Sunday, December 25, 2016

December 24, 2016
Mass at Midnight
Christmas Eve is one of the darkest days of the year. As many of you probably know, three days ago, the 21stwas the first day of winter, but it is also the shortest “day” of the year, because it is the day in the northern hemisphere in which we have the shortest amount of daylight in a 24 hour period.

Today, so the experts say, we have experienced only nine hours and 26 minutes of daylight, which leaves us with more than 14 hours of darkness.

There are plenty of reasons to feel as though we are a "people sitting in darkness." Climate change. A nuclear North Korea.Cyber-attacks. Global terrorism. Personal insecurity about relationships, jobs, health, retirement and so on. But there are rays of light. People and children are lighting candles. We turn then to a Child who is the "Light of the World."

Deep, deep darkness. Some say that when you're experiencing darkness in your life, you should pray for God to free you from it. And iafter that you are still in darkness, pay the electric bill.That might help.

But we're not the first people to face dark days. In the time of the prophet Isaiah, about 700 years before the birth of Christ, the people of Israel were walking in darkness -- they "lived in a land of deep darkness." God seemed silent to them, and they were "greatly distressed and hungry." In an earlier passage, Isaiah tells us that they saw "only distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish; and they were thrust into thick darkness" (8:21-22).

We know what this feels like, don't we?

Global terrorism distresses us. Economic insecurity leaves us feeling empty. Climate change and cyber-attacks cause anxiety and anguish, and our fears about the future make us feel as though we are being "thrust into thick darkness."

Darkness. Thick darkness. We need some illumination.

The people of Israel saw a ray of light in the birth of a king, a new descendent of David. "For a child has been born for us, a son given to us," says the prophet Isaiah; "authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." His kingdom shall be established "with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore."

This king was the hope of the people of Israel -- the one who would rule them with justice and righteousness. He was their hope for the future.

We have reason for hope today as well. A writer named Baratunde Thurston recently listened to a number of TED Talks (, "Ideas Worth Spreading: Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world") and learned about an 22-year-old named Taylor Wilson who at 14 years old said to himself, "I'm going to design a new, safer, more efficient nuclear reactor." And then he did it. 

A Kenyan teenager named Richard Turere at 9 years old feared that lions would devour his family's livestock. So he built an automated security system.

Jack Andrakaat just 16 years old, became angry about pancreatic cancer after it killed a family friend. But instead of cursing the darkness, he lit a candle. Bucking conventional wisdom about cancer testing, he developed a protein-based blood test that is much faster, more effective, and cheaper than the current option.

And he did this, says Thurston, "all while dealing with homework, parents and puberty."

"A child has been born for us, a son given to us," says the prophet Isaiah. Children are still being born who are succeeding in making the world a safer, more secure and healthier place. God's kingdom of justice and righteousness is being advanced one innovation at a time.

It's enough to give you hope for the future.

Of course, the most impressive of God's innovators was born in Bethlehem about seven centuries after the prophet Isaiah. Think about that: The people of Israel did not get to see the greatest of David's descendants immediately, but had to wait more than 700 years. And we complain about Christmas advertising starting merely a 100 days before; imagine 700 years!

Would be like us patiently waiting until the 28th century.

No doubt they hoped that their hope for the future would come a little faster.

But come he did. Jesus Christ was born, to show us God's love and to be our Savior. In the middle of a dark, dark night, he came to bring us light and be our hope. And he is our future hope, not because he is a child, but because he is Jesus! 

Isaiah was right to say that "his authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom." The authority of Jesus has only increased, with the world now containing more than 2.2 billion Christians out of 6.9 billion earthly inhabitants -- about a third of the global population. 

Jesus continues to offer us his peace in a challenging and contentious world, saying to us, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid" (John 14:27).

Notice that Jesus does not offer us an escape from life's challenges, but instead he gives us peace in the middle of these challenges.

Jesus also establishes his kingdom "with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore." Like the prophets before him, he is anointed by God "to bring good news to the poor ... release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind" (Luke 4:18, based on Isaiah 61:1). 

He wants justice for all of God's children, rich and poor, black and white, conservative and liberal, immigrant and native-born. He is focused on people being in right relationship with God and with each other. The core meaning of righteousness is "right-relationship" -- not so much following certain rules and regulations as being in loving, giving, just and committed relationships with each of our fellow human beings. This is the kind of relationship that Jesus has with each of us, and it is the kind that he wants us to have with him, with God and with each other.

Our hope for the future is found in Jesus Christ, and in anyone who follows him in justice and righteousness. "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light," says the prophet Isaiah, "For a child has been born for us, a son given to us."

Christmas is the season of hope for the future, where the light of Christ enters the darkness of the world. The birth of Jesus reminds us that children can change things for the better, whether they are designing safer nuclear reactors, developing better cancer blood tests, or being the one and only Savior of the World.

In every generation, there's the possibility that people will act as counselors and peacemakers, following in the footsteps of the Savior who is a Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. Since the time of Isaiah, people have dreamed that "the wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them" (Isaiah 11:6).

That little child is Jesus. As well as the children of God who follow him.

So, on this Christmas Eve, receive the light that is coming into the world! To those who are living in a land of deep darkness, the light of Christ is shining. He enters the lives of each of us today -- to show us God's love, to save us from our sins and to lead us in the paths of justice and righteousness. As we continue to struggle with the dangers and difficulties of life, he gives us his guidance and his peace.

Receive the light. Accept it, embrace it and then share it -- in whatever way you can. Resolve to reflect the light of Christ into the dark places that you see around you. Do whatever you can to make the world a safer, more secure and healthier place. Take actions that establish justice and righteousness in the world -- actions that help to build right relationships between people and God and between people one to another.

Instead of cursing the darkness, light a candle.

You don't have to build a security system for livestock or develop a new blood test for cancer. You don't have to broker peace between rival gangs or warring nations. But you can visit a lonely relative, invite a neighbor to church, tutor a troubled teenager or plant a community garden. You can be sure that they know that no matter who they are; what they are; who they share a home or life with; Christ is their hope.

