Sunday, December 1, 2013

Repeat as Necessary ( and Christmas Spirit Fanatics )

There is a story of a priest who continually has the same sermon each week. Over and over he tells the same story no matter what the scripture readings are for that day. Finally , the congregation volunteers a pilgrim to meet with the priest to discuss this repetitiveness . 

The pilgrim explains that those in church are getting concerned about how the priest keeps repeating the same message over and over and how he often uses the same words and sometimes the exact same sentences. The pilgrim explains how the members of the parish are concerned for the priest's mental welfare and continues to describe how those in the pews are getting restless each Sunday. Some of the parishioners have even left looking for another church to attend or have quit attending any kind of spiritual service altogether.

( Do They Know its Christmas - )

The concerned priest grabs the pilgrim's hands and says asking ,

"Oh my, what are these words that I keep repeating over and over and over?"

The Pilgrim pulls out a prepared typed list and reads from the paper. "Well" he says, "The words include: mercy , love ,compassion , charity , hopefulness,  respect , gratitude , faith , forgiveness , service ( to the poor and sick ) , peace , prayer , joy and ... oh Father , there are so many on this list that mean the same thing over and over."

The priest looking into the pilgrim's eyes as he continued to hold onto the pilgrim's hands takes a deep breath and said ,

" Oh my, I thought that the reason everyone keeps coming back to church every week is because they that they want and need to hear the same message over and over again until they get it and live it in their daily lives."

The pilgrim dropped his hands from the priest's hands and queried,

"Gee , Father what makes you say that?"

The priest gently responded ,

"Oh my , you see , I see and hear how everyone says they are looking for something to complete their lives. I hear the concerns of the community. I read the newspapers and watch the news and I remain concerned about the social and spiritual welfare of our world . You know I hear confessions too every week and I see what goes on in our schools and I think ...'Maybe those I serve are just not getting it.Maybe I need to be like a coach and repeat the basics over and over.' " 

Disappointed the pilgrim began to walk away muttering

" Thanks, I think but I don't know what I am going to tell the congregation."

The priest waved to the young pilgrim and said ...

"Peace be with you and everyone .... and tell everyone that God loves you all and is with you  in all ways." 


One of the most popular Second Chance Dance Blog posts, based on the number of readers and feedback is one from December 2009. As I reread it I realized how the essential message hasn't changed at all. Like the pilgrim in the story I guess I too am a slow learner , even with my own writings and observations!

Here is that post from December 2009.......

Christmas Spirit Fanatics
“We do not exist for ourselves alone, and it is only when we are fully convinced of this fact that we begin to love ourselves properly and thus also love others. What do I mean by loving ourselves properly? I mean , first of all, desiring to live, accepting life as a very  great gift and great good , not because of what it gives us , but because of what it enables us to give to others.”

-       Thomas Merton

One of my favorite comic strips is “Peanuts.” It is a vehicle that helps me laugh and be reflective at the same time. In one particular strip that appeared around this time of year Charlie Brown asked Lucy why she was so happy. Lucy explained how it was "Christmas" and she explained further that this was the time of year to "spread joy, caring, compassion, giving and love." Charlie Brown wondered to Lucy, "Why do we just do these things at Christmastime and why can't we do those things all year round?" Lucy yelled at Charlie Brown "What are you some type of religious fanatic?!"

Every Christmas Eve both of my girls reminded me to put out milk and cookies for Santa. When they were old enough they dictated a note I had to leave for Santa to accompany the cookies and milk . They chose each word carefully and made sure that their message was clear and complete.

“Dear Santa

Here are some milk and cookies for your journey. Thank you for stopping by and leaving us gifts but please do not forget all the poor children who need food and clothing this Christmas and all year round.

Love you…

Lindsay and Leigh “

 I was touched by their “fanaticism” and prayed in hopefulness for them and the  poorest of the poor.

* Lindsay was born a couple of days before Christmas and we were so thrilled and blessed to bring her home on Christmas day. As we drove up to the house on Lindsay's first Christmas a song and record that was released just earlier that same month was playing on the radio. It was a fund raiser initiated by a "punk rocker" in Great Britain to help the victims of the great famine in Africa that year. (" Do they Know it's Christmas"[ Feed the world]) It somehow reminded us how blessed we were and how others still needed our prayers and help.

