Advent Prep

I have wished for some time that the news media would tell us more good and inspiring news. It’s out there. I tried to get some "good news" covered. My elderly mother, who works for a family physician, each year for the past 13 years has organized a golf fundraiser for needy patients who come to the clinic. I called two local TV news stations – neither was interested in doing a story on it. I was not surprised. However, I recently came across some good news about a "Secret Santa" in the local newspaper. A truly inspiring story.

For 26 years Larry Stewart has been quietly roaming the streets every December handing out money to people in need – to the tune of $1.3 million! It all began in December of 1979. Larry was feeling sorry for himself after getting fired the week before Christmas. This was the second year in a row it had happened to him. He pulled into a drive-in restaurant. It was cold and the woman waiting on him was not wearing a very warm jacket. He gave her a $20 for the food and told her to keep the change, far in excess of his order. She began crying and told Larry he had no idea what that random act of kindness meant to her. That day he went to the bank, took out $200, and then began looking for people he could give money to boost their spirits. He started with this little amount but as the years passed his own fortune grew into the millions. Lately, he has been handing out $100 bills. Larry only recently, after being treated for cancer, allowed the media to release his identity as he wanted to pass on his belief in random kindness. (Notice that Larry received back far more than he gave out. God cannot be outdone in generosity!)

Larry was doing what all Christians should be doing during Advent and Christmas – seeking out and helping those in need. Why? Let’s look at what happened that first Christmas. Mary was with child "and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Lk. 2, 7) Jesus, the Son of God, came into a cold world. Charity was certainly wanting. Joseph and Mary, a poor couple, a needy couple, Mary a mother advanced with child, could not find a place to stay in any of the Inns of Bethlehem. Nobody was willing to give up their spot for them. The homecoming welcome for Jesus – a stable for animals! An Angel was sent to call some Shepherds to make Jesus’ birth the truly momentous occasion that it was for all humanity and turn it into a celebration.

Advent has been called a "Little Lent." Fasting is part of it. And there are many reasons and benefits to fasting. One aspect of fasting I believe lost to modern society is the idea of giving. Yes, giving. Giving what you may ask? The money to the needy saved by our fasting. This is what those great early teachers and saints of the Church, called the Church Fathers, encouraged the faithful to do.

A simple idea that comes to me are restaurants. Many people frequent them at least weekly if not daily. Why not fast from a restaurant meal once a week? Take the money saved by this and help someone in need. This would even be better if done as a family. Many of the saints involved their children in works of charity. Another idea comes to mind that would be for many a real sacrifice. Instead of getting a gift at Christmas, why not tell family members to give the equivalent money again to a worthy cause or person?

Giving money to needy people was Larry’s "Christmas present to himself." I’m suggesting giving a Christmas present to Jesus – "Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me." (Mt. 25, 40) Let’s not leave Jesus out in the cold this Advent and Christmas but start a warm fire in the stable!

Brother John Raymond, co-founder of The Community of The Monks of Adoration, received his M.A. in theology from Holy Apostles Seminary.