Accepting and sharing the light of Christ is the best hope for our future. It's our hope for the futureJesus is our hope for the future!
Let us pray.
Father God, we thank you for bringing Your Light into the world in the Christ Child. From the time of Eden, we have experienced darkness in the world. You have attempted to get us out of that darkness ever since. 
Tonight we have seen a great light. How this Light should increase our joy, yet we sometimes do not allow it. How this Light should inspire us each to work to bring light to those who are most in need or feeling “outside”, yet we often do not
Lord, help us to know that we do not need to be nuclear physicists, electrical engineers or biological scientists to help others; we merely need to be a small instrument in bringing peace, hope, and love to others we meet each and every day. Small acts are big miracles to others. We live in the world that You created, and You saw that everything was good. Help us to see this also, especially in anyone and everyone we meet every day.
When we are down or facing troubles, bring the Light of Christ to our hearts, Lord, that we may find comfort and hope in our needs. 
Help each of us in this chapel this night/day to bring Your Light to one person this coming week, who may be in darkness and in need of Your love. May we, like the shepherds, follow that great light - For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, from David’s throne, and over his kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever.
Father God, thank you for sending us Your Son.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.
December 25, 2016
Christmas Day
Each year we arrive at this time of year. It cannot be skipped. I suppose one could (and so do) choose to ignore the day and its significance. However, either way, there is no way to go thru the year without somehow acknowledging it. In amongst this is the fact, most especially those of us who observe the holiday, that we have come to take the day for granted. Yes, it's Christmas and all that, but aside from maybe attending Midnight or Christmas morning Mass, when do we really pause and think about the day and its meaning to us as Christians?
We go about the day rather nonchalantly opening presents, visiting with friends and family, feasting on the best food offered and even party it up. Yet, we do this almost instinctively and not truly with nearly the reverence that the day is owed. We spend days and weeks preparing for the day, but only in a secular point of view and expression.
We should be excited, but not because we just got the latest and greatest present the world has to offer, but because the Christ child – the incarnation of God – was born this day in the city of David a little over two thousand years ago.
Joseph and Mary must have been beside themselves. Arriving in Bethlehem to discover that there was absolutely not room for them in the inn. Imagine if you came here last night to the pot-luck and I said I had no rum balls! You would all suddenly sit there with your jaws drooping to the floor. Well, Mary and Joseph went through something far more drastic, if we take the time to meditate on their dilemma.
They accept a kind offer to stay in a stable. Imagine if you will, our Lord and Savior – the King of the world – would have to be born in a stable! In that little light of a barn, the Light of the world would be incarnated as man and the glory of the Lord shines forth. Light and glory shine forth in the very humble birth of the Son of God, who is Christ the Lord.
Christmas tends to bring the best out in people usually, at least with few exceptions anyway. It may have been the light of this first Christmas that may have influenced the innkeeper to give all that he had left to a family to use; to a family in who the mother was very obvious to the point of giving birth. We hear God's revelation of salvation and respond to the light when we perform actions of kindness, no matter how small. Christmas brings out generosity and many try to make room for someone else in their respective inns.
Christmas is so much more. Christmas should be a time when we are in awe and wonder. We should be looking at our world, most especially as Catholic Christians, and seeing God in it all. We are miserable people, truthfully. No amount of proof would do; especially in an ever increasing atheistic and agnostic world. We need this light of Christ ever so much more than before.
How do we love? How do we hate? How do we smell? Without that sense of smell, how do we completely taste, much less taste at all? How do we see? How do we hear? How do we feel? Just how do we do all these things? Science can explain the mechanics, but I have yet to be convinced they can explain the origin of these senses and emotions any more than the rest of us here.
We marvel at our planet earth and the mysteries of its origin perfection at sustaining itself and those inhabiting it. We have telescopes that see the universe and galaxies yet to be fully explained. Scientists say they have found planets or stars like the very one we live on. How did they get there? Why are they there? How did they manage to be so seemingly perfectly round? How is it we have not found more life? How/why? How/why? How/why?
One large bang did this, they say. If that is the case, then let me light a firecracker and see if a dog materializes before us. How about another firecracker that will produce a lung for someone waiting for a transplant? Am I making a mockery of science? I suppose it depends on the point of view. Surely the non-believing scientists do the same of those of us that believe in a divine being who we say created it all. My eyes work in this way or that; my ears, my mouth, etc. because of that firecracker that just made all organisms and life in such great and technical detail. Simplistic argument I admit, but still very truthful to those of us with faith.
No, most of us who come here today believe in something far more powerful than that. We can't explain it, we simply have faith. We look around us and see miracles, not big bangs. We see an intelligent agent behind it all, beckoning us to walk toward Him; toward the light.  In our perfectly designed bodies that our souls imperfectly inhabit.
And so we come to this day. We come to this day because God is trying to catch our attention. He put a star in the sky that was said to be brighter than all others combined. Some historical records exist that do give some validation to an astronomical phenomenon that can be traced to approximately the time that most historians believe Christ was born in correlation to our Scriptural time frames. Whether it was a “shooting star” as some may say or some other astronomical event, something certainly took place. Too much time has passed to prove or disprove, I suppose, to a scientific satisfaction. But those of us of faith need little more. And so, God put this star to lead the shepherds to the light, on through to our modern time. God put Angels in the path of these shepherds to convince to go see what wonderful event was taking place.
We need this light. We need another chance. Christ is the light. Christ is a second chance. God doesn't want to force anything on us. We have the gift of free will. He wants us to freely choose him. He wants us to cooperate with him. He wants us to work as a team.
As an example there are some people who have been married many years. Sometimes, so very long many years. This does not come by chance. It does not come with some big bang. It takes work. It takes cooperation. And it sometimes takes second chances. Sometimes trouble comes into relationships and marriages. Sometimes something pulls them apart. Sometimes for a short while. And sometimes forever.
In some cases, one or both parties of the couple seek second chances. Doesn't matter if they were wrong, right or neither. Love knows no end. Love knows no boundaries or even any ego. When true love exists, couples still seek each other out. Sometimes one or both parties have hurt each other; sometimes it is only one who did most of the hurting. Yet, when love exists, one or both will seek the other out – all for that second chance.
Sometimes one of the two parties may mourn the loss and pray each day for a chance for the other to come back. And when that chance is given, many will jump at that chance. It no longer matters who was wrong, if either really ever were. It only matters that the love that once was aflame has been rekindled and vows are retaken and given. They will try all the more than before to make it work, even the one who may not have been the one in wrong when and if a wrong existed. Second chances are what we live for in marriages built on love. Second chances are the prodigal sons of modern day relationships.
Christmas is our second chance. Our second chance with God. Christmas is God coming to us under the disguise of a human child. The incarnation of God as man. All to give us a light to behold. All to give us a second chance. God loves us without end or limit. No wrong or sin can ever make God stop loving us. He is always begging us to take Him back. He knocks on the doors of our souls continuously trying to get us to rejoin ourselves to our divine spouse and creator.
We are imperfect beings created by a perfect God. We decided to test God in the Garden of Eden and we have done so ever sense in some fashion. Original sin or simple imperfect humanity. Regardless of the theological explanation, we are all a bit disconnected from God. We are all in some way contributing to a separation or divorce that should not be. We demanded freedom and free will and God gave it to us. We wanted a divorce; and in a simplistic way, God gave us a separation, but refuses to give the divorce. He doesn't believe in it.
God wants us to come to Him and ask for that second chance. He gives us that opportunity every Christmas. So here we are, some of us mere “Chresters”, trying to make a go of finding God again; finding that light that was in all of us from the beginning of time. A second chance for yourself; a second chance for someone else; or even a second chance for someone who is merely an acquaintance. Probably most of all is the second chance for yourself. God sometimes simply wants you to give yourself a second chance, by giving God that second chance in your life. God will light the way.
Lastly, always remember that each time we respond to God and conform our own will to the divine will, Christmas happens. Each time we reach out to those in need, Christmas happens. Each time we take time to be present to another, Christmas happens. In all these and in countless other simple acts of putting others ahead of ourselves, we lift ourselves to join in the song of the heavenly host, that unceasing chorus of praise and glory. Glory to God in the highest. In all these ways of acting in the light of this Light, we extend the glory of Christmas into every day. We could all use a Christmas miracle. Maybe if we let in a little of His light, we just all might get one!
Let us pray.
Father God, you sent your Son into the world, born of a woman, into a perfect world gone sour my human touch. You sent your Son to reach out to the many people you call your own. You sent your Son to be a light and beacon for second chances and even for faith in a Christmas miracle or two.
Help us all to see the light of the Christ child this Christmas, and most importantly, that we give ourselves a second chance by giving you a chance in our lives by allowing the Christ child to illuminate our lives in such a ways as to help bring us closer to You and thus closer to who we are all meant to be in Your image. We may be surprised to learn that Your will has been something similar to what we wanted all along, but simply failed to put You in the center of  the need or desire.
Finally, Lord God, fill us in a profound way with Your light this Christmas, in a way that not even your worst skeptic can refute. That could be the first of many more Christmas miracles to come. We ask all this through Christ our Lord. Amen
God Love You +++
+The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