Three years later on Lindsay's birthday I received a call from Ginny's doctor as Lindsay and I waited for Ginny to arrive home from work. When Ginny opened the door to wish Lindsay a Happy Birthday we shared the news hat Ginny was pregnant with another baby girl, Leigh. (Another gift!) Just as we began to celebrate the good news a group of carolers wandered up our driveway singing "Joy to the World." We all hugged and laughed and cried in gratitude.

But it doesn't end there ! You see I had a habit or tradition of making a Christmas tape of some favorite Christmas songs to be played on my stereo from early morning and throughout the day on December 25. Now it's all digital on an iPod! But 22 years ago as we listened to the background Christmas music as Lindsay ripped through her presents when she suddenly stopped as "Do they know its Christmastime" (that same song we heard her first Christmas)came on the stereo. Lindsay surprised us when she volunteered exclaiming "That's my favorite Christmas song!" I think it is still one of her favorites.(see lyrics below and click on the picture on the left menu of this blog.)

* It seemed that the hour before dawn on Christmas morning was the secret alarm clock for both of the girls to wake and circle around the Christmas tree. The Christmas music , coffee and the video camera all seemed to start almost automatically and simultaneously with the girls' delight and laughter. The Christmas paper wrappings miraculously piled up in the middle of the floor as gifts became uncovered. However, one year Leigh opened a few presents when she stopped just as quickly as she started whispering softly "that's enough." Without hesitation she went under the tree and grabbed a decorated box and placed it on my lap and said "This is for you dad. You deserve it!" When I thanked her and encouraged her to continue with opening her presents she and her sister stood by my side smiling as I opened their gift as they reminded me that Christmas is "about giving not receiving."

* When the girls were young I was nominated to do the "Saturday errands", that included food shopping. I would bring them along as we would gather the necessities and and of course some treats for the week at our local grocery store. We noticed that there always seemed to be one vacant check out line at a cash register with an employee there at the ready to ring up a customer's tally. We learned quickly that the young man at this register was slow in scanning the items. He was always careful and deliberate but he was also slightly mentally disadvantaged and at times a supervisor would come along to help him "speed up." We always tried to get on his line and I would feel guilty if on a particular day I was rushed and thought of avoiding his line.

One very hot summer's day the food store's airconditioning didn't seem to bring much relief . One would need to stand in the frozen goods section and hold a bag of frozen vegetables if a cool down was desired. As we finished our aisle rounds and neared the check out I could hear this young man singing out loud Christmas carols over the store's piped in music. We got on line and started unloading our basket when I asked him why was he singing "Oh Come all ye' faithful." He immediately responded saying that he was singing Christmas songs to stay cool and to fend off the heat ! But then he added "Why do we have to sing Christmas carols only in December?" He must have been one of those "fanatics" that Charlie Brown's friend ,Lucy , worried about.

As I walk through
This wicked world
Searchin for light in the darkness of insanity.

I ask myself
Is all hope lost?
Is there only pain and hatred, and misery?

And each time I feel like this inside,
There's one thing I wanna know:
What's so funny bout peace love & understanding? ohhhh
What's so funny bout peace love & understanding?

And as I walked on
Through troubled times
My spirit gets so downhearted sometimes
So where are the strong
And who are the trusted?
And where is the harmony?
Sweet harmony.

Cause each time I feel it slippin away, just makes me wanna cry.
What's so funny bout peace love & understanding? ohhhh
What's so funny bout peace love & understanding?

So where are the strong?
And who are the trusted?
And where is the harmony?
Sweet harmony.

Cause each time I feel it slippin away, just makes me wanna cry.
What's so funny bout peace love & understanding? ohhhh
What's so funny bout peace love & understanding? ohhhh
What's so funny bout peace love & understanding?

It's Christmastime
There's no need to be afraid
At Christmastime, we let in light and we banish shade
And in our world of plenty we can spread a smile of joy
Throw your arms around the world at Christmastime

But say a prayer

Pray for the other ones
At Christmastime it's hard, but when you're having fun
There's a world outside your window
And it's a world of dread and fear
Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears
And the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging
chimes of doom
Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you

And there won't be snow in Africa this Christmastime
The greatest gift they'll get this year is life
(Oooh) Where nothing ever grows
No rain nor rivers flow
Do they know it's Christmastime at all?

(Here's to you) raise a glass for everyone
(Here's to them) underneath that burning sun
Do they know it's Christmastime at all?

Feed the world
Feed the world

Feed the world

Let them know it's Christmastime again

Feed the world
Let them know it's Christmastime again

- Remember those in need everywhere at Christmas and all year!


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