Monday, November 30, 2009

Thought for the second week of Advent
A poem by James P. Henry, entitled The Cold Within, tells the moral tale of six persons forced by a snowstorm to shelter in a single spot, where they built a fire for warmth. Presumably they each concealed some wood they had gathered against a contingency. The fire began to die but not one of the six was prepared to put his hoarded wood on it to revive the flames.
Each had a reason. Two of them detesting each other because they were of different colour justified themselves accordingly. It was a similar case with a rich person and a beggar. A man of religion noticed one he considered a heretic and so held his wood back.
Most interesting of all was the excuse of one man who:
Did nought except for gain
Giving only those who gave
Was how he played the game.
In this season one cannot help remembering those shepherds "abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night." In the hill country of Judaea at that time there would have been bears and lions looking out for sheep to steal. Plainly it required the combined watchfulness of a group of shepherds to guard the sheep. Yet consider their reaction to a strange, a most wonderful happening:
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
Luke Chapter 2
There is no mention of thought being taken for the safeguarding of their flock; no indication that they selected a committee to represent the group in going to Bethlehem. On the contrary it would appear that the lot of them went in reckless haste to Bethlehem:
16 And they came with haste; and they found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
Not content with rushing off pell-mell to Bethlehem, those shepherds took the risk of being laughed at as mad or drunk by telling their story to all and sundry. No thought of gain or loss entered their simple minds
Something similar is indicated in the next two passages:
14 When peaceful silence lay over all, and night had run the half of her swift course,
15 down from the heavens, from the royal throne, leapt your all-powerful Word
Wisdom 18[Jesus Christ] emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are; and being as all men are, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross.
Philippians 2: 7-8
Here was no thought of doing nothing save for gain; no giving only to those who gave – and gave first, mind you.
As one might expect those six persons in the poem perished:
Their logs held tight in death's still hands
Was proof of human sin,
They did not die of the cold without
They died of the cold within.
But the One who was born on Christmas Day, who died in the most tremendous act of self-giving, rose again, and lives for ever – and raises up all who follow Him to share in that everlasting life.
[The poem quoted was brought to notice in a sermon preached by Father Sebastian Fernandes SJ]

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