December 18, 2016
Fourth Sunday in Advent
There exists a fifteenth-century painting by noted Italian artist Ghirlandaio. It depicts a beautiful manger scene on that silent and holy night so long ago. However, at a closer look, it is not your typical view of the scene most of us have come to know as the manger scene.
Mary and the baby Jesus are the most prominent figures in the painting. The Christ child is lying on a bed of straw, with the radiant light of the Bethlehem star shinning down upon Him. Mary is kneeling behind Him. She is wearing a beautiful blue robe, her hands are clasped in a gesture of prayer, and her face is the picture of gratitude, serenity and adoration.
To the right are the shepherds. One of the shepherds is holding a lamb tenderly to his chest, anticipating, undoubtedly, Jesus’ role as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”. Over to the left, some townspeople are coming up a road from the near-by city, obviously coming to the manger to worship the newborn King.
In the background are the animals; an ox, a donkey, a goat, a lamb. But what really should catch our eyes is Joseph. Now keep in mind that the shepherds are on one side, Mary and the Christ child are in the foreground, the townspeople are coming up from the left side and the animals are scattered all around. Everyone in the painting is looking at the baby Jesus; everyone except Joseph.
Joseph is in the background. He is looking up into heaven with this quizzical look on his face, and he is scratching his head! I somehow imagine that scratching your head in those days meant about the same as it does today. It expresses bewilderment. A sense of wondering what is going on.
The great thing about Joseph is that even though he didn’t understand all of what was going on at that first Christmas, he nevertheless accepted it and celebrated it. Even though he was bewildered by it all, he still trusted God and embraced Christmas. He welcomed the Christ child into his life with open arms.
So can we. So should we. We are so much like Joseph. We can’t possibly comprehend the full meaning of Christmas. Christmas comes to us wrapped in divine mystery, wonder and awe. We can’t master the fullness of Christmas in a ten step program or even a few days. But we don’t have to. Like Joseph, all we need to do is embrace Christmas, and celebrate Christmas by welcoming the Christ child into our lives with open arms.
I once came across a fascinating article about the origin of the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. Now, I have come across a couple variations of the hidden meaning, but this one struck a chord with me. According to the article, that popular song has a hidden meaning. It was written during a time of persecution to help children learn and remember the faith. The people were not permitted to practice their faith openly, so the song was designed to have two meanings; a surface meaning, and another, a hidden meaning known only to the people of the faith. As you may remember, the song refers to gifts “my true love gave to me”. They were taught that the phrase “my true love gave to me” symbolized God and His love for us. So, let us examine those for a moment.
~ The Partridge in the Pear Tree: Christ’s death on the cross.
~ Two Turtle Doves: The Old and New Testaments.
~ Three French Hens: Faith, Hope, and Love.
~ Four Calling Birds: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the four Gospels.
~ Five Golden Rings: The Torah, the first five books of the Bible.
~ Six Geese a-laying: The Six days of Creation.
~ Seven Swans a-swimming: Seven gifts from the Holy Spirit.
~ Eight Maids a-milking: The eight Beatitudes.
~ Nine Ladies Dancing: The nine Fruits of the Spirit.
~ Ten Lords a-leaping: The Ten Commandments.
~ Eleven Pipers piping: The eleven Faithful Disciples.
~ Twelve Drummers drumming: The twelve Points of Belief in the Apostles’ Creed.
I have no idea how accurate this bit of trivia is, however, as I said, I have seen a couple variations of this which leads me to believe that this is factual for the most part. Further, true or not, it does a make a point. And that point is that there is frequently a deeper meaning to mysterious things such as these. This is true of Christmas too. And even though our minds simply are not big enough to fully comprehend the fullness of what it means to say. The beginning words from the Gospel according to John, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us”, force us to stretch our minds, expand our souls and open our hearts to the deeper meanings of Christmas. The Word became flesh …, just what that mean?
So, let us ponder on this a bit and attempt to take a look at Christmas. Just what in the world is Christmas all about? So, so many things. Christmas is about so many things that defy description, so many things too big for words. But, for today, as we have for the past three Sundays by making us ponder three things, let us examine three basic things that we get our minds to grasp; three ways of explaining what Christmas is about.
First, Christmas is a reminder that God is with us no matter what. Let’s use an illustration; many of you know how I love to use illustrations.
Sometime back, a woman wrote one of those Christmas letters, the kind that brings you up-to-date on what’s happening in the family. I am sure you know what I mean; they have become a little more common place among folks over the years. I get a few each year. The letter was the first Christmas since her husband died, and she wrote about it. She knew her friends would want to know how she was getting along. She was straightforward and honest about it all.
In her letter, she talked openly about the pain, the sorrow, the loneliness, and how tough it had been. Then she said this: “Now, I wonder about many things. I wonder, how can it be that he who is gone somehow continues to live and minister to me and to the children? I wonder, how it is that in the midst of heartache I have found God and the power to keep on going? I wonder, how it is that as a result of the tragedy, old friendships are deepened and new friendships are formed?
The woman ended the letter by saying that it’s the mystery of Christmas that holds the answer. “Christmas”, she wrote, “is the promise that God can be trusted to meet all of our needs – to meet our needs in ways we would never imagine.” The last words of the letter are powerful, so listen closely: “Some say that this first Christmas without my husband will be very painful. Probably it will be. But I know this: Without Christmas, my life would be impossible.” “Without Christmas, my life would be impossible”, she says.
