St. Paul’s Church in Bergen and Church of the Incarnation, Jersey City NJ
December 25, 2015
“P.S. Please Do Not Forget the Poor”
Merry Christmas, everybody!
We certainly had a spectacular Christmas Eve here at St. Paul’s.
The children of St. Paul’s and Incarnation, under the leadership of Gail and with the assistance of other adults did a beautiful job with the Christmas Pageant, telling the story of our Lord’s birth in such a touching way.
And then last night at 10 we had an over-the-top gorgeous “Midnight Mass” with outstanding music lifting the spirits of everyone who was here in our sacred space – which, by the way, I don’t think has ever looked better.
And now it’s Christmas morning!
I loved our celebrations last night, but, you know, there’s something just a little extra special about being here this morning with our reduced numbers in a simpler celebration.
Somehow, at least for me, the relative simplicity and quiet of this morning makes it easier to see the light of Christ shining in the darkness.
And, let’s be honest, we all sorely need the light of Christ – the light of Christ shining in the darkness.
The Light of Christ that can never be overcome by the darkness.
We sorely need the light of Christ because it has gotten so very dark in our world, our country, our city, and in some of our lives.
Out in the world, brutal violence and terrorism continues to flare up, forcing refugees to flee from Africa and the Middle East, leaving just about everything behind, desperately searching for refuge, for home, in places that are not always so welcoming to newcomers.
In our own country, we have endured terrorist attacks by both homegrown and foreign fanatics and there will surely be more where that came from.
In our country, the gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen, with the rich growing ever wealthier and the poor losing hope and the middle class being squeezed out of existence.
We have homeless members here at St. Paul’s while so many other parishioners are just barely hanging on.
And, we are in the midst of a presidential election campaign that has already sunk to previously unimaginable lows – and we have eleven more months to go…
Finally, large parts of our city have been scarred by despair and violence – with little or no economic activity besides booze and drugs - and we’ve suffered more homicides this year than the last.
Yes, it has gotten very dark in our world, our country, our city and in some of our lives.
Yet, the light of Christ shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not – will not – cannot - overcome it.
And, sure enough, when we allow ourselves some quiet – when we really look, we see the light of Christ shining so bright even in the midst of such darkness.
I saw the light of Christ shining in our beautiful kids and the adults who helped them put on the pageant last night.
I saw the light of Christ shining in our glove collection here at St. Paul’s – 242 pairs of gloves for those in need. And I saw the light of Christ as I watched those gloves and many other items being distributed to our very poor brothers and sisters at the homeless memorial service last week.
I see the light of Christ shining in the way our beautiful congregations make room at the table for absolutely everybody, people people of faith and people who don't believe any of it - including especially the very poor and even the homeless – sharing and receiving the light of Christ with each other.
And, I even see the light of Christ shining from the past.
A couple of days ago I received an early Christmas gift. It was a story in the paper that really touched me.
Fifteen years ago a man renovated the fireplace in his New York apartment. As part of the renovation, the man’s brother opened up the fireplace and inside he found a letter – a letter to Santa.
It read, “I want a drum and a hook and ladder.”
The letter was dated 1905 and signed by a boy named Alfred McGann.
Cute. Amazing that a letter could survive that long in a fireplace. A nice piece of history, right?
But then they found something else, an envelope addressed to Santa in “Raindeerland.”
And inside the envelope was a letter to Santa from two years later – from 1907 - written by Mary McGann, Alfred’s sister.
She wrote, “Dear Santa Claus: I am very glad that you are coming around tonight. My little brother would like you to bring him a wagon which I know you cannot afford. I will ask you to bring him whatever you think best. Please bring me something nice what you think best.”
Mary signed her letter and then added, “P.S. Please do not forget the poor.”
The man did some digging to find out information about Mary and Alfred. He discovered that their father, Patrick had died in 1904. So, the children were being raised by their mother, Esther, who was a dressmaker.
Which means they themselves were poor. Probably very poor.
And, yet, apparently Mary was aware of others less fortunate than she and her mother and brother so she felt that need to add her little reminder to Santa:
“P.S. Please do not forget the poor.”
Yes, today it has gotten very dark in our world, our country, and our city.
And, yet, the light of Christ shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not – will not ever – cannot ever - overcome it.
We see that light shining so brightly at St. Paul’s and Incarnation.
And we see that light in a long-ago letter to Santa from a girl named Mary.
“P.S. Please do not forget the poor.”