A Punch for the Holidays

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December 16, 2018 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

December 16, 2018
Luke 3:10-18
Fr. George Smiga

Lucinda had only one day left to finish her Christmas shopping, and there were big sales at the mall. She decided to go. But it was brutal. All day long, people were shoving and elbowing and stepping ahead of her in line. During one ten-minute special (where you could get 10% off of an already 25% discount) a woman with red hair and a panicked look actually yanked a lace tablecloth out of Lucinda’s hands. Lucinda yanked it back. She grunted, “Mine.” The woman retreated. Lucinda had won. But by 4pm she was suffering seriously from by battle fatigue. So, she found an empty space at one of the mall restaurants and sat down. She flagged down a passing waitress and shouted, “Hot tea. Now.” The waitress pushed back, “I’m not your waitress. Wait your turn.” “But I’ve been waiting my turn all day long,” said Lucinda. “I need hot tea, now!” The waitress ignored her.

A few minutes later, a young man came to the table. “Hi,” he said, “I’m Rob, I’m your waiter. What can I get for you?” “Hot tea. Now,” snapped Lucinda. “Oh,’ said Rob, “Hot tea.” Then he took a step closer and bent towards her. In a confidential whisper he said, “Our best hot tea is a green tea with just a touch of spice. There is only one portion left, but I can get it for you if you want it.” Rob’s thoughtfulness stopped Lucinda cold, and she mumbled, “OK. Thank you.” She watched as Rob went off and noticed how he stopped to help the rude waitress who was struggling with her tray and made jokes with the other waiters back in the kitchen. When he returned to the table with her tea, he placed it in front of her. On the saucer next to the cup was a small sugar cookie with red and green sprinkles. Smiling, Rob said, “The cookie? That’s just a little punch for the holidays.”

Lucinda wanted hot tea. But what she got was a little punch of respect and peace. When Rob came to clear the table, she noticed that he had a silver ring on his right hand, made out of letters. What the letters spelled, was—JESUS.

We desperately need the presence of Jesus in our world, and that presence comes through us. When the people ask John the Baptist in today’s gospel what they are supposed to do, John does not impose any extreme or excessive demand. He simply asks them to be generous, to share what they have with those who have less, to share their food, their clothes, their time. We certainly follow John’s direction as followers of Jesus, especially this time of year. We bring food baskets to families in need. We sing Christmas carols to the elderly in nursing homes. We think of family members who are struggling. Now, cynics would criticize these efforts as ineffective and meaningless. They would point out that after the holidays, the poor still need food, the elderly are still in nursing homes, and there are still family members who struggle.

What they say is true for as far as it goes. But that does not mean that our small actions of generosity and kindness are wasted. When we pick up the phone to call a friend who has just lost a spouse, when we take a few minutes to tell our daughter how proud we are of her, when we treat a fellow shopper in the mall with respect, we are giving a little punch of goodness and peace to a world that truly needs it. And of course, we believe that what comes with that punch is JESUS.

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