That’s the kind of faith Christmas is all about. Christmas reconnects us to the Power Source. The message of Christmas is Emmanuel, which means “God is with us” in every circumstance of life and even indeed beyond this life. God is with us, and God is for us. That is the Christmas “good news of great joy”. That is our faith, and that’s what Christmas is all about.
Second, Christmas is the reminder that God will never desert us.
In recent years, the poem “Footprints in the Sand” has become well known and much loved. Sometimes when I feel down, or a little blah, or just need some reassurance, I go back and read it again. It restores my strength and gives me confident hope. The poem tells of a person who has a dream one night about walking with God on the beach. We can relate to that. We live on the coast. The dreamer looks back over where they were walking and sees two sets of footprints in the sand, but then the dreamer notices that in the toughest, most difficult times of his life, there is just a single set of footprints. The dreamer asked God, “How could you leave me in the worst times of my life?” and God answers, “My Son, my precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you!” As some of you know, those words are the words I have inserted in my Bishop’s Coat of Arms in Latin. “ was then I carried you.” (Is eram tunc ut Portavi vos.)
This is the message of Christmas! And once again, it is one word, Emmanuel. God realizes that we need help, that we need someone to carry us, and He sends a Savior. And in so doing, God gives us the Christmas gift of Hope, the Christmas gift of His presence, the Christmas promise that He will never desert us or forsake us.
We look around us and what do we see? A world in turmoil and unrest. Wars are going on all over. Discrimination and hatred abound. One could ask, “Is there any hope?” The answer of Christmas to that question is a resounding yes, because God is with us, and He will not desert us.
Third, Christmas is the reminder that God is love, and that God wants us to be loving.
Some time back, I came across what was referred to as the Orange Story. The story takes place during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Eleven little boys were living in an orphanage. They were very poor. The highlight of their lives came each year at Christmas Eve. After their dinner in the orphanage cafeteria, they would have a Christmas Party. They would sing some carols, and then each of the eleven boys would receive an orange. That’s all they would get for Christmas. No toys, no clothes, no candy. Just a single orange. But the little boys were so grateful. Each one would peel his orange carefully and eat one slice a day to make it last longer.
But one year on Christmas Eve, one little boy named Tommy broke one of the orphanage rules. The orphanage director said to him, “Tommy, you have broken one of our rules, and you must be disciplined. I hate to do it, but you have to learn, so your punishment is that you can’t come to the Christmas Party this year, and you won’t get an orange. Go to your room immediately, and stay there until morning.”
Tommy was crushed. He was so disappointed, but he obeyed. He went to his room alone. He could hear the sounds of the Christmas party. He could hear them singing; he could hear his friends cheer as the oranges were passed around. Tommy was absolutely heartsick. This was the lowest, darkest, and worst moment of his life. He had trouble going to sleep at first, but finally sleep came.
When Tommy woke up the next morning, he sat on the edge of his bed rubbing his eyes and thinking, “This is going to be the most horrible Christmas ever.” But then he saw it. There it was, on the bedside table; a makeshift orange. An orange with no peel. Ten individual slices of orange put together to make an orange for him. There was a note underneath it that read, “Merry Christmas, Tommy”. It was signed by all ten of his friends in orphanage. It took a moment for it all to sink in, but finally Tommy figured it out. Each one of his little buddies had donated one slice of their orange to make an orange for him, and what had started out to be Tommy’s worst Christmas suddenly became his best Christmas ever. Sacrificial love turned it around for Tommy, and that’s what Christmas is all about.
Now, where do you suppose those little boys learned to share like that? Where did they learn to give sacrificially like that? Where did they learn to redeem a situation creatively like that? Where did they learn to love like that? We all know. It was learned from the Christmas Story. They learned it from the Christmas Carols. But most of all, they learned it from the Christ Child, this One who came to give His life sacrificially for you and me.
Now let me ask some questions for you to ponder. Can you love like that? Can you love sacrificially like that? Can you? Are you ready to share God’s love and hospitality with others? How are you making the birth of the Christ Child the central focus of your Christmas celebration? One poet put it this way: “For Christ is born and born again, when His love lives in the hearts of men”.
One week from today will be the most special day of the year. Take time to enjoy this beautiful season of the year. This Christmas is another gift from God to you. When we celebrate the good news that God is with us come what may, that God will never desert us, and that God is love and wants us to be loving, then we have Christmas; a Christmas that will last all year long. For this last week in Advent, prepare for God’s love sent to you in the Christ child.
Let us pray.
Father God, thank you for leading us through Advent and preparing us for a more meaningful and joyous Christmas. May we celebrate the birth of Jesus in our hearts and remember why Christ came to earth. Thank you for loving us and for always being with us. May we share Your loving goodness with others, this coming Christmas and throughout the year.
Help us as we prepare any final preparations we have this week to include some time in preparing for the birth of Christ. Help us to share Your love and hospitality with others. Help us to make the birth of the Christ child the central focus of our Christmas celebrations. Help us to take time to enjoy this beautiful season of the year. And help us to realize Christmas is another gift from You to us. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +
+The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.
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Sunday, December 11, 2016

