The Fourth Sunday of Advent
December 19, 2021
It is Friday morning as I write this. In just a few hours it will be my delight to pronounce the blessing over the Grace Church School Christmas pageant. Also, rehearsals are well underway for the church’s pageant that will take place on Christmas Eve. It’s beginning to look and sound a bit like Christmas!
In many Christmas pageants across the land the role of the cold-hearted innkeeper is often inflated beyond all Scriptural warrant. In truth, the existence of such a person is barely implied only in the Gospel of Luke, who writes that Mary gave birth to her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes because there was no room for them in the inn. That’s it! You don’t need an actor-singer to play the role of the innkeeper. But seeing the dramatic possibilities of a minor villain operating in the shadows of Bethlehem, everyone tasked with telling the Christmas story – whether through pageants, carols, or sermons – feels the temptation to make a cautionary tale out of this callous individual. The message? Make room in your heart for Jesus, which, by the way, involves making room for people today who find themselves on the streets. You just never know who it might be who shows up on your doorstep.
Although neither of the pageants that will take place under our roof highlight the innkeeper, the message is always one we need to hear. How are we making room at the inn for the homeless and hungry in the city? For many years now we have been devoting our entire Christmas offering to the work of outreach. When the offering plates pass through the pews on Christmas Eve at 4, 8, and 11 pm, and then again on Christmas morning at 11 am, every dollar you give (except those in pledge envelopes) goes to help alleviate the misery caused by poverty.
How do we spend it? Sadly, it is possible to respond to the homeless in such a way that perpetuates their life on the street. I don’t mean to sound like Scrooge, but every dollar that goes into the tin can of the homeless person with the cardboard sign actually encourages that person to stay on the street, rather than take the difficult steps to get off it. Our goal should be to respect the dignity of these folks and truly help them reach for a better life. At Grace Church the Christmas offering goes into what is called “The Vestry Fund for Outreach,” and from this fund we make grants to the agencies of mercy throughout the city that help the hungry and homeless reclaim their lives. Every year the fund is becoming a stronger instrument, able to do more and more good.
Christmas Eve is one week from today. When the offering plates come by I hope you will generously support the Vestry Fund for Outreach. What is more, you don’t need to wait until Christmas. You can make a donation any time online. Remember, you just never know who it might be who receives your blessing.
See you in church.