John the Bell Ringer
Reflections on the Gospel lesson for the Third Sunday of Advent: Luke 3:7-18--
I think John the Baptist is alive and well today. He is easy to spot this time of year. You will find him outside of stores or in the mall. He usually has a bell in his hand.
He stands all day and night, during shopping hours, next to a black kettle ringing his bell. Many people drop their spare change into his kettle. Some even give 10s, 20s and the occasional check; while many hurriedly walk past trying to avoid making eye contact.
Yes, John the Baptist is alive and well. His incarnation is the many volunteers who ring bells and shake tambourines to collect money for the Salvation Army and its ministry with the poor and homeless people of our world.
Just like John, who preached in the wilderness of Judea so long ago, the bell ringers of the Salvation Army are witnesses today that all is not right with the world. That there is a sickness in this world called sin.
This sin-sickness manifests itself in systems of greed, domination, violence, and oppression. Everyone suffers from this sickness; no one is immune. The good news, given to us by John and the bell ringers, is that God has given the world the only cure that is effective against the ravages of sin.
That cure is Jesus Christ, God's son whose birth we celebrate this month. John introduced him to us. He told us how to be cured of our sin-sickness.
Repentance; turning away from the sin-sick systems of greed, materialism, fear and violence. And turning toward the One who loves the world, who forgives, and accepts you as you are, without price or merit; that One is Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior of the world.
Jesus will show you the way to healing, abundant life, and freedom. The way to begin the cure is to do what John told those who came to see him in the wilderness to do: "If you have more clothes than you need, give the stuff hanging in your closet and laying around in your drawers to those who have nothing. If you have more food than you need, give food to those who are hungry and have no money to buy food to feed themselves and their children."
When you move from a life of getting and holding on, to new life in Christ, the life of grace, the life of openness to the world and giving freely, your healing has begun.
The next time you hear and see a Salvation Army bell ringer, give them a smile, wish them a merry Christmas, and drop a generous gift in their kettle. Better yet, volunteer to be a bell ringer or to help distribute food, clothing, and love to the growing numbers of hungry, ill-clad, and neglected neighbors among us today. Be and witness to the good news that is Christ.
And remember John in the wilderness who came to point us to the source of our healing, and the healing of the world, Jesus Christ the Lord.