December 11, 2016
Third Sunday in Advent
Here we are at the start of the third week of Advent and I’m going to start out with a story again to help us illustrate what I want us to contemplate.
Timmy and Jack were best buddies; young boys who were next door neighbors growing up together. They were together every day. They were the same age and in the same class at school and in church. They did everything together. They were both excellent students and outstanding athletes. Tim and Jack were like brothers, but they were extremely competitive with each other.
In school they would always run against each other for class president. One year to Timmy would win, and the next year Jack would win, and so it went. One year Jack would have the best grades, and the next year Timmy would.
In football, they were both so talented that in one series Timmy would play quarterback and Jack would play tailback, and on the next series, they would switch positions. When they played basketball in the backyard, one on one against each other, it was all out battle. The competition was fierce.
When they reached the fifth grade, it came time for the Christmas play, and Jack wanted to play the role of Joseph. He played Joseph the year before and had received lots of compliments on his performance and he wanted to do it again. But the teacher said, “Jack, you played Joseph last year. Let’s let Timmy be Joseph this year, and you can be the innkeeper.” Jack was not amused, and he decided on the night of the play that he would play a trick on Timmy; he will get Timmy, but good!
So during the play, as Mary and Joseph approached the innkeeper, Timmy, playing the role Joseph, said his lines perfectly, “Sir, can you help us? As you can see, Mary is about to have her baby. She is so tired from our long journey. We need lodging. I know the city is crowded right now, but please, sir, can you help us?”
This was the moment Jack had been waiting and planning for. This was the moment where Jack could play his trick and put one over on his friend Timmy. So Jack, playing innkeeper, said loudly and dramatically, “Can I help you? Absolutely, I can! Come right on in, Mary and Joseph. You can have the bridal suite!” There was a stunned pause as Timmy tried to figure out what to do and what to say to keep the Christmas play going.
Timmy was accustomed to matching wits with Jack, though, so pretty quickly he came up with the answer. He walked up to Jack, the innkeeper, peered over his shoulder, and then said, “Look at the place, Mary. It’s a disgrace! I wouldn’t stay in this dump for anything! Come on, Mary. We would be better off in a stable than a place like this!” Now that’s what you call rising to the occasion. Timmy rose to the occasion and kept the Christmas story going.
Rising to the occasion - that’s precisely what the wise men in Luke did also.
They rose to the occasion by seeing the star and then following the stars that led them to the Christ child.
They rose to the occasion by taking the time and coming up with the financial support needed to make the long, arduous, and expensive journey.
They rose to the occasion by bringing gifts that not only were appropriate for the celebration of the birth of the Christ child, but also gifts that foreshadowed who the Christ child would become and what he would do.
First, there was gold, a gift fit for a king, an appropriate gift for this One who was the King of Kings and would choose to reign not with force but would love.
Second, there was frankincense, a gift fit for a priest. In the temple in those days, the sweet perfume of frankincense was used. (Apparently, it was a different kind of frankincense from what we use, because it is not very sweet to me.) By the way, the Latin word for priest is Pontifex, which literally means “bridge-builder.” Jesus would become the One who builds a bridge between God and us and makes it possible for us to enter into the presence of God.
And third, there was the gift of myrrh. Myrrh was used for embalming, so myrrh was a gift fit for the One who would come to die for us.
The famous artist William Holman Hunt once created a painting called Shadow of Death that shows Jesus as a young man, standing in a doorway stretching his arm after working in the carpenter shop all day. He stands there in a doorway with his arms outstretched, and behind him, on the wall, the setting sun casts his shadow, and it is a shadow of a cross! The gifts presented that day by the wise men foretold that Jesus was to be the true King of Kings, the priest who bridges us to God, and the Savior who dies on the cross to save us from our sins.
The wise men rose to the occasion and played their part beautifully. But there was another way they rose to the occasion, one that was even more daring and courageous; they defied King Herod. In order to save the Christ child’s life, they disobeyed King Herod, and that was a dangerous thing to do indeed, because King Herod was a powerful, dangerous, coldhearted man.
He was called “Herod the Great,” and in some ways he was a great ruler. He ruled as king for nearly 35 years, and during that time, he did succeed in keeping the peace. And he was a great builder; he was responsible for rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem. But Herod had one huge problem; he was insanely afraid that he might lose his kingdom. The longer Herod lived, the worse his fear became. His solution was to eliminate anyone who might become a threat to his throne, so, over the years he executed his wife, his mother-in-law, three of his own sons, and many others, including John the Baptist.
To give you a glimpse into the coldhearted, self-centered nature of Herod, look at what he did when he was 70 years old. He knew that he would not live much longer, so he issued an order that at the precise moment of his death, a large collection of most distinguished and respected citizens of Jerusalem should be executed. By this action, he tried to dupe history. He knew that when the word went out that those beloved community leaders had been killed, there would be great grief and mourning and crying in the streets, and that when future historians would look back at this moment, they might mistakenly think that the tears of the people were being shed for Herod. Luckily, this command was not carried out.
But when we think of Herod in his warped and selfish way of thinking, then we can imagine how he must’ve felt when he heard that a child was to be born in Bethlehem, and that the child was destined to become the king of the Jews. Herod told the wise men to go to Bethlehem and find the baby and then to notify him so that he, too, could come and worship the baby. But, you see, the wise men really were wise men - they saw through Herod and his plot. So after they found the Christ child and presented their gifts, the wise men disobeyed King Herod’s order; they didn’t report back to him the location of the baby, because they knew that Herod didn’t want to worship the baby; he wanted to kill the baby.
The wise men not only were wise, they were also brave. So, we could say (not counting Mary and Joseph) that the wise men were the first people in the world to give gifts to the Christ child, and the first ones in the world to take a courageous and bold stand for Jesus.
Now, obviously we can’t go back to that night in Bethlehem and bring gifts to the manger, but what can we give to Jesus? What can you and I give him today? What can you and I give him right now?
In 1872, Christina Rossetti wrote a beautiful poem about this, which contains these poignant words;
What can I give him,
poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd,
I would bring a lamb;
if I were a wise man,
I would do my part;
yet what can I give him:
give my heart.
( “In the Bleak Midwinter”)
Now, with this as a backdrop for our thinking, let me suggest three good gifts that we can give the Christ child for Christmas this year.
First of all, we can bring him our penitence.
Here is where we start with penitence - with sorrow for our sins. This is what the Advent and Christmas seasons underscore for us so dramatically, how very much we need a Savior.
You see, this world is not enough. Apart from God, we are incomplete. We have sinned. We can’t make it by ourselves. We need help. We desperately need a Savior. That’s what Advent and Christmas tell us.
