The last few years saw a lot more hype about the War On Christmas (cue exciting news channel montage) then this year, it seems, as previously Christians by the truck load were complaining about their local store not saying "Merry Christmas" as they completed their financial transaction. On this, I would like to make a few comments. (Or you could just ignore what's below and head over to EyeoftheTiber.com and read this hilarious fake news article.)
First. Dear businesses of the Western Hemisphere, you're welcome. You are very welcome for the Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, the God-man, of which an integral part of that celebration is the giving of gifts to one another. You are welcome for the fact that many of your businesses are in the red until a massive purchase frenzy ensues to prepare for Christmas giving. Enjoy the fruits of our celebration.
I had a conversation with a hurting mom recently. We were bemoaning certain aspects of youth culture and how broken it has become, and how damaged it makes our young people in return. She was seeing how the wider culture was robbing her son of dignity and innocence. Even more startling, she told me how he was seeing it too and felt overwhelmed by his inability to escape it.
It was then that a comment I had heard a month or so ago took on new light.
I was listening to a podcast recently that was on website development, which usually leads to personal topics about life, work and happiness. The woman being interviewed made a powerful statement that has stuck with me, even though I can't find that particular podcast anymore. In response to the interviewer's comment on how many achievements she made and how strong of a work ethic she has, she responded with this comment.
"I don't know when, but somewhere along the line in recent history we decided to substitute Comfort for Happiness."
Though I am no longer a full time employee at a parish, I still consider myself a youth minister. I do a lot of ministering to teens around the country in many parishes, not just one. That being the case, I still found the need to be grounded in a specific community and in a specific ministry. Through a lot of praying my family and I decided that I would volunteer in the middle school ministry at our home parish.
Brian Kelsch, the EDGE middle school youth minister, is a great guy. He follows the Life Teen, Inc. format - Gather, Proclaim, Break, Send - pretty devoutly and so it is easy for Core Members to identify with the flow of the nights. For this ministry I run a small group of 8th grade boys and girls, from 15-25 kids each week.
This small group has been very rewarding, and sometimes frustrating along the way. I think having some of the funniest kids in the room is a double-edged sword. They bring a lot of joy with them, but also a lack of, how do I put this delicately? An inability to shut up. That's it!
For the last two weeks in small group when we meet up, instead of asking vaguely connected-to-the-talk questions that are also supposed to be engaging and fun, we have been praying Lectio Divina as a small group. If you haven't listened to the podcast yet, you should stop reading and go have a listen. It's episode number 2.