In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Once upon a time, there were three little pigs. When it came time for them to leave their homes, their mother told them, “whatever you do, do it to the best of your abilities.” And so, the first little pig built his house out of straw because it was the easiest; the second little pig built his house out of sticks because it was quick; and the third little pig, took the longest and worked the hardest by building his house out of brick.
We all know the continuation of this childhood story of how the big bad wolf came and he huffed and puffed and blew down the house down of the 2 little pigs. But try as he might, the wolf was never able to blow down the house of the third little pig. Though this is meant to be a children’s story, there is an underlying biblical message that we must take away, especially as we prepare to end this calendar year.
I have spoken several times in the past of how 2020 has been a year of trial and opportunity, of loss and reevaluation, of pain and of gain. The pandemic, coupled with the war in Armenia, and with all the problems of fear and isolation has devastated many of us. Yet, we have spent more time in prayer, time with our families, assessed the importance of our mental and physical health and time management. In 1 Thessalonians 5:18-22 St. Paul teaches us to, “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you…to hold fast to what is good, abstain from every form of evil.” This year truly has tested us in how we hold fast to what is good because with all things considered, it has been too easy for us this year to have lost hope, to have lived in fear and with concern; we have worried, been filled with anger and depression and we have been lost and unsure. Yet, Christ calls us to remain hopeful in God the Father through our faith, to continue to pray, to repent, to read our scriptures, to talk to our priest, to light a candle, to take a moment and refocus and to use our energy to bring goodness into this world through our actions and decisions through our faith.
This does not take away, negate or even ignore all the pain and loss around us but rather, it protects us by illuminating our hearts and minds. For “Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock;and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:24-27 RSV) My dears, when we hear the word of God and live by it, it is like building our house out of brick. No matter how much the wolf huffs and puffs, our house remains unshaken. Regardless of the rains, winds, floods and destruction around us, our foundation of who we are remains strong. But if we ignore the teachings of God or if we turn away and never even learn our Heavenly Father’s teachings, then even from the smallest gust of wind or slightest rain, our house will come crashing down and we will be exposed to true devastation.
In the Gospel today, the parable of the Pharisee and Tax-collector is often understood as not being arrogant like the Pharisee but we must be humble like that tax-collector who is lifted up by God. And while this is true, humility should not be confused with hopelessness. Too often have I heard, that the world is beyond saving or how many times have we thought that “we are such sinners, that not even God can save us”?
When we repent and come to God, we must have trust, hope and love in our heart. We must accept that yes, we are sinners and the world is full of evil and we are weak and in need of healing, but that healing my dears, comes only from learning the Word of God, living by His Commandments and creating for us a home with God as our foundation. So that when we fail, when the world huffs and puffs, when war, sickness, famine, job loss, confusion, pain, death occur, we will remain strong in the love of God.
My dear brothers and sisters, remain prayerful, learn the teachings of God by reading scripture and attending Bible Studies, asking questions, come to Church, confess our sins, place trust in God and do good. During this holiday season, we decorate our homes with lights and garlands; let us also remember to adorn our souls with the light of God, because our faith illuminates our eyes to the beauty of Gods hope and love. And as we sing songs of a white Christmas, let us ask God to cleanse us and make us as white as snow, as the Psalmist prays, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.Fill me with joy and gladness…” (Ps. 51:7-8 RSV) In all our choices let us remain merciful, kind, forgiving, compassionate and faithful towards ourselves and one another. And the grace of the Holy Spirit, will bring peace, health, hope and love into our lives and into the lives of our loved ones forever and ever, Amen!