  A favorite way for me to say this is that only Jesus can visit you and love your and forgive you where you cannot know or love or change yourself.  

The mystery of Christmas is the mystery of Jesus, the Lord of all the universe, becoming smaller and smaller, until we have no defenses left that are impenetrable to him.  Our deepest rejoicing and hope then, come from knowing that this Christmas I have prepared a highway for Jesus to be born in a new place within me where I've never let him visit me before.  He makes all things new, including those parts of me that I have lost hope of ever changing.  Jesus is coming to heal us and redeem us from the inside out, to break down our defenses as only a baby can.  He makes himself smaller than ever this Christmas, so that He can reach a new place within us.  It is this pattern of his visitation that eventually will redeem the entire world, but He wishes this Christmas to begin with my heart

Are you ready for such a visit this Christmas from the Lord?  Are you prepared for the best Christmas you've ever had.  Will you allow him to visit a new place within you, and make you new from the inside out?  Is the hope of Christmas real for you?  If so, rejoice!  Again, I say to you rejoice!  The Lord is near!

Monday, December 8, 2014

grace goes first

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
8 December 2014
Christ the King Church Topeka
Daily Readings

Hail Mary, full of grace.  The Lord is with you.   A strange greeting indeed.  The strangest of greetings.  Mary was troubled by it.  For what the angel was saying was somethings absolutely incomparable if not impossible.  Let's break these simple words open.

Hail Mary!  The angel is giving Mary praise, not vice versa.  This is strange.  An angel is telling this simple girl that she is more glorious and praiseworthy than the angels.  Now there are some beautiful people in the world, but has anyone ever been praised as higher and more beautiful than the angels?  Mary was.

Full of grace!  Excuse me . . this little girl is full of God's power?  This tiny young insignificant girl is full of God's perfections, full of God's life, full of God's love.  Again, this had been said of no human person, nor of any angel, that they were full of grace.  But it was said of Mary.  Wow. Unreal.

The Lord is with you.  Of all the places the Lord could be. of all the places he ever was or ever will be, the angel says that the Lord is with this girl.  The Lord of all the universe loves being with this girl.  Improbable. Mind-boggling.  Amazing.   What a greeting.  What a greeting indeed!  Hail Mary.  Full of Grace.  The Lord is with you!

 Mind you, all this is said about Mary before she is told by the angel she will be the mother of Jesus. This is said about her before she is overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, before she conceives Jesus.  Mary's greeting is indeed strange - Gabriel does not say that Mary from this point on you will be full of grace, for you have found favor with God.  No, the angel says that you are already full of grace, you have already found favor with God.  The Gospel for the Immaculate Conception narrates the Annunication, and understandably so, because there is no conceivable human narration of Mary's conception in the womb of Anne.  But the focus of the Feast is not so much on the Annunication, but on what happened before.  The focus is on the strangest and most beautiful of greetings that happened before the Annunication.

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception shows that God chose Mary in a way that only he could choose her, at the moment of her conception.  Nobody else knew her or could choose her at that moment.  Only God.  Not even Joachim and Anne, her parents, knew Mary or could begin loving her at that point.  Only God could see her and know her and love her. And of course this is precisely the point of the Feast.  Mary the pinnacle of God's creation, is the definition and pattern of what it means to be a human person.  We learn how to become a person most of all through her, because we are more like her than Jesus.  Mary became a person at the moment of her conception.  We become persons when we are known and protected and loved, and God alone can know us and protect us and love us in ways and in places where no one else can.  Our personhood is grounded only in God, and the Immaculate Conception reminds us that that personhood begins at Conception.

Our Lady always teaches us something about Jesus too.  She always reflects his light.  The Immaculate Conception teaches us that Jesus chooses us before we can ever choose him.  Mary as we hear in the Gospel, chooses God with all that she is, but this is not nearly as important as His choosing her, from the moment of her conception.  The Lord falls in love with our lowliness, and his grace is the ground of our dignity and freedom.  We can do nothing apart from Him, who chooses us and knows us and loves at our weakest and smallest point, where only He can.  Mary shows us how totally and madly Jesus falls in love with us, and then begs permission to enhance our freedom by acting in us, and with us and through us.  What Mary was from her Immaculate Conception we her children hope to become as we grow in the grace of baptism, when Jesus fell irreovocably in love with each of us.

