Sunday, December 2, 2012

Remembering the needy (First Sunday in Advent)

According to the church calendar, the four weeks leading into Christmas are known as the season of Advent. Today marks the beginning of that season. It is not Christmas, but instead is a time for Christians to prepare for the birth of the Savior. It is a time of waiting, which makes the Christmas season so much sweeter. In the words of one of my favorite Christmas carols:

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
'Til He appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Yet advent is not merely looking back. It is also looking forward; for just as the world waited Christ’s first coming, we are now awaiting his second.

* * *

Christmas is a season of gifts. Which is fitting, since it is the celebration of God’s greatest gift to us through the incarnation of His Son. But in this season of giving to friends and family, we also should not forget those who are truly in need. In a way, they are physical reminders of our spiritual state absent Christ.

Last night my wife and I went to a Keith and Kristyn Getty Christmas Concert. The music was amazing. But what was also touching was the following video, shown as part of the concert.

What struck me was not just the poverty, but also how easy it can be to alleviate it. In Compassion’s case, a mere $38 per month. And there are plenty of other organizations that offer similar opportunities; Covenant Mercies, World Vision, Save the Children, and Child Fund to just name a few. (Note: this is not meant to be an endorsement of any institution. I have been very happy with my experience with Covenant Mercies, but please research charities before deciding to give.)

Right now many conservatives are strongly lobbying against the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and are keeping a wary eye on the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  I’d encourage all to remember that politics is more than making phone calls or voting--at its highest it is an opportunity to love and care for our neighbors. And that includes personal care. As stated by Dickens' classic Christmas figure Jacob Marley:
Business! Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business.
It’s one thing to say that sacrificing sovereignty or more international government efforts won’t truly help children or those with disabilities. But it is even more important to affirmatively help those in need. It was James, the brother of the very Jesus whose birth we celebrate during this season, who reminded us:
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
Don’t forget the needy this Christmas season.
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