The Gift of Togetherness
Opening Question: Have you ever been at a party when you would have rather been at home? What happened?
First Reading: Zephaniah 3:14-18
Steve was not looking forward to Christmas at his cousin's house. Steve's cousin Larry was a teenager, much older than Steve. And they had nothing in common. Larry wasn't into video games or skate boarding or even playing on the pool table at Larry's house. All Larry wanted to do was hang out with his friends. So when Steve went over to Larry's house, he was bored.
This year, Steve went over to Larry's house and got bored. But, this year, Steve's and Larry's parents decided to go out to dinner and a show. That meant Larry would babysit Steve for the night. "Great!" Steve thought sarcastically to himself. "All Larry will do tonight is ignore me. What fun!"
When the adults left, Larry came down stairs, talked right past Steve, sat down in the big chair, and turned on the TV. Then Larry turned to Steve and said: "Kid, you know I don't like this and I know you don't like this either. But, let's make the best of it."
Steve was stunned. He didn't know what to say because this was the first time Larry had said anything to him. All he could mutter was, "Okay."
That night they talked and played and fooled around. In fact, they had so much fun together, they missed Steve's bed time. When their parents came home, Steve and Larry were playing and laughing so hard that tears were running down their cheeks.
The next day, Larry invited Steve to go to the mall for a movie. From that point on, the two were inseparable. They had so much fun that Christmas it hurt to go home.
Both of them never forgot that night and that visit. For then on, Christmas at Larry's house was one of the most anticipated moments of the year for both boys.
When people have an event together, they can ignore each other. But when they overcome their anger and hurt, they can have a joyful party. God wants us to overcome our anger and hurt; he wants us to join him in a joyful celebrate. Christmas is a joyful time. Let us not forget the God, one who made it such a special time.
Bridging Question: Have you ever really wanted something, only to find it wasn't really that special? What happened?
Gospel: Luke 3:10-16
After John told the people around him that simply being Jewish was not good enough to please God, people kept asking him, "What should we do then?"
"The person who packed extra clothes should share with the person who needs clothing to stay warm at night," John kept saying. "The person with food should share with the hungry."
Tax men came to be baptized by John. "What should we do?" they asked John.
"Don't collect more money from the people than the Romans tell you to collect," John answered.
Even the Roman soldiers kept asking him, "What should we do?"
"Don't beat up people for their money. Don't threaten to lie about people in court so they will give you their money. Be happy with your pay," John replied.
The crowds around John wondered if John was the Messiah. After all, they waited eagerly for the coming of God's savior.
But John said to everyone, "Listen! I baptize you with water. But there is someone coming who is greater than I am. He is so great, I am not even fit to untie the straps of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire! His baptism will be like a great grain harvest. He will clear off the floor where he separated the grain from the rest of the plant. Then, he will store the good grain in his barn. But he will burn up the rest of the plants in a never ending fire!"
John kept encouraging the people talking about changing their lives and about the coming Messiah. In this way, John spread the Good News to everyone who heard him.
There is an old saying: "Be careful what you ask for, you might get it!" Courtney wanted a really expensive doll for Christmas. She told enough people: her parents, her brother and sister, her cousins and aunts and uncles, her teachers at school, her friends, everyone who would listen.
As Christmas approached, Courtney snicked into her parent's bedroom closet and looked at all the boxes. "Was her doll in one of the boxes?" she thought to herself. It was hard to tell.
Two days before Christmas, presents began to appear below the Christmas tree. Courtney again snuck out and inspected the presents. "Could it be? Could it be?" Courtney asked herself with greater and greater anticipation.
Finally, Christmas came. Courtney ran down stairs, opened began opening her presents. At last, she got to the big present, and it was the doll. Courtney was overjoyed at the sight of the doll and danced through the whole house.
A week later, Courtney's mom found the doll at the bottom of Courtney's closet. "Courtney," her mother called out, "why is your doll in your closet?" Courtney was silent. The doll she wanted so much didn't seem so important now. In fact, Courtney realized she was so intent on getting the doll, she didn't enjoy the lights and sounds and the warm feelings of Christmas. The holiday spirit was gone, and she felt empty inside.
People asked John the Baptist how to change their lives. They may not have been ready for his answer, because John did not ask for big things. He only asked to treat people fairly.
Did Courtney treat people with respect? If she did, don't you think she would have enjoyed Christmas more? How can you enjoy Christmas more with others?