In the incomparably beautiful mystery of the Immaculate Conception, Mary shows that Jesus was already accomplishing his works in her.  Mary teaches us how to respond to God's invitation, by surrendering to God's will which is so much bigger and better than anything she could imagine.  Yet Mary teaches us something more, for when she says 'let it be done to me according to your word' she gives a foretaste of the surrender of Her son, who says Lord not my will, but yours be done.  Mysteriously, it was Jesus speaking and working through his most perfect instrument, his mother, that unleashed the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit that was His own conception.  In Mary, Jesus is all in all.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

you're in the way!

2nd Sunday of Advent B
Christ the King Church Topeka
7 December 2014
Daily Readings

Hey you!  You're in Jesus' way!  John the Baptist, the greatest and craziest and loudest of all the prophets who ever lived, gives us to it straight, as only the best prophet should!  Hey you!  You're in the way.  You're the problem.  Your ego.  Your plans.  Your stuff.  Your sins.  It's all in the way.  You're in the way.  I'm in the way.  We're all in the way.

John the Baptist is a ruthless Advent prophet, screaming and eating locusts and wearing camel's hair to get our attention, to break through our complacency, because he has an incomparable message.  John proclaims not just a word from God - he proclaims THE WORD - Jesus himself - after which no other word need be or will ever be spoken.  John introduces not just another godlike person, but THE PERSON after whom no on else will be sent, the final person who alone can re-create the world form the inside out.  John prophesies not just an important moment in human history, but THE MOMENT that is greater than all others - greater than the big bang that created everything out of nothing, greater than anything that has ever happened before or will ever happen again - greater than the moment of our own conception, our own birth, or our own death.  The moment of all moments was at hand - Jesus Christ, God Himself, greater than all the universes combined, was coming into our world as a tiny, poor and helpless little baby!  You wonder why John the Baptist seems completely crazy screaming like an idiot in the middle of nowhere - it is because his message is the most important and urgent message God gave any prophet ever to speak.  Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.  Prepare the way of the Lord. Make straight his paths.

This Christmas can be nothing less, my friends, than our allowing ourselves to be baptized with the Holy Spirit, and with fire.  John the Baptist calls out in a huge way any of us who are planning to make this Christmas something manageable for ourselves.  The scriptures tell us just the opposite.  They say that the person who you are right now is the person you will always be . .there is no time for tinkering with self-improvement . . we either allow ourselves to be visited by Jesus this Christmas, whose coming can only mean radical self-conversion and a baptism by fire, or nothing happens.  It is either him or us - it can't be both, and there is no compromise.  The Lord is not someone that we can fit into our already busy lives, like we might fit a new workout plan, a new investment strategy, or the perfect gift at the perfect price.  The Lord's coming is not another special offer like the thousands of false advertisements and cheap fixes that we are offered at every turn.

No, making room for him, and truly repenting of our sins, means that our life is no longer about us.  We either make room for him in Advent, or we don't.  There is no happy medium. For the Lord's coming is the most dramatic moment in human history, and He baptizes with the Holy Spirit and with fire, and whatever is not worthy or ready for Him, will be like chaff that is burned.

Repentance then, is key to the prophecy of John.  We will not welcome Christ this Christmas if our lives are already full of pride and stuff.  If Christ is to move in, then everything else has to move out. Our gift-giving  during Christmas, then, must not be a distraction or replacement for welcoming Christ, but must be an expression of making room for him.  We give away all that we have and are this Christmas, being generous beyond our imagination, in order that we might be able to receive a true treasure, Jesus Himself, with empty and clean hearts when we come to receive the Eucharist on Christmas Eve.  Our practices of giving away our stuff and money in this holy season, along with a good confession, are the sure spiritual practices that help us to get ready.

John the Baptist chews us out real good.  And we need it.  I'm in the way.  My ego.  My plans.  My stuff.  My sins.  I'm the problem.  I'm in the way.  I need repentance, allowing myself to be baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire, or this Christmas will bring nothing new at all.  Amen.