There was once a young man who filled out an application form for admission to college. One of the questions read, “What are your personal strengths?’ The young man wrote, “Sometimes I’m trustworthy, loyal, cooperative, and kind.” Then the form said, “List your weaknesses,” and he wrote, “Sometimes I’m not trustworthy, loyal, cooperative, or kind.” We can all relate to that, can’t we? That’s why we approach the manger Christmas on our knees in the spirit of penitence.
In the city of Bethlehem is a small Cathedral at the supposed birthplace of Jesus. Inside the church is a small cave lit by lamps. In the tile floor is a star design that marks where the manger was. Visitors are allowed inside the sacred cave, but you cannot walk in with your head and shoulders held high. The doors are so low that you must stoop to enter.
There’s a sermon there somewhere, and I think it is this: you may be able to see the world standing tall and proud, but to witness the Savior you have to get on your knees. You come in humility and penitence.
Max Lucado, in his book The Applause of Heaven, puts it like this: “While the theologians were sleeping and the elite were dreaming and the successful were snoring, the meek and penitent were kneeling. They were kneeling before the One only the meek and penitent will see. They were kneeling in front of Jesus.”
Someone once sent a Christmas card that says it all. The card had the caption, “God Sent Us a Saviour” and it lists the options God had in sending salvation to the world. Should he send an educator? Or a scientist? Or an entertainer? No! Our greatest need was not information or technology or pleasure. The card concludes with some very powerful words: “Our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Saviour!”
This is the good news of Christmas. We need a Savior, and God sent us one. Talk about exchanging gifts for Christmas! Top that gift! First of all, we bring God our penitence, and he will give us the gift of salvation and life.
For our second, we can bring him our gratitude.
Some years ago there was a little girl whose name was Jane. She was one of six children living with her family in East Texas. Suddenly, Jane’s father became ill with heart problems so serious that he would not be able to work for some time. Jane knew that the family would be in for a lot of changes, and sure enough, her mother told her the news. “I’m so sorry, Jane,” her mother said. “I know school is about the start, but right now there is no money for school clothes and supplies.” Jane was shocked. No school supplies? No new school clothes? All her old clothes were too small, but she could tell by her mother’s face that was a serious situation.
“We hope and pray that dad will be better soon,” Jane’s mother went on to say. “He can’t work now, so we all have to pitch in and help. We all will have to help earn money for food.” So the children took odd jobs. Jane worked at the neighborhood store, her brother took the newspaper route, another sister worked at the larger grocery store, and another babysat.
One day the phone rang. It was the church secretary. “I know school is starting soon. Some people here at the church want to help Jane. They’re going to buy her some new clothes for school and all of her school supplies.” Jane couldn’t believe it. The clothes were better than she could have imagined, and the school supplies were just right.
Jane and her mother were so grateful, and she wanted to say thank you to the people who helped them so graciously and so generously. They called the church. Jane’s mother said, “Could you help us? We want to say thank you to the kind people who did so much for Jane.” The church secretary replied, “The people who helped you said you can thank them by just doing something kind for someone else.”
Well, over the years Jane and her mother have done just that. When Jane’s father’s health improved, Jane’s mother began to take meals to people who were sick at home, and she continued to do so for many years. Not too long ago, Jane’s mother was honored by the Meals on Wheels program for 25 years of delivering meals to people who were not able to leave their home. And Jane became so committed to helping other people as an expression of her gratitude that when she grew up, she went into full-time Christian service, and she is now a member of the staff of a church to help children and families every single day. Her name is Jane Williams. She was for years the director of children’s and family ministries at St. Luke’s Church in Houston Texas, but is now the coordinator for second through fifth grade Sunday school. Jane was so grateful to God and to the church that she committed her life to serving God and helping other people.
That’s what it means to be Christian. We are so grateful to God for his gift of Jesus Christ that we can’t sit still. We want to pass it on, to pay it forward, to share it with others as an expression of our thanksgiving to God for what God has done for us in sending Christ into the world.
When we really understand and accept and wrap our arms around and celebrate that, it changes our lives. It makes us grateful servants. First, we bring to the Christ child the gift of penitence and second, we bring the gift of gratitude.
Third and finally, we can bring to the Christ child our love for others.
That’s what Jesus wants most of all. Remember how he said it: “As you did it to one of the least of these … You did it to me.” Nothing makes glad the heart of Christ more than when he sees us love one another.
Some years ago, minister and author Dr. Hoover Rupert told about a beautiful incident that took place at the Mohawk Central School in Pains Hollow, New York. The principle of that school became concerned that some of the children whose families were struggling financially would have no Christmas. So he set up a Santa’s Helpers Fund and encouraged all the students who could do so to contribute to it, so the gifts might be bought for the underprivileged children in the area.
One 13-year-old boy was touched by the idea, and he scrimped and saved for weeks so that he can help some poor child have a gift for Christmas that year. The boy managed to raise $1.50, but on the day the contributions were to be received (which was the last day before the Christmas vacation), there was a terrible blizzard, and school was canceled. With the snow and ice everywhere, no buses were running. But this 13-year-old boy was convinced there would be someone at the school to receive his money, so he walked through the blizzard and put his $1.50 into the hands of the principal. As the boy turned to go back out into the blizzard to head back home the principal had to swallow hard and blinked back tears, because the principal knew that this boy’s name was on the list of underprivileged children who were to receive gifts from the Santa’s Helpers Fund.
What a beautiful story. The power of sacrificial love, the power of loving others. What a great gift to bring to the Christmas table at the inn.
As we come to the manger at Bethlehem later this month, we can do that to. We can bring the Christ child three good gifts: our penitence, our gratitude, and our love for others. Or, in other words, what can we give him? We can give them our hearts!
Let us pray.
Father God, thank you for the many gifts You give to us each day. Thank you for food, clothing, shelter, family, friends, health, work, and so much more. You have blessed us with the gift of life. Help us to truly appreciate it and make the most of it by giving ourselves to You and to others. Help us to give love to the unloved and hope to the hopeless. Open our eyes to the needs of others, and help us respond in love.
Lord help us this week to reflect on what You have given us and thus what we can give back to You and to others. Help us to give ourselves away. Help us to give our time, our love, our patience, and our understanding. Help us to be good listeners to those who are feeling hurt or alone. Whole help us to give a smile to someone who may need it. Help us to see our blessings; and to look for ways to share our blessings with others. We ask all this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

December 4, 2016
The Second Sunday in Advent
It was Christmas Eve. A man was waiting for a bus to take him from Athens, Georgia, to Greenville, South Carolina. As he purchased his ticket, the agent said, “That bus is running a little late. If you’ll just watch the electronic letter-board over there in the corner, you will know when the bus arrives and when it’s time to board.”
The man wandered around the terminal for a while. Eventually he saw a small machine. The sign on the machine read, “For twenty-five cents, this machine will tell you your name, age, city of residence, and something about you.”
“That’s impossible,” the man muttered out loud, but nevertheless he was curious, so he pulled out a quarter and plunked it into the machine. The machine whirred and whistled a bit, then printed out a message that read, “Your name is Fred Jones. You are thirty-five years old. You live in Athens, Georgia, and you are waiting for a bus to Greenville, South Carolina.”
“Incredible,” said the man. “How does that machine know all of that? It’s amazing, but I’ll bet it can’t do it again.” So he plunked in another quarter. Again, the machine whirred and whistled for a bit, and then out came the message, “Your name is Fred Jones. You are thirty-five years old. You live in Athens, Georgia, and you are still waiting for a bus to Greenville, South Carolina.”
“This cannot be happening!” the man exclaimed. He put on some sunglasses, mussed his hair a bit, turned the collar up on his jacket, and tried another quarter. The response came back: “Your name is still Fred Jones. You are still thirty-five years old. You still live in Athens, Georgia, and for the third time, you are still waiting for a bus to Greenville, South Carolina.”
The man was amazed. He glanced across the street and saw a novelty shop. He walked out of the bus terminal, crossed the street, and went into the store. There he bought a pair of glasses with a large nose attached, a shaggy gray wig, a baggy shirt, and a cane. He then hobbled back across the street, acting like a much older man, and he walked up to the machine. He put a fourth quarter into the slot. The machine whirred and groaned and whistled, and then put out a message that read, “Your name is Fred Jones. You are thirty-five years old. You live in Athens, Georgia, and while you were horsing around, you missed your bus to Greenville, South Carolina!”
That little joke will serve as an Advent parable for us, and the message is this: Sometimes when we are waiting for Christmas, we horse around so much, we busy ourselves so much, that we miss the very thing we are waiting for. Sometimes we get so involved in the tasks and details of Christmas that we forget the One we are honoring. 
Five little words in the Gospel of Luke say it all: “No room in the inn”.
There is a bit of pitifulness to those words. “No room for you here.” That was the beginning of the Lord’s life. That was the very first thing the world said to Jesus Christ. That experience would plaque Him the remainder of His days on this earth; even to this present moment. “No room!” “We’re just too crowded!” “Sorry, we are full up!” “Try again some other time!” “No room for you here, so if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a million and one things to do!” “It’s too bad, but there’s just no room.”
If we were honest with ourselves and others we would admit that this is exactly our problem. Yours and mine. We get so busy, so tired, so preoccupied with the incessant demands on our crowded and hectic lives that we shut out the very birth of the Lord we so long to know. Our lives, much like the Bethlehem inn, gets so crowded and so filled up that we don’t have room for Christ.
Christmas brings us good news, that unto us a Savior is given. Christmas also brings to each of us a haunting question: “Do you have room in your heart for Christ?” If you do not have Christmas in your heart, you are not likely to find it under the tree either. 
One of the most famous paintings in the world of Jesus is Holman Hunt’s painting “The Light of the World.” In the painting, Jesus is not a baby. He is depicted as the resurrected Christ. He holds a lantern in his hand, which is a symbol of salvation. Jesus is knocking at the door. But, there is one small detail most people do not notice at first. There is no latch on the outside; the door can only be opened from within. In other words, only you can let the light of God’s love, incarnate in Jesus, into your heart. So, I have three questions for you.
First, question: Do you have room in your heart for faith in Jesus Christ? Let me start with a story of sorts to help illustrate a littlewhat I am asking
A man and a woman were standing on the corner of fifth Avenue and 57th St. in New York City. It was Christmas time, and the Christmas rush was going in full force before their very eyes. They were waiting for the traffic light to change. The man obviously was irritated by the crowds, the hubbub, and the traffic. In frustration he growled, “This town is totally disorganized. Look at this traffic! What a mess! It’s terrible! Awful! Something ought to be done about it. It’s just ridiculous!”
The woman, on the other hand, had a different view altogether. She responded to his outburst by saying, “You know, when you really stop to think about it, it’s not ridiculous at all. It’s amazing! It’s astonishing! The romance of it extraordinary! There was a baby boy born in a peasant family in the little out-of-the-way village halfway around the world from here. The parents had no money, no clout, no prestige, no social standing yet 2000 years later, their little baby creates a traffic jam on Fifth Avenue, one of the most sophisticated streets in the world. That irritates you? It should fascinate you! It should amaze you!It should thrill you! It should inspire you!”
Each year, all of us in this church, will comment in one fashion or another about all the havoc caused by Christmas in our daily lives. The traffic is worse, if that at all seems possible. The lines in grocery and department stores, especially Wal-Mart(and I often wonder if this is possible too) are longer and seem to go on endlesslyWal-Mart is a madhouse during the normal part of the year; it is amplified during Christmas. The traffic on the roads isworse, and the drivers maddening. People are impatient and even to the point of being cruel it would seem. 
However, I think we need to see all this “madness” in a different light, and then maybe some of our patience will rub off on someone else. Much of what goes on this time of the year is amazing and extraordinary if we but open our hearts to it. There was a baby boy born in a little out-of-the-way village halfway around the world from here; the parents had no money, no clout, no social standing. Yet some 2,000 years later, their little babyboy creates traffic jams on the most sophisticated streets in the world; long lines in store with computer terminals that we all thought years ago would do away with human interaction. And this irritates us? It should fascinate us! It should amaze us! It should thrill and inspire us!
I frankly have come to accept the chaos of Christmas, even if it does try my patience sometimes, because it reminds me of the incredible impact Christ has made on the world. Advent is a time when we prepare for the impact Christ should have on our lives. Christ is our Lord and Savior. This is a very public event as much as it is intensely personal oneChristianity is much more than just mouthing a creed; it is knowing a person – a God! We have to allow and invite Jesus into our lives. No one can do it for you. You have to do it yourself.  You have to allow Him in. You have to allow yourself to know why all of the hectic madness is going on right now. So, do you have room in your heart for faith in Jesus Christ? 
This is Advent, so frankly I don’t care if the sermon is a little long, so let me tell you another story. This is a story from James W. Moore who is an author of many books and is a minister for United Methodist Church. And he relates the story from many years ago:
One of the saddest things I ever witnessed in my life occurred some years ago when I was a student pastor. A man in my church died because he refused to take penicillin. He had what started out as a minor infection. The doctor examined him and assured him that he could be healed quite quickly by this amazing miracle medicine, penicillin, but he was suspicious of what he called ‘these newfangled ideas,’ and he would not take the medicine. The doctors reason with him, the nurses pleaded with him, his family begged him to try it, but no luck. He would not give in.
I told Matt about my own experience with penicillin (once when I had appendicitis, and another time when I was spiked in leg in a baseball game and the wound became infected). I related to him how quick and painless and effective the penicillin had been for me. We prayed with him about it. We gave him convincing materials to read that documented the incredible healing powers of penicillin. But still he refused, and then it was too late. He would not take the penicillin, and he died. Tragically, sadly, unnecessarily, he died because he would not receive the medicine that would make him well.
Isn’t that sad? Isn’t that heartbreaking? I gladly would’ve taken the penicillin for him. So would his wife and his mother and his daughters and his doctors, but we couldn’t. We could not do it for him. He needed to do it personally.”
Faith is like that; no one can do it for you. People can tell you about Christ in his power to heal and save. They can give you convincing materials. They can beg you and plead with you, and pray and reason with you, and encourage you. But in the final analysis, it is so intensely personal - a personal decision to accept Christ into your life as your Lord and Savior – but you need to open that door with a knob on one side and receive him.
Second question: Do you have room in your heart for hope in Jesus Christ?
I have another true story, taken from an Advent devotional guide that illustrates my point for this question.
Some years ago, there was a plane crash in the mountains. The plane smashed into the side of the mountain, slid down a glacier, and came to rest just short of a dangerous drop-off. Most of the passengers died on impact. Others died later from their injuries. But sixteen people survived the crash and hung on for two months high up in the mountains, hoping and praying that soon someone would find them and rescue them.
It was a horrible, horrendous experience, and toward the end of the two-month period most all of them had given up and lost all hope. “If they were going to find us, they would have found us by now.”
But three men volunteered to go and see if they could find a way out. They started out walking the 15,000-foot elevation in rugged terrain, with ice and snow. One of the men got discouraged and turned back. The two others kept going. They walked for ten days until they came to a swollen river. They could not cross it. It was too dangerous. They wondered if this was the end and if there was any hope for them now.
They camped there for the night. The next morning, they saw a man standing on the other side of the river. They stood up, waved their arms, and yelled to him. The man just seemed to stare back at them. Then he turned and walked away. The next morning he was back again. Once again they yelled and waved their arms. This time the man took a piece of paper out of his pocket, tied it to a stone and threw it across the river. They rushed over to where it had landed, opened it up and read the words, “There is a man coming that I told to come”, in other words, help was on its way. 
Then the man took a chunk of bread out of his pocket and threw it across the river. One of the survivors held the chunk of bread in his hand as if it were a sign, a sacrament that said, “Someone has heard our cries and cares; someone knows about us; someone will come and lead us out of here."  One of the survivors turned to the other and said, “We are saved!”
That is the hope of Christmas. That is the hope of our Christian faith. Someone knows about us, someone has heard our cries and cares. That someone is Jesus Christ. Do you have room in your heart for hope in Jesus Christ?
Last question: Do you have room in your heart for the love of Christ?
Christian love is more than just loving those who look like us, dress like us and act like us. It is more than just loving those who love us back. It is loving all people because they are God’s children. It means loving every person we meet for God’s sake.
Let’s do a shorter illustration for this one. 
One morning a man was sitting in the kitchen, reading the paper and enjoying a cup of coffee when his son walked in. His son was sniffling, and the man assumed that his son was coming down with a cold. But then he saw it wasn’t a cold; his son was crying and holding his hands cupped together out in front of him. Tears streaming down his face. His son opened his hands, and there was the lifeless form of his son’s hamster. It had died during the night, and the son’s heart was broken. Now the man didn’t much like hamsters. He didn’t care for them at all. They slept during the day and ran around on that squeaking wheel all night. But there in that moment, all the love the man had went out to that hamster. Why? Because his son loved him, so he loved him too, for his son’s sake. 
Christian love is like that. It seeks people out and loves them because God loves them. It loves them for God’s sake. It loves them because they are precious to God. This is why Jesus came into the world in such a humble way. To show dramatically and graphically God’s love for all people, and to teach us how to love one another unconditionally, as God loves us.
So, for this week in Advent, I challenge you to practice hospitality, by making room for others. Don’t get so caught up in the details of Christmas planning that you forget to celebrate and cherish those people whom God has placed in your life. Remember what Jesus has given you and think about what you can give others.
Let us pray.
Father God, thank you for showing us how to open our hearts to Jesus. Help us make room for more faith, more hope, and more love as we continue our Advent journey. Show us how to act as servants as we offer our love and hospitality to others, that they may see in us the joy of knowing Jesus.
Lord, help us all reflect on how well we practice our hospitality in our daily lives. Help us to think about ways that we can make room for others, and for us to consider performing a daily act of hospitality especially toward someone less hospitable. Help us to not get caught up in the details of Christmas planning that we forget to celebrate and cherish those people whom You haveplaced in our lives. Help us to remember what Jesus has given us and think about what we can give to others. We ask all this, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor - St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.